Enable Employees Learn to Learn

Couple of days back, I overheard a conversation between an HR partner and an employee, “You have been nominated for this program, its next month, please attend.”

When the employee regretted, HR persuaded, “Hey, you should feel privileged, its only by invitation and you have been handpicked by your leader.”

The employee’s response is anybody’s guess, he said “OK, I will come” Honestly, was he left with much choice?

HR continues to persuade, nudge, push, drop names – use every possible tactic – to influence employees to attend training programs. Having spent years in leadership development, I have done this myself (I still do it).

But what bothers me is the fetish HR has for training programs? Why does it consider learning analogous to training programs?

When employees drop out of a training program, we say, “What do do? Employees just don’t want to learn.”

Isn’t this a naive statement?

Let’s accept it, most employees (if not all) want to learn; they are intelligent enough to know that they will grow only and only if they build capabilities.

If employees want to learn, yet need to be pushed and cajoled to attend training programs, I wonder why we in HR fail to ask a fundamental question – “why do employees try to dodge training programs?”

I can think of two reasons from employees’ perspective (I am in HR, but I am also an employee):

First, employees may not find the training relevant – don’t see a connect with their short or long term development need. Either no one has explained it to them, or they don’t believe so!

Second and a more important reason is that, classroom training may not be an employee’s style of learning. People learn in different ways (I am not referring to learning styles like auditory, visual, kinaesthetic etc.).

I for example, learn best by

  • Observing others
  • Continuous feedback from managers, colleagues and team members
  • Self-reflection
  • Learning while doing – on the job, being part of projects, working in new areas with guidance

Unless it’s knowledge intensive like finance, economics, etc. I don’t get much out of a training program. However, like all other employees, I have attended training programs time and again, only because I was expected to!

People also learn through

  • Formal or informal guidance from others,
  • Reading and questioning
  • Interacting with others
  • Practice doing something
  • Experimenting and brainstorming

So, instead of pushing employees into training programs or mindlessly assigning them to webinars, e-learning, mentors / coaches etc, will HR, employees and organization benefit by enabling employees understand how they learn. And provide avenues to learn their way!

It’s not easy, but when employees learn to learn, an organization will become a learning organization. This is likely to make a learning or leadership development function invisible (minimal training programs) yet it will be omnipresent (through its impact).

This is my dream for Learning Function!

Would love to hear your thoughts…

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