As I’ve been working to define and build my business, I am reading voraciously studies, results, reports, and analysis on learning. The one piece that I see in common that’s too often missing is the purpose. What’s the purpose of the training.
When you go grocery shopping, what’s the purpose? Satisfy hunger, nutrition, health and taste needs. And the grocery store? Their purpose is to provide you access to all the food and food products you need.
When you go to a concert or show, what’s the purpose? Entertainment, enjoyment, relaxation. The performers? Money and pleasure from playing.
When you go to training, what’s the purpose? GOTCHA! Is the purpose to get away from work? To get as many people through as possible? So what? Is the purpose to gain new information or ideas? Is training the best way to do that? Is the purpose to learn new skills, processes, techniques, methods? We’re getting warmer, but again I ask, for what purpose?
I believe learning and training are lifelong necessities. Change is happening so rapidly that the only way we can keep abreast is to continually learn. We are growing so rapidly that without ongoing learning, we’ll be going the way of the rotary phone – an old method that takes 5-10 times as long to do as any push button cell phone with redial or saved number can do. We simply do not have the time for that.
Yet what scares me the most is that we learn what we must, but not always what we should. We’re good at picking up the necessities – how do we work our new phones, computers, TVs or cars. But what about the life skills, the so-called “soft skills” and leadership skills that enable us to learn and grow on the job, in interactions with others including coworkers, bosses, friends, and family? Study after study reports on the low effectiveness and transfer of leadership, communications, and other so-called “soft skills.” In a recent study on executive education by the Schulich Executive Education Center, 90% say their organization engages in some form of management education, but only 50% think it is made a priority. Over 80% say they need more! Almost 75 percent of respondents to Brandon Hall Group’s 2013 Leadership Development Benchmarking Survey said their leadership development programs are not very effective.
So what do we do about this? Three steps.
1)Make the purpose clear for leadership and softskills learning. Answer the following: What can this do for you? Why is it important?
2)Measure it. Find ways to measure the effectiveness of the learning. Highlight where and how it makes a difference. Share results widely.
3)Make it YOUR priority. Make sure that learning the softskills doesn’t take a backseat to other learning or work.
Learning is important, but without knowing, and measuring, the purpose for the learning, it becomes an exercise in futility – nice to do but not a necessity. Make sure your efforts as a learning professional or learner are not for naught – make sure the purpose is known!