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10 Key Lessons in Performance-focused Learning Approaches

Roberta Gogos
Jun 30 2021

You know when you get an hour with Charles Jennings and Steve Dineen that you’re in for an inspired session where you’ll no doubt come away with dozens of new ideas and theories about learning just waiting to be applied. 

Fuse founder Steve needs no introduction, and if you’re a part of the L&D community, you’ve most definitely heard of Charles as well. Partner at the Tulser/70:20:10 Institute, he is recognised as one of the world's leading experts on building and implementing learning and organisational performance strategies. Charles has led learning and performance improvement projects for multinational corporations, government agencies, not-for-profits, and other organisations for more than 40 years. He was Chief Learning Officer at Reuters and Thomson Reuters with responsibility for the developing and implementing of learning and performance strategies for 55,000 employees across the globe.

During this particular session, the topic was focused on improving productivity and efficiency around performance outcomes from learning, and there were many key takeaways as Steve and Charles each gave their points of view. As Fuse and the team at Tulser Global share many of the same philosophies and goals, we wanted to share some of these initial points to represent how we see success in the L&D landscape today. 

1. There’s a mind shift change happening in L&D: Many organisations talk about learning impact, and some have a performance focus. What many of these companies realise is that L&D’s role boils down to helping people do their jobs better, and helping their organisations improve performance. And this can mean little things, like improving search so that they can get the information and knowledge they need instantly. What we’ve seen is a gradual change in understanding and approach to learning, from L&D’s role being quite separate and siloed, to L&D starting to focus on the learning that is aligned and even embedded in a person’s day. It’s what we like to call learning in the flow of work, and Charles does a great job of explaining it here:

2. Skills are important, but they aren’t necessarily where companies should start: In designing learning solutions, the companies that are experiencing the most success are the ones that look at solutions needed for their business problems first. Business outcomes are leading the way. So, for example, if the business problem is volume in sales, companies may look at the macro-level things that salespeople need to know. The need to be able to forecast, generate good rapport, negotiate contracts, and close deals, for example. It’s unlikely that formal, skills-based training alone is going to help anyone to accomplish this. But instant, bite-sized information and knowledge at the point of need will. Tips and techniques, delivered at the point of need all work to build up an experience, which people build upon as they apply the knowledge. When you start out, there will be some basic information, knowledge, tools, and processes you need to help execute your tasks and deliver expected performance. Skills are just part of the mix.  As Charles says, being clear about
"what you need to do is more important at the outset than what you need to know".

3. L&D technologies need to support the full spectrum of learning: Formal learning has its place, and technologies like Fuse need to support both formal learning and informal learning at the point of need at the same time. Both are needed for optimal performance support.

4. Improving productivity is a double-sided coin: One element is enablement: how do you enable the best technology and processes in order to help people be more effective, more efficient, and more productive? And secondly, what are the key processes they need in terms of support. To get there, as mentioned before, you have to really understand your key business and performance problems.

5. One of the biggest problems happens when companies design for learning versus designing for improving performance: Too many companies don’t do the correct analysis upfront. It’s essential to understand what the business environment is, what the opportunities are, what the constraints are long before designing a learning solution. Analysis upfront may reveal any number of things, including the right mix of formal and informal learning, and requirements surrounding repositories of documents and other resources.

6. People who are better networked perform better: Successful business people vary in their knowledge and approach to the world. Some are just naturally, and extraordinarily, intelligent. Others are more ‘networked.’ They find the right answer, but more often than not it comes from asking someone.

7. Social learning and collaboration is everything: As per above, ‘networked’ people will help to build and nurture good networks and communities, and it’s also these people who will also help to fuel performance. Professor Rob Cross has done a lot of research demonstrating that the most valuable people in a company are those who collaborate and network.

8. L&D doesn’t need to be a cost centre: It’s time to stretch and extend the value of the learning technology and processes we put in place. L&D needs to transition from being a cost to being a value creator and even a revenue centre.

9. Learning for performance is as much about helping people to change as anything: It’s not just about redesigning and reimagining solutions. It’s about getting people to change their way of thinking and change their way of doing things. It is helping them to think strategically about how to solve their organisational problems. By moving away from thinking about competencies and skills to thinking about critical tasks we can start to design for performance. The results of designing for individual, team, and organisational performance will be more impactful than only designing learning solutions to build skills and competencies.

10. Design for learning looks much different than design for performance: Most companies start with formal learning. But what if you started out with designing support for working and learning (ie, performance support) and social learning (business focus?) Starting in the performance zone may just help reap the business performance rewards your company has been missing. 

If you would like to speak with Fuse or Tulser about a performance-based learning approach, click here to get in touch today.

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