The Anatomy of ‘Real Life’ Learning

What was the last thing that you consciously set out to learn outside of work - in ‘real life’? I don’t mean the informal learning that we all do every day as we chat to friends and browse the internet, but a time when you decided you wanted to do something you hadn’t done before and set about meeting that goal.

Real Life LearningPerhaps it was learning ‘holiday French’ for an upcoming trip across the Channel? Maybe you learned to play basketball or how to swim, or worked out how to create a certain effect in Photoshop?

For me, it’s learning to cook some new recipes; I’ve set myself the challenge of cooking one new meal every week throughout 2015. After some particularly tasty chicken satay skewers last night, I was reflecting on how I’ve approached the task of learning how to cook the new dishes now that it’s up to me, not work, to decide how I learn.

How Do We Learn?

I’ll start by telling you what I didn’t do. I didn’t buy a book on advanced cooking skills, spend a few hours reading it from cover to cover and expect that to sort me out for the year. Instead, I jumped straight in. I came up with my first idea for a new meal, bought some ingredients and got stuck in. Even now, five months in, as I come across things I don’t know how to do, I look at a recipe for instructions or search on YouTube for a video tutorial showing the technique I need to master. In other words, I go out and find myself support as and when I needed it.

Does this resonate with you and how you’re choosing to learn in ‘real life?’ And how does it compare to your workplace learning? I’d be prepared to bet a chicken satay skewer that your learning at work is more like reading a book cover to cover a few months ahead of time than checking a YouTube tutorial at the point of need. I wonder why?

Why Aren't We 'Doing' More With Workplace Learning?

You might argue that the ‘doing’ approach we take to 'real life' learning doesn’t translate into work. But it doesn't have to work that way. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples that challenge that.

Say there’s a need to train 5000 people on using a new HR system. A traditional elearning solution might be a 20 minute programme taking learners through a 'See It, Try It, Test It' process using a dummy system. A 'doing' alternative on-the-job performance aid might be a three-minute video tutorial that learners can refer to as they use the new system.

Or imagine there’s a need for a diversity and inclusion refresher for 12,000 employees. A 45 minute elearning course might take a scenario-based approach, drawing the key learning points out of a series of employee stories, in the hope that there’s one everyone can relate to. A 'doing' alternative on-the-job performance aid might be one short email every week for 10 weeks, each one giving employees an ‘inclusive’ action to carry out that day. The focus is all on ‘doing’ the end goal.

Targeted Learning, Boosted By Technology

In examples like the above, not only would learners thank us for helping them learn in a simple, targeted way that makes use of the technology they use daily, but there’s an increase on your organisational ROI too. If we go back to the HR system example, the traditional elearning method would cost significantly more than the performance aid to produce, and would take 1417 more learner hours to complete.

In cases like the ones above, a performance aid might be all you need. In other instances, such as embedding a new process or improving interview skills, the performance aid can be the crucial ‘how’ part of a blend where other initiatives fulfil the ‘what’ and ‘why’. So let’s get creative (and informal)!

Is there a place for on-the-job performance aids in your organisation? We’ve helped lots of clients focus on ‘doing’ rather that ‘knowing’. Wondering if we could help you too?

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