December 11, 2019
Learner-centric learning, though popular and expeditious, has its limits for an organization that wants to instill behavior change among its workforce—because leaders lack awareness of what employees are learning, how much their skills are improving, and whether the training is aligned with business outcomes.
But there are ways to include learner centricity in your talent development strategy. American Management Association has been sharing best practices at a series of briefings throughout the U.S. with groups of HR and L&D leaders. Led by K.C. Blonski, vice president, AMA Corporate Learning Solutions, the groups have discussed how to implement a curated learner-centric learning program, leaving some autonomy to learners while still leading them in the right direction.
Blonski points out that learner-centric learning is nothing new, and we use it in many aspects of our lives, such as going to YouTube to learn how to fix a leaky faucet. Years ago people turned to encyclopedias or found a book at the library to learn about a topic. It’s not going away, he says. So in order for companies to get a better return on investment, Blonski recommends that a well-curated source of content be used for employee training. He lists several actions that companies should take:
Accept the limitations of learner-centric learning. In a recent Yale University study, “Searching for Explanations: How the Internet Inflates Estimates of Internal Knowledge,” researchers discovered that those who accessed information from the Internet believed they had a higher level of mastery than those who didn’t. They exhibited an artificial boost in confidence about their level of knowledge, believing they had mastery over a subject because they had access to it. “They also found an increased level of arrogance in the learner,” Blonski says. “That arrogance, or lack of self-improvement, is the beginning of a declining performance trend.”
Embrace learner-centric learning as a tool. Use it to your advantage by combining the organization’s and the learners’ needs. “Embracing it is really around recognizing the availability of so much content,” Blonski says. “There’s tons out there. But we have to curate it. We have to put it in a way that makes sense to the learner but more importantly to the organization as well.”
Identify learning paths for employees. Assess what skills your staff needs and doesn’t need—accounting for multiple levels of experience and seniority. “You can’t provide the same training for everyone,” Blonski says. “That’s really what we’re focusing on with learner centricity. We’re not doing away with it; we’re just building it in with a curated approach.”
Enroll your company’s leadership in your talent development plan. “How are you getting your leaders actively involved in supporting the effort? What tools are you giving them? Are you providing coaching and feedback?” Blonski asks. “Training with no leadership support can die on the vine.”
L&D organizations must take charge of development, Blonski says. They should offer varying experiences and a blended approach to learning, including learner centricity. This approach leads to increased effectiveness, reinforcement of newly instilled skills, and sustained knowledge—as well as alignment between talent development and strategic business outcomes. Only then will organizations see a transformative evolution in behaviors that translates into growth and value.