Five top tips for learning and development success

Helen Wyatt, Talent Development Manager at The Brain Tumour Charity, shares some key lessons that she has found make L&D more effective.

Member fact file:
The Brain Tumour Charity has been a member of the Charity Learning Consortium since 2018 and uses both the learning management system and eLearning that we provide.

Top tip 1:
When evaluating the impact of learning, ask key stakeholders ‘What would success look like to you?

When evaluating the impact of a learning programme, focus on how your key stakeholders will judge success.  Often, we identify key metrics and outcomes that we think matter from an L&D perspective. In reality, your stakeholder may care about something completely different.  

For example:  When designing a training programme for a customer service function, our L&D team identified numerous potential success measures, including time taken to resolve queries, customer satisfaction scores, time spent on hold, etc.   

However, when we asked the project sponsor ‘What would success look like to you?’ his message was simple: “I’ll know the programme has worked when I no longer see my managers being bombarded by simple questions and queries from their team members on a daily basis.”     

Based on his answer, we revisited our programme design to better meet his requirements, and amended our evaluation to measure what actually mattered to him.  As a bonus, we saved a lot of time gathering evaluation data, which in reality was of little interest to the project sponsor. 

Top tip 2:
Think of your training programmes as the starting line, not the finishing line

In L&D we often focus huge energy on planning our learning programmes, thinking about suitable pre-work and considering learning transfer.  Often though, there’s  still the temptation to think of the end of the learning programme as the ‘finishing line’.   

Reframing, and instead considering the end of your learning programme as the ‘starting line’, naturally forces you to consider impact over the longer term:

  • How, for instance, will you check that learning has made an impact in six months or 12 months after the programme has taken place?  
  • How will you ensure that new starters who join the organisation in six months’ time can access the learning?  
  • What tools and resources could you create to jog learners’ memories of key learning points ‘on the job’ in a few months’ time? 
  • What support do you need from managers to embed learning in the workplace over the longer term?

Top tip 3:
When faced with time or financial pressures, use AGILE principles to help you prioritise

As L&D professionals, we always want to do the best possible job. However, when time and/or finances are tight it may not be feasible to do everything you’d like to.

In these circumstances, the AGILE principle of launching with a minimum viable product (MVP) can be helpful. Put simply, the MVP is the most basic form of a product that will meet the customer’s needs, but which can be improved later when more time and/or budget is available.    

So, next time you’re planning a learning programme with time/financial constraints, try asking:  

  • What are the really critical parts of this learning programme?  
  • What could be stripped away?
  • What could follow later or be improved when more time/budget is available?   
  • What is the simplest format you could use that would still achieve your learning outcomes?  

Top tip 4:
Only use face-to-face training for the parts of your learning programmes that really need it

Time is precious, and in the post-pandemic world it’s more challenging than ever to bring people together. Increasingly, people are also questioning whether the impact of an event will justify the time and effort of attending.

Yet, despite this, many face-to-face learning events still begin with a session of trainer-led input, covering the theoretical aspects of a subject. Most of this could simply be read by learners in advance. 

When planning a face-to-face event, think about what you could achieve via other methods, to save time on the day:

  • Could you record a simple video or narrated PowerPoint for learners to watch beforehand?  
  • Could a short piece of digital content adequately cover the theory?
  • Could you start your session with a Q&A session on the topic instead of trainer input?
  • Which aspects of your programme genuinely need to be done either face to face or in a virtual classroom?   

Creating connection is arguably more important than ever, but doing so only for the bits that really matter will save your learners (and yourself) time, may generate goodwill and will likely create more impact in the long-term. 

Top tip 5:
Never do for learners what learners can do for themselves

A key principle of brain-friendly learning is never do for learners what learners can do for themselves.   

As L&D professionals, we are fonts of all knowledge, and often enjoy sharing this with our teams. However, to make learning programmes more interactive, it can be helpful to hold back on this natural inclination to ‘serve up’ information to our learners, and give them the opportunity to discover it for themselves instead.

For example: In a leadership development session, you might naturally be tempted to cover a number of different leadership styles and theories. Instead try: 

  • Giving learners an hour to do some Google research on the topic themselves in smaller groups, and then ask them to present back to the wider group what they’ve learned. 
  • Allowing them 15 minutes to brainstorm what they already know and presenting it back to the group

You can still have slides in reserve in case they miss something important, but by allowing them to do the work themselves and teach it back, they are much more likely to retain the information in the long term.

About by Helen Wyatt

Helen Wyatt is the Talent Development Manager at the Brain Tumour Charity. 

 

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