Enterprise Learning Initiatives.
Architect the Learning ExperienceHere are some ideas to support behavior change once the learner leaves the classroom.
How many times have you heard something like this before: “Why are people still following the old process? Didn’t they attend training?” Training is not an event. Learning a new behavior happens over time. It’s a process. Instructional designers help architect the learning process using a collection of tools to create a structure to support the desired behavior.
The best way to architect the learning process is to put yourself in your learner’s shoes. Understand their daily routine and know where the desired behavior intersects. The “intersection” is the moment when the learner must choose a direction. Will they choose to go back in the direction of their familiar, comfortable behavior? Or will they choose the new and uncomfortable direction and use the new behavior?
That intersection is exactly where you need to put a buttress. If you identify that intersection moment, and design a support mechanism to encourage the new behavior, learners will be more likely to exhibit that behavior at each intersection. Soon it will become a familiar and comfortable behavior for them.
Choosing the best support depends on the situation. Here are a few ideas:
- New system training? Where do users tend to get stuck? Consider providing job aids or online contextual guidance for just-in-time help. Make sure Super Users are easy to reach for more complex questions.
- New process? Where does it differ from the old one? Add visual cues at intersections to guide the way. You can also create a community of practice where learners support and learn from each other. This improves performance and helps them understand that they belong to something important to the organization.
- New leadership behavior? A mentor or coach can provide real-time feedback and reinforce the application of the learning. Include the desired behavior on performance appraisals and consider incorporating a reward system.
Behavior change requires many interventions, used over time. As an instructional designer, you are the architect. Know your learners. Understand how the change will impact their world. And use the tools available to build a learning experience that guides them through the learning to performance. Soon the new behavior will feel like a natural part of their day.
The Wonderful World of Mr. SmelleyWe’re taking you back to high school to learn facilitation from the best teacher our Learning and Development director ever had.
Nathan Smelley was one of my favorite teachers in school. (Yes that was really his name.) He taught Algebra 1 and 2. He stands out to me because his classes were always a blast. He delivered laughter (at his theatrics) and “aha” moments (albeit about algebra). As I started facilitating training programs, I recalled those times and tried to create a Smelley experience for my learners.
Mr. Smelley loved algebra but, more than that, he loved teaching. He loved watching his students’ eyes go wide at his antics and light up with new understanding. He would slap rulers on desks or make funny voices to illustrate his points. Not only did his methods wake us up, they said, “Pay attention – this is different!” Good facilitators use similar techniques with their adult learners. We walk around the room to address different people, use props, games, jokes, surprising images and metaphors – all to keep the room “alive.” What distinguishes facilitators from presenters is our ability to stimulate our audiences to learn. And, as adult learners get more sophisticated, we challenge ourselves to work harder to engage them. Mr. Smelley would do no less.
Another teacher of mine, Mr. Jones, taught English Literature (or should I say told us about English literature). He lectured his way through every class period. His monotone voice added to the misery. Most of us were drowsy within 10 minutes, but he didn’t seem to notice. The only way he knew to teach was to tell us what to think. In contrast, Mr. Smelley would constantly ask us “What do you think that means?” Or “What happens next?” When we struggled to answer you could see his intent on his face – he resisted giving us the answer; he wanted us to think. During my career, I have learned to use the Socratic method and open-ended questions to lead participants to learning. When we create moments of discovery, real change happens. Our learning programs have lasting impact because we have helped people create new pathways to the answer in their own brains. The content is no longer just in our training materials – it lives on in the minds of our learners.
I didn’t find algebra that hard. I actually loved it. But there were times that even Mr. Smelley couldn’t get us to “get it.” He would use his funny ways and tell compelling stories, but sometimes it wasn’t enough. In those cases, we would sense his brain working to find another way. Then we could almost see the light bulb illuminate over his head. Suddenly, he was excitedly passing out blank paper for us to draw on or grabbing two yardsticks to illustrate his point. He had modified his lesson plan on the spot. We training facilitators have our guides and agendas, but sometimes they don’t work like they should. Some of the best facilitators I know are those who can flex on their feet and find another path to the moment of discovery.
When we graduated, many of us said fond goodbyes to Mr. Smelley. He clearly made an impression on students like me, who learned much more from him than algebra.
Postscript: He told his classes that his wife’s name was Ima and her maiden name was Lemmon, so that made her Ima Lemmon Smelley. I am not sure it was true, but I remember it decades later. Classic Smelley.
Don’t Let ‘Em Sink After TrainingWe can help you decide whether performance support is necessary and how to execute once you’ve made the choice.
By Emerson Consulting Manager, Patti Hughes
$70.6 billion is a lot of money. That’s the total investment U.S. corporations made in training people during 2016.* What did your company spend? And was most of your spend (including time and energy) on the front end – in design, development and delivery of the training?
How much did you invest on the back end – to support people as they performed and applied their new skills, knowledge and behaviors on the job? Did you just let ‘em sink or did you help them to swim?
You see performance will happen, regardless of what you do. But if you want it to be the right performance – the results that you’ve invested serious training dollars to achieve – you must guide participants to that outcome.
The level of performance support and reinforcement you use should match the complexity and criticality of the tasks, and the size of the behavior change you’re asking for. On-the-job support is essential if you answer “Yes” to most of these questions:
- Do you have a large audience (more than 250 people)?
- Is your audience dispersed?
- Is the content complex so that you couldn’t know it all by heart after completing the training?
- Is the task performed infrequently?
- Does management support new ways of learning?
- Are there high consequences for errors?
- Would performers benefit from advice while performing?
So what techniques, tools and aids should you use to support performance on the job? Here are some to consider:
- If you’re implementing a new technology, process or system, build online help and easy access to answers.
- Provide on-the-spot help through multiple channels. Find out where people naturally go when they don’t know what to do. Is it other teammates, help desks, trainers, reference materials, or websites? Use their preferred channel to provide answers and support.
- Hold on-the-job learning reinforcement sessions. Break the new process, behavior, or technology into small bites and conduct short sessions. You might make it a topic of a regularly scheduled meeting. Target the most challenging tasks, where the consequences for errors is great or where people have the most questions.
- Conduct ‘a-ha’ sessions to let people help each other out. Ask people to collect ideas, tips, tricks that have worked for them, then bring them together to share with others.
When you invest in training, you want the result to be accurate and repeatable performance. Don’t just train and then hold your breath and hope. Invest in reinforcing learning to guide people to the performance you expect. It is time and money well spent.
*Source: 2016 Industry Training Report. training. November/December 2016, p.29
Don’t Train On EverythingUse these three questions to decide what to include.
A couple of years ago, I worked on a Learning and Development effort for a major retailer’s new financial system. It was the largest ERP implementation in their history. I’d be a very wealthy man if I had a nickel for every time I heard my client say things like:
- “We have to train them on that.”
- “That’s a training issue.”
- “We have to include that in training.”
While I appreciated the client’s zeal and passion for developing employees, they didn’t realize what they were asking for. If they trained their users on every aspect of a new system before go-live, employees would be over-worked and – worse – unfocused. They would spend way too much time in training, away from their work. And they wouldn’t be able to apply what they had learned in the context of their jobs. In other words, they wouldn’t know how to deliver the behaviors on which the ERP business case depended.
Instead of training the employees on EVERYTHING, we helped the client see that they needed to look at three factors to decide what to train. We call them the three C’s.
Three Factors to Decide What to Train
Critical: These are the most important behaviors employees need to perform – typically their core job responsibilities. Ask your stakeholders to answer questions like: What are the most important things for employees in this role to do? What are the essentials? What drives the performance of their team or business unit?
Common: These are the most frequent behaviors employees display – the things they must do routinely to successfully complete their work. Ask your stakeholders to answer questions like: What will the employee need to do most often? What are the everyday tasks?
Catastrophic: These are the behaviors that, if done incorrectly, would have a significant negative effect on the business. If the employee got these tasks wrong, the department or function would suffer. Ask your stakeholders questions like: What will shut down the business? What would open you up to lawsuits or employee injury?
If you can get your stakeholders to agree on these elements, you will focus your training development efforts in the right places. You will help the organization deliver on the project’s business case and get the greatest bang for their training buck!
Three Myths of GamificationLearning gamification is trendy - and it works - but only if you know how to do it right.
Gamification is all the rage these days. But underneath the hype, there are many misconceptions – about what gamification is and isn’t, and how best to use it in learning.
The Top Gamification Myths, Debunked
Myth: Anytime you add a game to a learning experience, you have “gamified” it.
Truth: Gamification occurs only when learning happens in a non-game context, such as classroom-based or eLearning course, and when a series of game elements is arranged into a system, or “game layer,” that operates in concert with the rest of the course.
In the instructional design world, gamification is also called “Serious Games,” where a narrative takes the student on a journey to achieve the intended learning outcomes. “Game-Based Learning,” on the other hand, is where students design and create their own games, or play commercially produced games, within a training program to explore concepts they are learning.
Think of the difference this way: gamification is “baked in” and game-based learning is “dropped in.”
Adding games to learning doesn’t gamify it. To truly gamify learning, think process. Gamification turns the entire program or course into a game. The learning design uses game mechanics to elicit and reinforce new behaviors. It’s a subtle but important distinction.
“To me, gamification is finding the way to incent the behaviors that you want your team to have.”
Dave McDermott, Director of Sales Enablement at Kelly Services
Myth: There’s only one way to gamify a learning experience.
Truth: There are two types of gamification, Structural Gamification and Content Gamification. When you gamify the structure, you apply game mechanics to the overall design of the course, but not the content itself. Points, levels, badges, leaderboards, and other achievements are great examples of structural gamification.
Content Gamification, on the other hand, uses game elements, game mechanics, and game thinking. For example, the central narrative might use game thinking elements like Influence, Choice, Risk, Chance, and Immediate Feedback.
Some of the best examples of gamification in learning employ both structural and content gamification. In my next blog post, I’ll cover some frameworks that include both structural and content gamification strategies.
Myth: Gamification works only on millennials.
Truth: Research shows recognizing excellence is one of the top motivations for most people, not just millennials. Game elements that give feedback on achievements – such as points, rewards, and leaderboards – boost engagement for all types of learners.
Everyone loves to play. Play provides a safe and fun way to risk and fail and develops confidence to try new things. That’s not a millennial thing; it’s a human thing.
What matters more is HOW you gamify your learning: the type of game mechanics and elements used. The quality of the gamified learning program matters, too. The story, character development, game strategy, rules of play, graphic outputs, and how you position and communicate the program – those make the difference between low and high engagement.
It’s play that makes people unafraid to fail and confident to try new things. It’s play that helps us do serious things better because we enjoy them and feel a sense of joy in our achievements.
Jake Ortiz, Head of the Wikipedia Library Wikimedia Foundation
Gamification is one of many effective learning strategies. But it is just one strategy. It has its best-use-case scenarios, and there’s good and bad gamification, but it’s not a miracle fix. Don’t buy into the hype. It can be an excellent tool, but only if you use it strategically and thoughtfully.
Five Ways to Make Learning StickFive tips to improve application of learning on the kob
I’m a mom of two kids. I often find myself helping them with homework or doing practice quizzes with them to see if they remember what they learned in class. Both play sports and on many days I can be found at a baseball or soccer field working with them one-on-one to apply skills they learned in their weekly team practice. Being a mom has shown me that learning doesn’t happen in a single event. It takes follow up, repetition, coaching and practice to make it stick. Why should this be any different in the workplace?
I’ve worked with many clients who see training as a one-time event, thinking their employees will return to the job and immediately apply what they’ve learned. That instant mastery is more the exception than the rule. I recently came across an article stating that 70% of employee training is forgotten within 24 hours. That’s a pretty discouraging statistic for a learning professional. But we can increase that retention .
Five Tips to Improve Application of Learning on the Job
- Make it visual. Visualization is a powerful tool in retention. 80% of people remember what they see and do, but only 10% remember what they hear. When we make training more visual, we automatically improve learning.
- Involve the manager. Supervisors should be involved before, during and after training. For example, they can set expectations before the training and ensure employees know why they should attend. Managers who attend training themselves, side by side employees, are more effective coaches when learning transfers to the job. They can also debrief after the training to reinforce what was learned.
- Plan follow-up activities. Follow-up is powerful because it turns the individual’s focus back to the new skills. On-the-job challenges, collaboration with peers, and regular checkpoints to observe and encourage employees – all of these reinforce learning.
- Schedule training at the point of need. Minimize the time between learning and real-world performance; train only what is immediately needed on the job. This is especially effective for systems training. If you train employees on new technology too far in advance of when they actually use it for the first time, there’s a good chance they won’t remember what to do. Embedding training and performance support into the system itself lets the employee get help exactly when they need it.
- Chunk it. Avoid information overload; people retain more complex information when it’s chunked into small modules and delivered at a manageable pace. For example, an employee could click on a button within a screen to view a short 1-2 minute video demonstration of the task he needs to perform on that screen. They would get only what they need, when they need it.
The next time you design a learning program, think about repetition, reinforcement and retention. Whether it’s kids or employees, the goal is to make the learning stick and the “stickier” the better!
Don’t Fight the CultureDon’t be culture-blind when developing training. Use our tips to and leverage what’s already in your favor.
“Not so fast! That might have been ok elsewhere, but we do things a bit differently on this team.”
Or what about…
“I know what the documented process says, but in reality, it’s not done that way at all.”
But surely you’ve heard…
“If you are going to live in this house, you will obey my rules – it’s my way, or [you insert the rest here].”
These colloquialisms are a part of our lives. In one way or another, they govern how we behave on a team, in a department, and even in our family lives. They deliver information about how we should behave socially, coexist, and get things done the “right” way. Or, as my 92–year–old grandmother would say, “Doing the thing the way it is supposed to be done, when it’s supposed to be done, using the right stuff to get it done.”
These phrases reveal culture. (OH NO….the “C” word!) Culture exists in any field of human endeavor involving two or more people. It is the way things work, regardless of what is formally documented or stated when “big brother” is watching. In the workplace, culture governs day–to–day business operations. Culture is rarely documented, but it affects every decision made. Once, when I asked a client about a practice that confused me, he said, “It’s just the way things get done around here.” That’s as good as any other definition of culture.
In my time as a learning and development consultant, I’ve become painfully aware that culture – the unwritten rules of order – can enhance or destroy the best laid plans.
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Mark Fields, former CEO of Ford Motor Company
Once upon a time in a conference room far, far way, a client felt the company culture was getting in the way of their change project. He asked our group of experienced change management and learning professionals, “How do you change culture?” A colleague wisely answered “Slowly, and almost never.”
It’s a common question. The client reasoned that a strategic communications approach and well–placed learning interventions mixed in the corporate cauldron would miraculously change the very nature of the organization.
Actually, it works the other way around. Culture is “baked in” to the organization. Treat it as a fixed and powerful force. It should be considered when designing every piece of the solution or the operation is bound to fail. Don’t try to change the organization’s culture. Understand it, and then harness its power for your initiative.
As we sat with the client, my team talked about our experiences with organizational culture. We reset the client’s expectations about culture change and the limitations of plans that do not consider culture. But we also helped them understand they had a massive force at their disposal – a force that could help get them to their goal.
For example, their change project required new employee behaviors. New employee behaviors mean training, right? But training, in a vacuum, rarely achieves true behavior change. We talked with the client about the need to focus attention on the behaviors they needed and use their culture as a catalyst. We helped them ask themselves, “What is the behavior we need to see after this training? How can we leverage our culture to help us get there?”
Here are some ways you can use your culture to get the behaviors your organization needs:
You know what they say: acceptance is the first step to change. Accept your reality. Look at the hard truths in your organization and examine the culture. Culture is what attracted most of the people working there today, so it’s not a bad thing, but you have to understand it. What are the unspoken rules? How do people talk and interact with each other? What behaviors are being rewarded? Those are the ones that are aligned to your culture. Beyond self-examination, there are more formal ways to determine culture; consider a thorough assessment. You have to know your culture before you can use it.
Now that you have assessed your culture, determine the best way to engage the organization. Ask yourself a few questions:
- What type of organizational culture do you have? Rebels? Armies of one? One big family? Cooperation and synergy? A band of brothers who have each other’s backs? Creators and innovators? Risk–takers, encouraged to try and fail?
- Who are your employees? How much do demographics and characteristics (like gender, age, and background) drive the preferred learning approaches of the organization? For example, does the age of the majority influence the learning approach? As we try to engage the work force, what types of things will work and won’t work?
- How many people are you targeting? Does your organization have the infrastructure to support multi–faceted approaches, or are you limited to a few bells and whistles and a lo–fi approach to engage the audience?
- How are people rewarded for in the organization? What leads to high evaluations, promotions, more money, and social/political clout? In other words, what can we use – based on our culture – to facilitate engagement?
These questions are easy to answer for some organizations and difficult for others. Regardless, the effort is worthwhile. You must answer these questions if you want to engage successfully.
So far, you have done all the right things – you understand your true culture, have a plan for how to engage the organization, and now you need to execute. Your plan should be a multi–level, multi–phased, and supportive approach.
- Multi-level means stakeholders at all levels of are aware and on message. How are all levels of the organization helping to drive the engagement and support? You will need top-down (leader-driven) and a bottom–up (grass roots) approach that is aligned with your culture.
- Multi-phased simply implies you need to allow the organization to warm up to each part of the change. Total immersion in a new way of working is risky – if you ask folks to jump into the deep end, you might lose a few. I recommend using a tried and true approach – formats, words, and platforms everyone is comfortable with – and use it to deliver each component. The idea is to minimize the new stuff and make it all feel culturally right. Wrap the familiar around the new and it will go down much easier.
- Supportive means intentionally building an environment that helps employees succeed. Along with traditional performance support material like job aids, stakeholders and leaders must continue to “talk the talk and walk the walk.” Create touch points for learners to see the importance of what they are doing – the connection to the success of the team and the organization. Reward behaviors that are critical to the program’s success. ALL of these things should be designed through the lens of your culture.
There is a lot more advice I could have covered, but this is a blog, not a book! Remember a few things the next time you have a discussion about training for a new initiative and someone brings up the “C” word. Training counter to your culture never gets the results you want. Culture is powerful and should be exploited to your solution’s benefit, not ignored or resisted.
“Now get back out there and do it the way we taught ya,” the coach said, with optimism in his voice. “Atta boy!”
Kenny Simon is an L&D Director with Emerson Human Capital, as well as a sports junkie who learned about culture through professional experience and old ball coaches who were often verbally abusive. (But he isn’t bitter or anything…)
Why You Should Use Real-Life Problems in TrainingWhen you design training, your scenarios and practice sessions should feel real.
Does this sound familiar? Your company is installing new software. You attend the training session, where the facilitator explains the benefits of the new system and demonstrates how you will use it to do your job. He asks for questions. He doesn’t get many. The training is over and everyone returns to their desks. “That didn’t look too difficult,” you think.
One week later the new system is launched. You log on and…sit there. You sort of remember what to do, but you’re not 100% sure. What if you make a mistake? What is at stake? If it’s a new payroll system, people might not get paid. If it’s a new manufacturing system, the product might not get made. If it’s a new helpdesk system, people might not be able to do their jobs or buy your company’s products and services. The same would be true for leadership training, sales training, or any behavioral training. What are the consequences if you do it wrong? You might negatively impact the customer or a coworker.
Learners weigh risks and rewards.
When attempting to use a new skill or behavior, there is risk. If the learner perceives the risk is greater than the reward, they are LESS likely to use their new behavior. As learning professionals, we know learners must use new behaviors immediately and repeatedly so they become habit.
How can we help our learners get over the hump of “the risk is too great?” We allow the learner to practice new skills during training. I’m not talking about taking a multiple-choice assessment at the end of the session. I’m talking about allowing the learner to try new behaviors using real problems in a realistic environment – where they feel the pride of doing it right, and where they are allowed to fail and feel the consequences of that mistake.
Keep it real.
People learn from real scenarios. Real issues. Real challenges. Real consequences for success and failure. People learn from experience. Your challenge is to bring that “real life” – that urgency – into the classroom or eLearning session. The more relevant and realistic the context, the more easily learners will transfer those skills and knowledge to the job.
Your learning objectives are your guide.
How do you know what to have learners practice during training? The answer lies in your learning objectives. They should follow the ABC method: ACTION, BEHAVIOR, CONNECT (See Greg Bunn’s Aug 10 blog post).
In other words, what do you want them to be able to DO with the knowledge and skills they’ve gained during training? What learners practice helps them meet the learning objectives.
So if your stated objective is…
After completing this course, you will be able to:Issue a refund for a returned item using the original form of payment.
…which of these options will get them to the objective?
Option 1:Multiple Choice<
QUESTION: To issue a refund using the original form of payment:
- Press “Return” key. Select “Original Form of Payment.” Scan the item. Press “Total.”
- Press “Return” key. Scan the item. Press “Total.”
- Scan the item. Press “Return” key. Press “Total.”
Option 2:Hands-on Simulation
A customer is returning an item using the original form of payment. Demonstrate the steps to issue the refund accurately.
Customer:“Hi. I’d like to return this item.”
Cashier:“No problem. Do you have the original form of payment?”
Instructions:Use the interactive cash register to complete this return accurately.
Option 2 will show the instructor – and the learner – whether the learner knows how to complete the task correctly. In addition, the learner demonstrates the behavior he or she will use on the job, building confidence and lowering the perceived risk. A week later, faced with the new system and a similar situation, that employee will perform better and more confidently. A multiple-choice test does not let you measure against the learning objective and it doesn’t prepare the learner, mentally, for on-the-job performance.
Here it is, in a nutshell.
Giving learners real-life problems to solve during training enables them to:
- learn from their mistakes in a safe environment and without impacting customers, clients, or coworkers.
- build confidence in the new skill or behavior, which reduces the perceived risk and increases the likelihood they will apply their new skills on the job.
It’s not Rocket Science, It’s Brain ScienceIf you see any of these warning signs, go back to the basics.
We’ve all read the research on the modern learner – make it more modular, gamify it, or make it mobile. But don’t let these trends distract you. Here are a few common signs you need to re-focus on the basic elements of good learning and changing human behavior.
- You deploy leadership training, but survey results show no one participated. What are your learners comparing it to? What is their frame of reference for his content? Adult learners anchor what they are hearing or seeing to what they have seen or heard before. If you don’t anchor it, they will! Try branding the program differently or compare it to an experience that has given them great skills or insights. Learners will connect your training to those anchors and begin to see the learning as more purposeful.
- Your training falls flat and survey results show a negative learning experience.How did the session start? How did it end? What highs and lows did you build into the session? Take a hard look at those and you might start to understand participants’ feedback. Ever go on vacation and, when you tell a friend about it, all you can remember are the most spectacular sights or the travel disasters? Our brains are hard-wired to focus on the highs and lows, or peak ends, of any experience. Orchestrate those highs and lows. For example, begin with an engaging ice breaker (high), followed by a challenging discussion (low), and then an activity that gets people on their feet and talking to each other. Tip: Do you want to ensure those evaluations come in more positive? End on a high note your learners will remember when they do their review.
- Your systems training is launched, but users report many issues as they try to use the system on the job. Research shows we feel the pain of loss much more acutely than the pleasure of gain. That’s why we stay in jobs longer than we should or in relationships long after they’ve fizzled. It’s called Loss Aversion and the loss of systems is no different. For some users, the old system was fine, and it was comforting and affirming to know exactly how to do the job well each day. For those users, the new system is painful; they don’t know it all anymore. They don’t know how to find information, complete daily tasks, or speed through those processes. They are grieving that feeling of safety and confidence. You can fix this by identifying the real pain points. What is the pain of not changing systems? What are the consequences of the aging or inadequate system – consequences learners might not be thinking of? If we don’t change, information might be more and more outdated or irrelevant. Maybe competitors will take our share of the market or our customers will have a bad experience and leave. Find out what this change is really about and build that into training. Help your learners imagine the pain in not changing to a new system.
- Compliance training leaves your audience “glazed over.”Have you ever conducted training face-to-face and sense that your audience is less than thrilled? Sometimes the content itself is hard to make fun and exciting. But you can find ways to add some spice to your training. One way: give learners some control. Humans like predictability and influence on things that affect them. For example, if you were to become ill, you would want to help determine the treatment plan and understand your prognosis. Faced with uncertainty, we seek control. When you’re designing training, (even compliance training!) look for ways to give learners control. For example, use advanced organizers so they can see the content at a glance. Let them describe their learning goals and track progress themselves. Give them electives to choose from. Or let them choose the order in which they take courses. Give as much control as possible and learners will engage and feel a sense of accomplishment.
- Learners are not up to date on the latest tax curriculum. You’ve built the course, your learners have taken it, but you’re still seeing performance problems on the job. The text-heavy content might be your problem. Studies have shown our brains are triggered more easily by visual images; in fact, we can remember over 2,000 images with 90% accuracy, even after 90 days. That’s huge! So, while some might say there are distinct learning styles or preferred learning methods, we know the brain loves visualization. Use that to increase retention. Make the content more visual and your learners will recall more than they would by looking only at text-heavy slides.
- Your accounting department is having a hard time learning the new business process. Chances are, any new accounting process is complex and has many exceptions to the norm. That’s a big hill for your learners to climb. Help them out by engineering success and building momentum. We all need small wins to keep ourselves going when the going gets tough. For example, when we diet, we like to see that our work is making a difference – the needle on the scale is inching downward. The day we stop seeing results, we become discouraged or demotivated. Learners are no different. They need to see that their effort is connected to results and progress toward the goal. Start with simple tasks that ensure small wins, then build in bigger achievements for more complex or challenging tasks. Momentum is a movement that takes on a life of its own and escalates – soon your learners will be on a sure path to success on the job.
This Isn’t Rocket Science, It’s Brain Science
All of these tips are founded in scientific research about human behavior and the brain. So, while learning trends and societal shifts won’t stop, we know a few facts about the human behavior that transcend the trend. Use these techniques to really give your training the wow it needs!
The Pen Is Mightier Than the KeyboardIn the digital age why use a pen and paper?
You might have heard that, all around the country, elementary schools are dropping cursive writing and replacing it with computer time. Sounds about right for the digital age, huh? But doing things the old-fashioned way has its advantages. I can’t claim to be a proponent of cursive writing – I can’t even make out my own signature — but what about print writing? Researchers are proving that writing things on paper is good for us.
In a recent study published in Psychological Science, Pam A. Mueller (Princeton) and Daniel M. Oppenheimer (UCLA) showed that students taking notes longhand benefited from better retention. They were testing an “encoding hypothesis:” longhand note-taking is “generative” and requires “summarizing, paraphrasing, and concept-mapping” whereas “non-generative” note-taking (i.e., typing on a laptop) is simply recording, verbatim.
In other words, the student tapping away on her keyboard is listening for words, not meaning. This hurts retention; Mueller and Oppenheimer found that the more students listened for the verbatim, the worse they did when they tried to recall what they had learned.
From the Classroom to the Workplace
I still do a lot of note-taking on my laptop, but I’m starting to change my ways. I have been inspired by author Austin Kleon. In his New York Times best-seller Steal like an Artist, he has a chapter called “Step Away from the Screen.” He quotes his favorite cartoonist, Lynda Barry: “In this digital age, don’t forget to use your digits!” Yep, she means those things at the end of your arms.
Austin uses two desks in his office: one for “analog” and one for “digital.” His swivel chair sits between the two desks. He starts in analog, with paper and a variety of writing instruments like pens and markers. After he gets his ideas down in analog form, he spins to his digital desk and edits his work on his laptop and big monitor. He uses a continuous loop: hands, computer, hands, computer…until he’s satisfied with the result.
I don’t have a set-up like Austin, but I’ve developed habits that work for me. I start my PowerPoint presentations with a pen. I like to fold an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in eighths — each square representing one slide. Then I write directly in each square. Or, to kick my creativity up a notch, I jot down notes on small post-its and move them around on the sheet of paper until I’m satisfied with the flow. I’m “using my digits” and encoding the information, which helps me remember the arc and details of my presentation. And I can actually see the narrative unfolding on this single sheet of paper…something I can’t get in PowerPoint.
Austin also says the computer brings out the uptight perfectionist in each of us, because we start to edit ideas before we’ve allowed them to mature. There’s something confining about that single digital screen or slide, whereas a whole pile of scratch paper can be doodled on with abandon – ideas are quickly and easily kept or trashed.
So, do you want to remember what you learn? Be more creative? Occasionally, swap your laptop for your trusty pen and paper and see what you get. I dare you.
Sources: NPR Weekend Edition: April 17, 2017: Attention Students: Put Your Laptops Away.Steal like an Artist by Austin Kleon, 2012.