This week, I want to discuss the third learning principle to achieving EPowerment – that elusive state of empowerment with high emotional intelligence (EQpowerment) enabled by real-time learning. The principle is Outcome-Based Learning.
I have always been a fan of continuous learning – the notion that we learn each day and are open to new and divergent ideas and perspectives. There is overwhelming research showing that those of us that capture new skills perpetually are not only are more productive at work but significantly happier in life. The continuous learning model keeps boredom away and competition at bay, so goes the theory. To this end, professional training and development companies and consultants have had very successful runs. Internal Learning and Development programs have also flourished when many companies even creating internal Universities offering all kinds of skill-based learning programs. Most companies even have Chief Learning Officers in place to lead this continuous learning model. But this is not what Outcome-Based Learning is all about.
There was a recent study that showed there was no correlation between learner satisfaction and impact to business. This means that there is no relationship between learners saying they loved the presenter or the content or the they thought they learned something, and there being an actual positive impact to the business as a result of that learning. The study confirms what many of us have known for a while now. The end-of-session evaluation forms that is the standard measure of successful knowledge transfer is actually one of the worst possible ways to measure the impact of what you have learned. These evaluation forms cannot measure whether the learner actually learned something or that the learning resulted in some positive impact to the business of the learner.
What is worse that is when the results are not achieved, many in my profession turn their attention to changing the content or figuring our better ways to present (modality) the data in lieu of figuring out how the learning can directly impact the business by addressing a business issue. This connection between learning and impact to business is what Outcome-Based Learning is all about. I am not suggesting that continuous learning is a flawed model nor that the genuine attempts to improve it are not warranted. What I am suggesting is that continuous learning with a direct connection to application of that learning (some call this action learning) to a business issue is significantly better.
I know that in tough time like the ones we are in now often lead to necessary budget cuts and almost always, it is the training and development budgets that get cut first. The reason for this is that it is not clear to the executives, and CFO in particular, how continuous learning impacts their business. To those outside of the human capital profession, it is very non-intuitive that in tough times, the right answer is actually to invest more in professional development so that new ideas are explored, harnessed, and can manifest in necessary business changes to get out of the downturn faster and come out better prepared for the new business climate.
EPowerment is all about learning in real-time based on your needs, which can change multiple times a day but feeling that you can get exactly what you need to learn so that you can make a better decision for yourself and your business. Outcome-based learning is incredibly consistent with how we live our lives. For example, when you see the gas meter in your car approaching empty, your need is to get gas, and all your emotions and actions are driven towards getting gas so that you are not stranded anywhere. The outcome is clear – to get gas. Getting the gas then lets you do whatever else you need to do. Learning needs to be like this metaphor – what purpose is the learning serving, what is the outcome, and how will you know if you have successfully achieved the outcome. Learning models that answer these questions truly create empowering workforces. And dare I say they would keep the CFO from cutting the development budget because the consequences would be clear…a less empowered workforce which is the last thing we need, especially in these challenging times.