High Performance Learning Journeys - Why should you build them?

Author: Edward Boon
Published: August 13th 2020

Talk of learning journeys in the world of training and development has become so commonplace that it is easy to lose sight of why we are making this shift.  Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves and get to the essence of why we should build learning journeys… and in particular, why we should build high performance learning journeys. Spoiler alert: it’s not because they are easy or require less effort.

Perhaps it is easiest to begin by considering what the alternative to a learning journey is. In terms of training design, we usually describe the polar opposite of the ‘learning journey’ as the ‘learning event’.  A learning event might be anything from a couple of hours to a few days; the only uniquely defining characteristic is it’s ‘stand-aloneness’. Sure, there might be an invitation with a nominal description of the purpose and goals. There might even be an action plan at the end. However, all the action really happens (and is expected to happen) in the event itself. Participants see their responsibility as turning up and paying attention. After that, they have done their bit!

At this point, I would like to add a disclaimer. I am writing this blog post making the assumption that there is at least some sort of wish, desire or outright requirement for a participant to use their learned knowledge to benefit the organization they work for – why else would the organization invest good money in such an initiative?

Why do participants not use their knowledge?

So, with my disclaimer out of the way let’s consider the chances of the event-based approach reaping benefits for the organization. The research of thought-leader Professor Robert Brinkerhoff has repeatedly shown over several decades that participants of stand-alone learning events are unlikely to use their knowledge and skills in impactful ways. There are several reasons for this; here are three of the key ones:

  1. Identifying the most impactful scenarios to use new knowledge and skills is by no means easy or obvious – especially for soft skills training like communication or diversity and inclusion. Finding powerful ways to use new skills requires ongoing dialogue and discussion.
  2. When the daily workflow runs counter to the application of new skills – guess what gets deprioritized? Yep, application of news skills every time… UNLESS the participant’s supervisor is also invested and ensures priorities are guided towards the application of new behaviours.
  3. Sustained behaviour change will require support, encouragement and feedback to help participants develop and feel confident using their new skills in their real performance environment. Without this support, participants that experience difficulties on their first application attempts will likely give up.

Design training for results

So, if we want to see more results from our training initiatives our training designs need to a) help our participants to identify the most impactful application scenarios, b) include the participants’ supervisor as an invested stakeholder and c) provide repeated opportunities to practice and receive qualified feedback in the performance environment – all of these design characteristics indicate a more process driven approach… more of a learning journey.

Importantly, this definition of a learning journey is not just breaking the event into smaller pieces and stretching it over time – that approach just takes a longer time to produce no impact for the organization. No, our definition of a learning journey puts the focus on the bits ‘in between’ the learning events. These are the bits where participants traditionally struggle and need support. These are the bits where the business impact is created.

Improve the business impact with extended reach

Traditionally, learning professionals and training designers have been reluctant to concern themselves with what happens ‘outside the classroom’ because of their limited reach; i.e. once the participant has left the classroom, the learning professional has no influence or control and can therefore not take responsibility. However, by employing combination of performance focused learning journey design principles with a learning transfer platform like Promote, it is entirely possible to not only extend that reach but to significantly improve the degree of business impact.

Learn how to build high performance learning journeys

So how do you start creating learning journeys and business impact with a measurable result?