Despite sometimes wishing that we could just put a book under our collective pillows and absorb all the salient bits while we’re sleeping, learning takes two things that we often wish it didn’t: Time and Effort
We look for shortcuts. We avoid applying mental effort. We don’t give people enough time to learn their jobs. Or we send everyone, in a mass, to training that is hardly relevant for anyone. Here are some examples.
Can’t We Learn This Faster? If it’s a 5-day program, managers or learners sometimes ask, can we do it in 3 days instead? How about 2? Well, if 2 days will work, maybe we could get it down to 1? Or, could you please just send us the materials?
Many programs, with better design, could be shorter and more efficient. But what people often shorten is the time for practice, which is almost always the wrong place to cut.
Learning something new takes time, and there is a point where we cannot realistically make an in-person class or an online program shorter to achieve our goals.
We Can’t Get Them There in Time. Some jobs are held by people who won’t be there long. Here are two examples.
- Entry-Level Turnover. Customer service reps often have to learn new products, processes, and technology; not to mention internal and external customer care; and sometimes a raft of government regulations. They might need well over a year to learn these jobs well, even with strong new hire training and additional training along the way. However, many folks in these positions don’t stay long. They come. They learn. They start to add value. They leave for greener pastures. The organization starts over with new, green employees.
- Rotational Assignments. In this example we have people assigned to a particular job on 2- to 4-year rotations. Even with extensive training, they only learn about half of what they need to know to be effective. After their first rotation, a few stay. Most don’t. Hardly anyone in these positions is there long enough to do great work. Most are lucky to make it halfway.
In these two examples we have a revolving set of employees, many of whom aren’t there long enough to get really good at their jobs. Often, the system is set up so that this is bound to happen. It’s not the employees’ fault. Usually they don’t have much incentive to stay. So the normal thing is that we half train them, and then they leave. I think we could do better.
Everybody Has to Take This Course. This is often a crazy use of time because:
- Some people know it already | waste of time.
- Some won’t ever need it | waste of time.
- “Everybody” is almost never a one-size-fits-all audience | too long for some and not long enough for others.
What do you think. Does this make sense? Could we do better at admitting and planning for the fact that it takes time and effort to learn how to do something that has substance and value?
These examples are based on real situations that happened in one or more real organizations. With some vision, some number-crunching, and a combination of approaches, we could do a lot better.