Who decides what employees need to learn?

Who decides what employees need to learn?

Most learning needs analysis (LNA) is top down and most of my clients come to me with the LNA already done. They have decided that a certain group of employees need to learn a certain thing. It could be about a new procedure, a new product line, a new approach or some new compliance issue that they need to address. Invariably in most of these cases what they really want is for employees to know stuff, not actually learn how to do something. What’s the difference you ask? If people know stuff then they will act differently surely? Sadly learning isn’t so simple as trying to cram stuff into people’s heads. At least not in the workplace.

Strangely the one thing they often haven’t done, or have done only superficially, is to actually ask employees what they think they need to learn. Asking this, in the right context, is likely to give a much better understanding of the performance issue rather than the knowledge gap issue. The performance issue may be related to a lack of knowledge (e.g. around a specific product or procedure) but it might also result from an indirect cause (e.g. our IT system undermines our ability to follow the procedure appropriately). Cathy Moore’s Action Mapping has long been a useful tool to help uncover what people need to learn rather than what they need to know, and one core element of action mapping is the challenge to the LNA – is this learning intervention really needed at all? Is the issue actually in the environment (systems, process, culture etc.)?

On client projects the actual learners are often the only people I don’t get to speak with. That’s a real shame.

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