Project Description

Advancing Proficiency Through Sustainable Learning

Advancing Proficiency Through Sustainable Learning

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

—Chinese proverb

Over the years, many companies have come to consider ‘training’ as synonymous with ‘proficiency’ and nothing is farther from the truth. Proficiency happens through exposure to new information or skills, followed by consistent reinforcement, so the learner practices and becomes adept in using it.

The concept of training has long been a maligned term in corporate America; it conjures up images of employees reluctantly pulled away from their day jobs and sequestered in a windowless conference room only to return exhausted and overwhelmed. In the meantime, emails and (more) to-dos piled up while they were away, so the training materials find a home in a desk drawer or on a shelf never to be touched again. For decades that scenario has been a standard operating procedure, hence “training” got a bad reputation. It appeared the time invested in the training didn’t move the needle the way management and leadership wanted.

In more recent years, the corporate world began capitalizing on new technology and pivoted to tactics such as online learning, microlearning, and gamification—yet these investments still often resulted in lukewarm results.

In this point of view, we discuss the fundamental issues—and implications—associated with traditional training methods and outline Parker Avery’s approach to creating an environment that supports the ultimate goal of meaningful and sustainable learning.

Understanding How Adults Learn

First, keep this phrase top of mind: training does not equal sustainable learning. After investing millions of dollars and thousands of hours in implementing a new technology, redesigning an organization, or reengineering business processes, a slight 12 to 20 hours are typically dedicated to the education of the employees. Adult learners are hands-on creatures. As such, listening to the most energetic facilitator or watching someone else do the new task does little to help an adult learn, let alone become proficient at the new skill. This mindset clashes with our instant-gratification society: we assume that as adults, we should figure it out and move on.

However, adults simply do not retain information after attending a training session without a well-crafted support plan in place. The entire concept of training must be re-framed. Because someone attends a few three-hour training sessions for a new system does not equate to proficiency in using the new system. Instead, what if the training session was poised as the ‘opening act’ for a new learner? It is their first exposure to the information, but it cannot stop there.

Many people know of the ‘learning pyramid,’which emphasizes the need for adults to engage in hands-on practice as well as teach others the new skill. To embed new knowledge in your organization, you need in-house experts who can guide and support others. It’s critical you own the expertise, because while the road to proficiency is a long one, it can be accelerated.