Just-in-time, or JIT, training has become as much a part of the training vernacular as CBT (computer-based training), ROI (return on investment) and, one of my favorites, WIIFM (what’s in it for me). JIT is the promise that learning will someday be utilized in the same way our users launch a desktop application.
Many skeptics have equated the ’90s promise of JIT training with the ’80s promise of a paperless office. Both have proven an age-old principle in education that effective outcomes are not about having the right tools and technology, but are about the implementation and utilization of those tools.
In looking at a number of case studies where e-learning and the JIT promise are being realized, three key factors have emerged around selling this learning modality to our students.
The first is time. I realize that the T in JIT stands for time, but it’s the JI that seem to be fooling everyone, especially the managers of our learners. “Just in time” seems to imply that learning will somehow find its way into an already busy 40-hour workweek. And by “find its way,” I mean that it will add little to no additional time, but rather that it will be synthesized into the existing work flow. This just doesn’t seem to be the case, or at least not yet.
Learning takes time, whether in a classroom or at the desktop. Managers need to stop seeing the use of e-learning tutorials during the workday as a disruption. Many organizations that are seeing effective results are allowing “learning times” of up to 45 minutes where learners can protect their work time to let learning occur relative to specific on-the-job needs or projects. Some have even gone so far as to have stand-alone labs where learners can go and participate in short learning interventions. I realize that this seems to run counter to the “at the desktop” promise, but depending on how distracting the work environment might be, this is sometimes a very effective alternative.
The second factor to be realized is requiring training. It’s amazing how pendulums tend to swing in our industry. We became so disillusioned with public schedules and traveling to three- to five-day training events that we went the complete other way when e-learning and JIT emerged. In many organizations, training became “optional”—something managers and learners felt would just happen since it was so accessible. This hasn’t been the case. If you have a training need, which is hopefully based on a specific outcome, project or skills gap, it should still be required and tracked whether it’s online or in a classroom.
The final key to making JIT work is offering some kind of incentive for employees to learn. Learning without an incentive just doesn’t happen. I’ve seen a wide range of incentives offered, from simple things such as recognition, prizes and awards to bigger rewards like bonuses, career advancement and measured outcomes relative to a specific project. Either way, some type of incentive to reward the effort is highly motivating to any learner, especially when the modality is as independently driven as online learning.
JIT can be a reality, but we need to bring it back to some basic training principles. Time, requirements and incentives were the key drivers of effective training programs long before the emergence of e-learning. Let’s not let another acronym cause us to forget what got us here in the first place.
Bob Mosher is the executive director of education for Element K. He has been an influential leader in the IT training space for more than 15 years. For more information, e-mail Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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