By Arupa Tesolin, Managing Executive and Certification Leader, Learning Paths International
Lean operating processes have been used for operational process improvement for many years. By making manufacturing and service processes more streamlined and efficient, they have demonstrated their effectiveness over and over. They commonly employ a project team that works together to refine and improve processes. Their goal is to reduce or eliminate variability, error, waste, time, and cost. The end result is usually a faster process that improves quality and gets more done at less cost. Most of these approaches have their source in some aspect of the quality movement.
So what happens when we apply this kind of thinking to the training process? Is it time to start making training departments more efficient and effective at delivering performance?
The training field has changed a lot over the last several years. The adaptation of new training technologies, such as e-learning, social media, and a variety of learning management systems, into the training space has extended the field of training far beyond the traditional classroom experience. These technologies also have made training much more complicated and time consuming, often adding a great deal more development time to training. In fact, proponents say the time needed to develop an e-learning course can be three to even 30 times more than for the traditional classroom course.
So maybe it is time to start looking at efficiency in training. The goal of any training program or any kind of training is to eventually result in some kind of performance gain. Trainers today spend a lot of trainer time developing content for courses and courseware. Once the course is done, they start measuring the results of training and try to adapt them to performance. This becomes more awkward because after training is finished, learners are scattered and dealing with other important priorities. Post-training data collection often results in mixed feedback.
The Performance Improvement Approach
Let’s look at what might happen if we took a lean learning approach to training. Learning Paths is a business performance improvement approach to learning originally developed by Steven Rosenbaum in 1992 and proven to reduce time to proficiency by 30 to 50 percent in more than 400 job functions, increasing business results and productivity while also increasing employee engagement.
Rather than measure the effectiveness of training, Learning Paths measure actual business results. Rather than designing courses and courseware, Learning Paths design performance in a streamlined and dramatically content development process. This enables training to happen at the speed of business with higher levels of productivity, performance, and revenues. This removes many of the traditional elements of training that reduce time and add variability, waste, and costs to the training process. The result is a stripped-down approach that has been proven to be much more effective.
The Learning Path becomes a planned learning experience that starts on the first day an employee begins to work in a designated job. It contains an optimized sequence of all the right formal and informal learning activities, including reviews and coaching, designed to create full performance on that job. Everything is tracked and monitored, so no one falls off the Learning Path. What’s missing is a lot of unnecessary courses, long periods of trial and error, a highly variable training experience from person to person, and a heap of lost time and productivity. All results and performance measures relate directly to the business results for that employee in that department. Because employees do more real work sooner and can see the results of their learning, they experience higher levels of confidence and skill earlier and they are happier. They feel more valued when they know what their training is. Training no longer needs to be “proven” because everyone—employees, trainers and managers—can see the results directly and have the numbers to back it up.
Taking this approach means some important role changes to the training role. Trainers become much more than order takers for course development. They become performance improvement facilitators. They develop a much closer relationship with managers.
On the HR side of things, this means having a more integrated approach to performance that removes existing HR, training, and operations management silos. We start to move away from defining competencies, because the academic way this has been happening has created a lot of interpretive issues, while being hard to apply. Proficiency, on the other hand, which is the front end of a Learning Path, is highly adaptive to dynamic environments and defines job performance as a relevant description of results and actions taking place on the job.
One more thing: The rapid performance improvement approach of a Learning Path does generate significant returns to the organization in terms of increasing revenues, performance, productivity, staffing, and even brand value. You won’t need to beg executives for recognition or salary, as this will transform your training department from an expense into a profit center.
On the economic side, your company or organization will be better able to train employees internally, and hire employees from within your community, making an important employment and economic development impact as America begins to ramp up for growth while managing knowledge retention and Baby Boomer retirements.
Tips to Make Your Training Department Leaner
Arupa Tesolin is a managing executive and certification leader for Learning Paths International. She is also a learning consultant, author, speaker, and innovation leader with more than 25 years of experience leading innovative learning and management practices. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://learningpaths.ca.