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Is Sustainability Really the Goal?

By Liza Hummel

Liza Hummel

Lately, it seems like sustainability in training and development is all the rage. Even at DDI, sustainability and reinforcement are hot topics, more so than they’ve been in the last 10 years. Clients are realizing that one or two events aren’t enough, and can be a huge waste of money. Since the economic recession of 2008, fiscal accountability within organizations is a priority, and if you can’t measure the return on an investment, it’s probably going to be cut.

SustainabilitySo let’s explore sustainability and reinforcement. To me, those words imply maintaining the status quo: “Let’s preserve things at this level” or “Let’s keep our current behaviors.” Don’t get me wrong—sustainability and reinforcement are extremely important. But by only sustaining and reinforcing, I think we limit ourselves; instead, let’s become continuous learners. By doing so, we are elevating our paths to the likes of Einstein, Malala, Michelangelo, and Confucius.

Don’t believe we can rise to such ambitious heights? Maybe we need to change our approach to learning. Over 50 percent of the highest quality of development occurs on-the-job according to the Global Leadership Forecast. However, the book The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning states that on-the-job is where 50 percent of training failures occur.

So my questions are: What if there never was a ‘post-training’ period? What if learning took place all the time, in different ways, both in training sessions and everywhere else? By focusing on a journey to deepen our understanding of a concept or skill, we can connect learning with our world. Over time, we would apply what we learned and in the process better navigate how we interact with one another.

Some ways to do this are:

  • Incorporate social strategies into normal work activities that help people connect and network with their peers. One reason social strategies at work excite me is because of their informality. Social media is a place for casual musings; no meetings, no right or wrong answers and yes, it is public. But with some simple guidelines, it can be a safe place for sharing information and collaborating.
  • Hold learners accountable by designing an action plan or putting metrics in place to measure success. How many of us can objectively evaluate our behaviors otherwise? Think of this as the FitBit of workplace training.
  • Equip managers with tools to support learners. This one is huge. It’s the Haymitch to your Katniss. The Obi-Wan to your Luke.
  • Structure learning so that it is engaging and fits with how people like to learn. Get inspired with games, simulations, quizzes or other ways that stimulate the learner. In a recent focus group where I was testing one of our new technology-driven simulations, people were having fun and loving the immediate feedback by the program. It was like they were part of a puzzle, and they enjoyed working through the task.

Perhaps my perspective will be seen as idealistic, but by integrating sustainability and reinforcement within our daily interactions, I believe we all have the opportunity to grow and become better, not only on our jobs, but for the world in which we live.

Liza Hummel is a consulting associate in leadership development at DDI.

Posted: 15 Dec, 2015,
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