“Leading to Learning,” Part 2: the Problems We Face

Read Part 1 if you haven’t!

As I’ve been thinking about this idea of, “how business leaders can include learning as just another ordinary production outcome,” I wanted to dwell for a moment on the learners’ side of the equation.

Now, this isn’t meant to beat up on anyone at all, but I do think there are some realities we need to at least acknowledge.

First, a lot of companies these days rely heavily on self-paced video training. It’s less expensive, it doesn’t involve off lining critical tech personnel for a week, and it usually provides a greater variety. I’m certainly a fan.

But a lot of those same companies forget that, for many tech people, a week-long class was like a half-vacation. They got to get out of the work environment for a bit. Frankly, more companies would probably stick with classroom training, except for a couple of key failures:

  • Very few of them do anything to validate that the learner will be able to accomplish new production outcomes. That is, if the point of the class was to enable some new production outcome, classroom training rarely provides a strong connection to that.
  • Most of them are simply packing too much information into a short period of time. Human brains are what they are; just because it’s convenient to schedule a one-week class doesn’t mean it’s optimally effective.
  • The industry’s rush, in the 1990s and 2000s, to monetize tech skill development led to some infamously crappy courses and instructors. This kind of put a bad rep on huge swaths of the training industry.

So I get it: a lot of companies made a full or partial switch to self-paced learning. Cool. Except those companies, lacking the skill for “leading to learning,” tended to make self-paced training something extra. No longer did learners get time off to go sit in an isolated space and just learn; they were expected to do so during lunch, or during the work day, or something. They were expected to sit at their noisy, distraction-filled desk and somehow focus on learning. Shockingly, this has not been universally popular with learners.

As a result, plenty of business leaders get the impression that their people don’t want to learn. Sure, sometimes that’s true; my Dad was a 68 year-old COBOL programmer who was understandably disinterested in learning Javascript. But it’s not always the case. Sometimes, learners don’t want to learn because if the company isn’t making time and space for it, they feel they have no reason to make time or space for it, either.

It can get a little toxic, but there are definitely companies who are figuring it out. Next week, I’ll share some working models and see if there’s anything to glean from them.

3 thoughts on ““Leading to Learning,” Part 2: the Problems We Face

  1. Sling

    This is a good idea. I’m blessed to work in the field of education, so my employer sets aside an several full days each year for us to do nothing but professional development. Businesses should consider it an investment to grow their employees professionally. But these days it seems like employees are disposable to businesses so they’re not willing to invest when they can just pretend to give the self-paced video option. They think employees should spend their free time outside of work advancing themselves. In some cases, I agree. I spend my own time learning work related skills, but not everyone can do that.

  2. Aaron

    I agree completely. However, how would you recommend an employee engage management about establishing an ideal learning environment?

    My company has offered for me to do a couple hours a week, on the clock, dedicated to learning. Unfortunately, like you described in your post, I don’t have a dedicated space free of distractions. So it’s hard to focus and be effective in my learning, which means I have to try and find personal time outside work to learn. How do I speak “management” to try and promote this leading to learn environment, if it’s not a priority or focus of the company I work for currently?

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