A famous cartoon shows a bird, a monkey, a penguin, an elephant, a fish (in a bowl), a sea lion, and a dog lined up in front of a teacher, who sits at his desk and tells them: “For a fair selection, everybody has to take the same exam: please climb that tree”.
This situation is unfortunately true in assessment - standardized tests have been trying to do this for decades - and it’s true for training and teaching as well. “For a fair selection, everybody has to take the same exam. Don’t worry, we’ll teach you how to do that. We know the way.”
Given how differently people learn, it is an illusion to believe that a one size fits all approach has ever worked in education. People have different ways of thinking, different backgrounds and they relate to knowledge and information in unique ways. And this uniqueness should be taken into consideration when we try to implement learning programs in any company.
3 Divergent roads on the path to training success
In A new culture of learning: cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change, Douglas Thomas and John Seedly Brown argue that “the challenge is to find a way to marry structure and freedom, to create something altogether new”.
It’s time to adopt blended learning from different perspectives and include the needs of all learners in the process. Here are three different ways to approach training that ensure better learning experiences for everyone.
It might seem pretty obvious, as the shift from a course-centered (or even instructor-centered) approach is nothing new. However, when most companies assess their training needs and request quotes from training vendors, they still adopt a course-centered approach. Nothing wrong with that, but perhaps this approach does not grasp the whole picture.
Read more: The need for a Training Needs Analysis
Ideally, companies should have a global assessment of their employees with their learning styles, so that training companies or L&D departments prepare for the needs of the (inevitably) diverse audience that needs to learn.
The HR department should prepare budgets for this assessment to make sure that the training programs are effective and offer a good learning experience to all attendees.
On-demand training programs might be suitable for complex training needs in companies that grow fast and have many employees who need to master many skills. The need for structured and well-defined training programs is always present, but people are different and their training needs might vary a lot.
Let’s imagine a software company that wants to increase its sales force and hires fifteen people, who have different types of experience. One might be a new graduate, with outstanding potential, outstanding technical skills, but no sales experience. There is also a very skilled salesman with experience in pharmaceuticals. And there is an experienced salesman headhunted from a competitor, who knows the market very well.
Putting all of them through the same training program doesn’t make too much sense. Tailor-cut modules that focus either on selling techniques or on more technical features of the products and of the market might be a better approach.
Coaching is extremely useful for addressing specific business challenges. But not all people might feel comfortable attending coaching sessions. However, social learning might be a more pleasant experience.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. We think it takes an entire company to create a collaborative culture in which each member feels appreciated and is given a fair opportunity to grow and to learn. Even from personal mistakes.
Socialization is an essential experience throughout our professional life. It is also essential during our learning journey. If a company creates policies and procedures that allow people from one another, in a safe space where each employee can share his or her own weaknesses and learning gaps, it will create more efficient and more productive teams.
It may sound like a cliché, but people can take very different roads to get to the same destination. Make sure that the training policies in your company allow different people to learn in different ways.
M. Scott Peck, the author of the famous bestseller The road less traveled said that we should “share our similarities, celebrate our differences”. This is what training programs should do as well.