What can organisations do to ensure that workplace learning sticks over the long term? Find out from TakeON!'s Head of Partner Development Jes Smith.
Committing workplace learning to memory, and feeling its effectiveness over the long term, takes more than a few simple notes.
Learning is a must in today's enterprise environment. After all, if a business isn't looking to better its internal processes with an eye on genuine, continuous improvement, it goes without saying that its competitors will gain an edge in the market.
Consequently, the transfer of knowledge is an imperative skill for organisations looking to increase performance, but what are the best techniques to ensure that information resonates in the long term? Well, to answer that question and more, we sat down with TakeON!'s Head of Partner Development Jes Smith to discuss what makes workplace learning stick.
Sticky learning is an outcome that creates long-lasting insights.
Sticky learning is a broad term, and there are a host of definitions out there, what does it mean for you and ON-Brand Partners?
Sticky learning is a funny one, some people believe it's a newfangled technique. In fact, it's an outcome as opposed to a process. What goes into the outcome of sticky learning is actually a number of different methodologies, processes and thinking. For ON-Brand, it means several things. Sticky learning is impactful learning as it makes a difference and is meaningful for individuals. That comes from the fact that it's learning that's in context and relevant to people's roles, and the organisation they're working in as well.
Ultimately, sticky learning actually changes behaviour. You don't just know new stuff, you change something as a result of taking on new information. That means those insights are going to be long lasting as opposed to fly-by-night findings.
There's only so much learning that can happen in the classroom. The best organisations realise that they need to effectively teach their employees on the job.
How important is it that learning is sticky?
If learning doesn't stick, it's not really learning is it? It's made no real difference. Everything we try and do at ON-Brand is to generate long lasting learning, so it's meaningful and changes the way the organisation thinks and acts. If that's not your overall intent, then you're just ticking boxes.
Many organisations spend lot's of time, money and effort sending their managers away for a few days at a time, maybe on a leadership development course, in a nice hotel somewhere. In some cases, that's all they'll get for the next 20 years. And those few days may make a difference in the short term, but the effects over the long term can be very marginal. By the time they return to their day job, their inbox is so big, any revelations they may have had quickly disappear.
So for us, learning has to be an ongoing process. A routine if you like.
How much of a long-term process can achieving sticky learning outcomes be?
It's just dependent on the size of the challenge and what the organisation is trying to achieve. Real, sustainable change can often be a two or three year process. Creating new patterns of behaviour within an organisation doesn't happen overnight. Trying to turnaround results surrounding customer satisfaction, improving a business's reputation, or seeing significant shifts in staff engagement can be a relatively long-term game.
But that's not to say that you can't make quick wins in certain parts of the learning process. At the beginning, it's a matter of building momentum and excitement. It's a case of showing people the brave new world, and change is eminently achievable, and exciting!
Development strategies that positively impact organisations are best understood and implemented on longer timelines.
How do you get companies to understand the importance of sticky learning and ON-Brand's ideals?
Everything we do is about people and behaviour, so it's a little complex, and every organisation is different. There's no cookie cutter approach to transformation! Measuring the tangible value of things like leadership development isn't straightforward. It's far easier to explain value or return on investment (ROI) for something tangible like an IT system.
The measure of whether an investment in internal development is working can only really be made over a broader timeline. For example, 12 months down the line it's possible to look at measures like staff retention, turnover, sickness and absenteeism as well as staff engagement to measure ROI.
The measures can be more difficult for the organisation to put its finger on, but that certainly doesn't mean that they aren't there.
What's one piece of advice for an organisation that's looking to ensure that its learning sticks?
At end of the day, in most cases, it comes down to leadership and how those at the very top get involved and support the learning. Sticky learning is an outcome that can only be achieved if the whole organisation is up for it.
Those at the top need to not just give lip service to the learning process, but actually lead it from the very front. In our experience, the most successful organisations have leadership teams that are highly engaged, aligned, and deeply involved.