Learning & Development Update: Lean Learning and learning trends

The role of learning and development (L&D) becomes more critical as firms try to ensure that their people are equipped with the latest skills to be agile enough to adapt to the fast-changing work environment. Learning & Development is often a key tool in employee retention. For those involved in training and coaching, here are some current learning and development themes. Learning & Development Update: Lean Learning and learning trends.

Strategies – Lean Learning

In October 2019 Where Companies Go Wrong with Learning and Development (hbr.org) the use of lean learning was recommended. The evidence for this was as follows:

“Not only is the majority of training in today’s companies ineffective, but the purpose, timing and content of training is flawed”:

  • Organizations spent $359 billion globally on training in 2016
  • 75% of 1,500 managers surveyed from across 50 organizations were dissatisfied with their company’s Learning & Development (L&D) function
  • 70% of employees report that they don’t have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs
  • Only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs
  • Only 25% of respondents to a recent McKinsey survey believe that training measurably improved performance

Bryan Caplan, professor of economics at George Mason University, said that education often isn’t so much about learning useful job skills, but about people showing off, or “signalling.”

Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered “The Forgetting Curve” – if new information isn’t applied, we forget about 75% of it after just six days. Incorporating new learning into your work is one way to retain knowledge.

Spaced repetition was originally proposed by psychologist Cecil Alec Mace in 1932. It refers to spreading learning out over time (material should be reviewed in gradually increasing intervals of roughly one day, two days, four days, eight days, and so on). This approach takes advantage of the psychological spacing effect, which demonstrates a strong link between the periodic exposure to information and retention. Studies show that by using spaced repetition, we can remember about 80% of what we learn after 60 days — a significant improvement.

Lean learning is about learning the core of what you need to learn, applying it to real-world situations immediately, receiving immediate feedback and refining your understanding, and then repeating the cycle.

Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and author of The Four Hour book series, is an advocate of a lean learning method he calls DiSSSCaFE. He suggests identifying the minimum learnable unit (MLU) and applying the Pareto Principle. If you want to learn Japanese, focus on the 20% of words and phrases that show up 80% of the time.

Rather than provide training at specific intervals, guided learning embeds continuous learning into a live application. Using today’s technologies, you can personalize training so that it adapts lessons based on employee performance, tailoring content to every single employee’s needs, learning style, and delivery method.

When your employees want to learn a new skill, they typically don’t Google it or refer to your learning management system (LMS) first; 55% of them ask a colleague.

Other advice in the article includes offering micro courses. Give employees short, bite-sized learning opportunities, which can take the form of digestible, hour-long courses on topics of relevance to an employee’s immediate challenges or opportunities. Organizations need to move from measuring CPEs (Continuing Professional Education) earned to measuring business outcomes created.

Tailor employee development programmes

Sydney Finkelstein in March 2015 wrote Why a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Employee Development Doesn’t Work (hbr.org)

“Exceptional bosses don’t leave it to HR to create career progression programs for their team members. They personalize their coaching, support, and teaching efforts.”

Five steps to provide customized coaching and support to each employee:

  1. Organize key information about each employee into a spreadsheet
  • Your own observations of the person, and your assessment of his or her potential
  • Feedback he or she has given you about your management style
  • The employee’s preferred ways of working
  • Key motivators for the person, including extrinsic rewards like financial compensation and intrinsic rewards like recognition
  • Opportunities you see to further his or her career, including networking connections you can make, stretch assignments, and promotion targets
  • The employee’s stated career and developmental goals
  • Feedback you want to give the person
  • Broader wisdom about the industry or life you wish to impart
  1. Consult and update weekly
  2. Do a deeper dive every three months
  3. Discuss it regularly with team members and
  4. Consult it when writing performance evaluations.

A 2016 Gallup poll of Millennials found that almost 90% of them valued “career growth and development opportunities,” but less than 40% felt strongly that they had “learned something new on the job in the past 30 days.” That same poll found that managers are critical to the experiences that younger employees have at work, accounting for “at least 70% of the variance in engagement scores.”

L&D Trends

For the tenth consecutive year, in March 2023 L&D expert Donald H. Taylor GSS_2023_Report_by_Donald_H_Taylor_for_getAbstract.pdf (pardot.com) and his team gathered input from thousands of professionals in 95 countries to take an annual pulse check of the L&D field.

A synopsis of the key take-aways:

1. The return of data
Not surprisingly, artificial intelligence (AI) shot back up the table this year. However, skills-based talent management and learning analytics have been trending upward.

2. Reskilling/upskilling no longer dominates
Globally, the vote for reskilling/upskilling declined by 0.5% last year.

3. Geography matters
Survey results differ from region to region. For example, South America consistently ranks collaborative/social learning #1, while artificial intelligence took the top spot in North America this year.

4. Business impact stays steady
The need for L&D to focus on business value has remained constant over the past five years.

5. Back to the future
In some ways, it is as if the pandemic never happened. The rise in interest in collaborative learning seen in 2021 and 2022 has evaporated, replaced by a fascination with the use of data in L&D.

Future Skills

Bernard Marr is a futurist, strategic advisor to many of the world’s best-known organisations and award-winning author of new book “Future Skills: The 20 Skills and Competencies Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital World” (Wiley, £18.99). In a July 2022 article in Forbes he lists:

  1. Digital literacy
  2. Data literacy
  3. Technical skill
  4. Digital threat awareness
  5. Critical thinking
  6. Judgement and complex decision making
  7. Emotional intelligence and empathy
  8. Creativity
  9. Collaboration and working in teams
  10. Interpersonal communications
  11. Working in gigs
  12. Adaptability and flexibility
  13. Cultural intelligence and diversity consciousness
  14. Ethical awareness
  15. Leadership skills
  16. Brand of “you” and networking
  17. Time management
  18. Curiosity and continuous learning
  19. Embracing and celebrating change
  20. Looking after yourself

Workplace learning report

“This moment requires agility — and L&D can lead the way” 2023 Workplace Learning Report | LinkedIn Learning

Four key trends for 2023:

  1. Aligning learning programs to business goals
  2. Upskilling employees
  3. Creating a culture of learning
  4. Improving employee retention 

Related L&D posts

Neuroscience for learning and development by Stella Collins (kimtasso.com) September 2023

Research update on the most in-demand soft skills (kimtasso.com) May 2023

Leadership Development Programme from the Managing Partners’ Forum (kimtasso.com) March 2023

Marketing Continuing Professional Development (CPD) (kimtasso.com) August 2022

Marketing Manager Apprenticeship – a Level 6 Qualification (kimtasso.com) January 2022

The Human Edge – How curiosity and creativity are your superpowers (kimtasso.com) April 2020

Essential soft skills for lawyers (kimtasso.com) January 2020

Helping people change: Coaching with compassion (kimtasso.com) October 2019

The art of giving feedback – top tips (kimtasso.com) June 2018

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving – Some tips (kimtasso.com) December 2016

Improve learning effectiveness – Using Kolb’s learning styles (kimtasso.com) August 2014

Boost training effectiveness by incorporating learning theory (kimtasso.com) September