Implementing a Learning Culture – Part 3
11th December 2014
We’ve covered your team, your vision and the creation of your plan of action. So, you now should have an idea about who your learners are, how they will learn and where the learning will take place. It now comes down to ensuring that your employees get the maximum benefits from the training that you provide.
Interruptions and distractions, such as emails and phone calls or communications from colleagues, force our brain to swap things out of working memory in order to deal with this new input. This means that we need to swap the original information back in and it’s during this process that we ‘forget’ or lose some important details.
Human Mind vs. Animal Brain
Creating content that is engaging and maximises attention spans can be difficult to achieve. We’ve all experienced a time where we have struggled to pay attention, perhaps at school, during a university lecture or even a presentation at work.
In order to keep your learners engaged and to help them to connect with the learning material, it’s important to consider that the human brain has two parts: an instinctive animal part and a rational human part. The animal part of our brain is designed to react and make decisions really quickly, essentially it’s the primal part of our brain that tries to keep us alive. The human part of the brain is less emotional, and far more rational. It has the ability to absorb and make sense of what it is being shown.
The key to maintaining the full attention of your learners, is to grab their attention by engaging the animal part of the brain, in order to reach the secondary, human part of the brain which will then process this information.
Attention span is something that can be worked on and improved, but it is still useful to be mindful of these parts of the brain in order to prevent learners from becoming bored.
Everyone is different and learns at a pace that is comfortable to them. Giving people the time to work through materials or running group activities may be great for some employees, others will prefer to learn in their own time and at their own pace, which might be slower or faster than group sessions.
It’s good practice to provide adequate material that allows learners to go off and review the information in their own time. Using document sharing tools such as Dropbox can simplify the distribution of these materials and make sure they are readily available at all times. However, these types of resources do have limited functionality in distributing material at the right time e.g. supplementary information after each module.
For this reason, most employers make use of a Learning Management System (LMS) to facilitate the distribution of these materials. Aside from this benefit, the majority of LMS can distribute online training modules as well as tracking employee progress which makes them incredibly helpful from a number of angles.
You’ve invested a lot of effort in designing your learning culture, so it’s vital to have an accurate way to measure its success. Start with simple factors like attendance or activity, as this will allow to you to gauge employee engagement towards training.
Next comes the evaluation of the learning content and how well it is improving you team’s knowledge. This can be done via tests or exams. Quick tests can be used to reinforce learning or identify any gaps in knowledge, and exams can be conducted in a slightly more formal way to really test what your employees have retained over a longer period.
With both of these forms of evaluation, it’s really important to word the questions carefully as it can be easy to subconsciously give away the answer. For example, bar staff may be quizzed in the following way:
Which spirits are required to make a cosmopolitan cocktail?
c) Vodka and Triple Sec
The clue is in the question in this case due to the use of plurals in the first question ‘which spirits’ and though this may seem like an obvious example, it’s important to bear in mind while you construct any test or exam questions. There are many other rules for creating test or exam questions, including:
- Don’t make the correct answer more detailed than the others
- Don’t include an indefinite article e.g. ‘an’ as this may give away the answer
- Don’t give away any information for a question by including relevant info in an earlier question/ multiple choice answer
Multiple choice is also a popular form of question in exams, yet it can provide results which are flawed. If you give employees three answers to choose from, they can randomly select one option and still have a 33% chance of getting it right. If the learner can discount one answer by using common sense, then straight away their odds of getting it right are up to 50%. Now, consider a test made up of multiple choice questions which have three possible choices, and each time one question can be discounted due to common sense. This means that the employee only needs to know the answer to three questions in order to average 70%. Conclusion…the more options the better! Or, don’t use multiple choice.
Now, here’s a good example:
Which statement is correct?
a) The alcoholic spirits found in a cosmopolitan cocktail are triple sec and tequila.
b) The alcoholic spirits found in a cosmopolitan cocktail are vodka and cointreau.
c) The alcoholic spirits found in a cosmopolitan cocktail are vodka and triple sec.
d) The alcoholic spirits found in a cosmopolitan cocktail are gin and cointreau.
Motivation through qualifications
Gaining a qualification can be a huge motivational factor for your employees, and it gives them a ‘feel good’ factor and reinforces that their hard work was worth it. It also spurs them on to look to the next challenge in order to continue their own progress. It’s worthwhile to consider getting your training accredited or even create your own internal qualifications.
Feedback should be continuous in order to assure employees that they are on the right track or to identify areas where further training may be needed. It’s vital to do this regularly so that employees can be given extra assistance or motivation as required. There are several ways that you can provide feedback to your employees, for example, a number of businesses favour the ‘mean promoter score’ model. This uses a scoring system to feedback to each employee, which allows continual progress tobe tracked and evaluated.
The Final Step – Implementing the Plan
No plan is always 100% correct, nor should it be set in stone. So, start by acknowledging that some things will require changes and that your plan needs to be fluid. Using feedback from managers and employees can help you to make further developments to the plan. For example, if all employees are getting poor scores on a specific test, the training may need to be evaluated in more detail.
It’s also a good idea to set the business some specific timescales for the implementation of each stage in your plan. If you haven’t already read the two previous stages, they can be found here:
After each of these stages, be sure to record and update other staff members with the information you have gained from ongoing feedback.
One of my own tools for team improvement…
Every year, I ensure that I set up a ‘gripes meeting’ for my team (thank you Lara Morgan!) in which I ask employees to voice the issues that they dislike about the way things are run within the company, no holds barred. These ‘gripes’ are then organised into three sets depending on their urgency; one to change immediately, one to change within three months and one to be sorted in the long term. This motivates the team by letting them know that their feedback is valued and that their opinion matters.