Traditional training, with a focus on largely discrete and disparate events, lacks the effectiveness required for true behavior change. This article outlines how a continuous learning process, on the other hand, improves the application of learning and leads to sustained behavior change.

Why Should You Shift from Discrete and Disparate Training Events to Continuous Learning?

In traditional training events, learners attend training sessions  — either synchronous or asynchronous — either with a group of peers or on their own. As these events take place outside the work environment, they often lack the opportunity for on-the-job application and, as a result, don’t lead to true behavior change.

Traditional training events are still valuable and can serve as impactful events from which to measure strategic informational and motivational guides. But recognizing the limitations of traditional training is imperative so that learners have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the context of their job role.

Continuous learning programs fill the gaps between traditional training events by giving learners time to think, act and evaluate.

A Continuous Learning Model

A more effective model is one in which learning is a continuous process for employees. A continuous learning model recognizes that learning is a journey that occurs over time and through opportunities for application, evaluation and conscious iteration. Additionally, it recognizes that learners need the time, opportunity, and space to evaluate new knowledge and determine the best way to apply it in specific situations.

Consider a leadership training program which the company chief executive officer may discuss a corporate value, such as innovation:

  • The CEO can explain the importance of innovation and how she sees it working in the organization.
  • After that discrete training event, a continuous learning program that includes nudges to articles, discussions, and shared experiences can turn a one-hour session about innovation to something that truly changes the behavior and culture of an organization.

What Are the Key Considerations to Successfully Shift to a Continuous Learning Process?

Consider the following factors when shifting the learning in your organization from individual events to a cycle of continuous learning process:

  1. Attitude is powerful: Helping employees, especially those in management, understand the value of a continuous learning process and their role in it will shift behaviors and habits.
  2. Work with a bigger picture: In her book “Mindset,” Carol Dweck explains, “The power of yet versus the tyranny of now.” When employees understand that learning is a journey, they can look forward to an end goal that may take time and effort to achieve. The alternative is a situation in which employees and managers become increasingly frustrated with disconnected training events, immediately after which change is impossible to measure.
  3. Each failure is an opportunity to learn: Learning doesn’t occur without failure. Learners need time to experiment with what they’ve learned, and it’s vital that they receive real-time feedback and coaching so they can improve as they experiment.
  4. Frictionless learning: Performance support materials need to be accessible anytime and virtually anywhere. The ease of access to information in the flow of work is the deciding factor on whether employees will search for and apply new knowledge. If information is buried behind thick access portals, deep within long documents or somewhere in long videos, they’ll not have the time or patience to find or use it.
  5. Social and collaborative learning: This makes it possible for employees to improve on new concepts and how they apply them on the job.

What Strategies Can Help You Convert Event-based Training to an Ecosystem of Continuous Learning?

There are several strategies to consider when converting event-based training programs to continuous learning, including:

  1. Leaders must first model desired behavior. Those in the C-suite should use the training resources available and share what they learn, admitting their own failures and sharing how they learned from them.
  2. Map learning programs to learning journeys. Effective learning journeys start with awareness, motivation, participation and experimentation.
  3. Digitize learning content to performance support tools so that it’s easy to find in the flow of work.
  4. Use social learning so that employees can collaborate with others in their situation. Within those cohorts, employees can share knowledge and even generate additional content.
  5. Promote self-directed learning. When learners have the autonomy to control their own learning journey, they can better find training that meets their individual needs. To support self-directed learning, corporate training teams can provide:
  • Resources, such as access to LinkedIn Learning, Harvard Business Review, or more trade-specific journals and learning organizations.
  • Direction on how to use available resources.
  • Formal training sessions on how to learn, how to apply what’s been learned, and how to search additional learning opportunities.
  • Funding for professional development endeavors such as conferences, books and even advanced degrees.
  • Time set aside for learning. Dedicating even just few hours a week will help employees learn and experiment on the job, which can drive sustained behavior change.
  1. Meet people where they are – on their mobile devices. Learners are entering the workforce naturally using mobile devices for learning and social interaction. To leverage mobile learning, provide content that:
  • Primes learners Inform them what they need to learn, why it’s important, and what they’ll get out of it.
  • Promotes foundational concepts important to understand before formal training events, level setting the participants’ core knowledge base.
  • Reinforces formal training events with reminders and even gamified learning content.
  • Presents practice labs, scenarios, and application opportunities.
  • Feeds into a loop for coaching and mentoring by SMEs.

Parting Thoughts

A continuous learning process improves the chances of employees applying new information and changing their behavior. It overcomes the obstacles that traditional training nearly always runs into – discrete and disparate events that fail to achieve sustained behavior change for lasting performance improvement.

Do you want to learn how to drive continuous learning outside the formal training environment? Download our e-book, “A continuous learning process improves the chances of employees applying new information and changing their behavior.,” for insights on how to create a connected learning solution that supports formal training with informal learning opportunities.