No. 5: We always have to chase people down to complete training.

In General L&D by JD Dillon

While every organization and industry is unique, there is a consistent set of issues that I seem to encounter over and over that fundamentally reduces the impact of L&D efforts. We need to get these issues resolved before we can focus on what really matters – delivering results for our people and our businesses.This is the first in a series of 5 posts discussing these systemic issues within workplace learning. 

I’ll also be hosting a webinar on Tuesday, September 25 at 2pm EST with Chief Learning Officer and sharing more ideas on How to Solve the 5 Biggest Problems in Workplace Learning. Hope to see you there!

L&D is all about chasing. We’re chasing the business to try to keep up with changing priorities. We’re chasing changes in technology to make sure we stay relevant. We’re chasing the latest trends in our field so we can do the best job possible. But most of all, L&D is always chasing the audience. How much time and effort do you spend sending emails and spreadsheets to managers to get employees to complete their training?

I have been rebuked with the phrase “We don’t have time for learning” more times than I can count. It may be a ridiculous statement, but it’s an honest reflection of operational reality. People barely have enough time to do their jobs yet alone “extra stuff.” If you work in retail or food, you only have as many people in the location as you absolutely need to serve customers that day. If you’re in manufacturing or logistics, efficiency is second only to safety, so people need to stay focused. If you’re in a call center, people NEVER get off the phone. Is it really surprising that these people need to be chased down to complete eLearning or go to a classroom session? 

When people are stretched so thin, we have to be honest with ourselves and ask the question …

“Why should employees use their limited time on the training we provide?”

After all, they can just Google stuff or ask the person next to them when a problem comes up. What value do we provide that makes us worth the time and effort?

The problem isn’t that people don’t like or see the value in learning. This is actually a fit problem. Our L&D tactics don’t effectively fit into the reality of the people we’re trying to support. We don’t fit the time they have available. We don’t fit the physical location where they perform the job.  We don’t fit the tools they use in the workflow. And we don’t fit the value they need to dedicate the time and effort to consuming our information. If we fix the fit, we can reduce the need to chase.

This fit challenge has led to the surge of interest in topics like microlearning and learning in the workflow. I personally define microlearning as “learning that fits” specifically because the related principles can help us overcome the chase problem. For example, by building the routine of everyday learning in the few minutes employees do have free, we can establish a predictable channel through which we can deliver all types of information. Is it time for the annual certification? Deliver it as part of the daily session! Is there a new product coming out but we can’t pull people off the sales floor? Push the overview in the next daily session! And because this window for everyday learning has to be very brief, we must keep our content focused on just what matters most to the employee and the business. 

No, we can’t address every potential performance challenge in only a few minutes per day. But we can solve a large number of regular, timely problems this way and leave the bigger, more complex stuff for the right situations. And, because we are demonstrating our understanding of the day-to-day realities of their roles, we can build the trust we need to make things easier when we do need to ask for extra time.

This is how you solve the chase problem.

How much time and effort do you waste chasing people down to complete required training? What steps have you taken to make it easier for both you and employees to get these things done without the hassle? Share your thoughts in the comments below!