With all the shiny new tools in our industry, the ones that remain, and will for the foreseeable future, are the trainers. They grace our classrooms with their knowledge, engaging personalities and remarkable presentation skills.
Of course, I’ve known my share who didn’t survive. Many couldn’t adapt to the changing requirements and formats the classroom has taken on over the years. The classroom has been blended, flipped, virtualized and condensed. Adapting to those changes has been a challenge, but exceptional instructors remain a learning modality with a profound impact on our learners.
With such a longstanding track record, obviously, they’re an integral part of our overall learning and performance strategy, right? Wrong.
I’ve been part of a yearlong benchmarking effort tracking innovative new learning approaches. Change management and an effective communication strategy are key to these efforts being successful. When I and the other participants asked how well-versed key stakeholders were in this new initiative, trainers were the least informed. They would be brought in later since this learning strategy was targeted at post-classroom learning. With the many new learning and support approaches emerging in our industry, the strategy might not always involve the classroom at all.
That’s not the right tactic to take. We need to be careful not to confuse usage with adoption and acceptance. Learning in a new way, especially ways we hope the learner will initiate on their own, takes a lot of practice and courage. Independent learning, for instance, is a learned skill, and many of the current learning ecosystems are based on a dependent model where learners wait passively to attend or login to an event, or waste vast amounts of time bothering others. Changing this culture alongside emerging learning modalities is key to their acceptance and ultimate adoption.
Who better to teach effective independent learning outside the classroom than those who are entrusted with it when learners are inside the classroom? Trainers are often a learner’s first exposure to an organization’s learning culture. How they view it, reinforce it and teach it can be critical to the success of most learning initiatives.
You want performance support to be used in the workflow, teach it in the classroom. You want artificial intelligence to be feel safe and applicable, bring the headsets into the classroom. You want coaching and mentoring programs to integrate seamlessly and efficiently on the job, use coaches and mentors in the classroom. Why would a learner risk using any of the aforementioned learning modalities while trying to survive at work if their instructors don’t feel they’re helpful enough to be used when learning starts in a classroom?
Trainers need to be included early and often in the selection and design of new or emerging tools. Even though these tools may be far removed from the classroom, their adoption will begin when they are taught, tested and even when they fail. Where better for that to occur than in the safety of the classroom with a gifted instructor guiding learners through it?
For this to happen the classroom itself needs to be designed in such a way that introducing these new approaches aligns with the way content is taught. They can’t be an add-on or something demonstrated at the end of a class. They need to be an integral part of the learning experience. At times they should be seen as more important than mastery of the content itself.
Content will be lost, forgotten and not applied immediately, but many support and independent learning tools live in the workflow. They can be the tie that binds the classroom experience to employees applying all that they’ve learned. That should take precedence, and the trainer needs to know and understand that.
An effective communication plan is key to an effective change management initiative. Who better to be at the forefront of that plan than the master communicators themselves, your trainers? Let them lead the change and guide your learners to become more self-reliant with their initial and ongoing learning. Trainers are key to the success of these efforts and the adoption of new learning tools.
Bob Mosher is a senior partner and chief learning evangelist for APPLY Synergies, a strategic consulting firm. To comment, email editor@CLOmedia.com.
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