How to make learning stick

Next month’s learning at Work Day can be used as a serious opportunity to
link learning to business objectives. Margaret Kubicek reports on readers’

Learning at Work Day, the Campaign for Learning’s flagship initiative to
improve training and development opportunities in the workplace, takes place
next month. The campaign is big on the importance of learning as a means of
supporting organisations’ business objectives, but the idea of the day itself
is to take an ‘anything goes’ approach to learning, if only for 24 hours, in
the hope of generating enthusiasm for training that will carry through the rest
of the year.

While it’s all very well to set aside one day to highlight training, we
asked readers how can employers look beyond the bingo and salsa dancing on 20
May to create a serious culture for workplace learning, and make learning stick
for the long-term?

Susie Parsons
Chief executive, Campaign for Learning

Learning at Work Day gives people a chance to break from routine and learn
new skills. Some employers do a combination of light-hearted and work-related
activities, and some just do work-related things. We encourage employers to use
fun as a way to lead their people onto workplace learning. It’s a hook, a way
of grabbing people’s attention, but there’s a serious side. This year we’re
trying to encourage businesses to link workplace learning to their business
objectives. It shouldn’t be just a fun extra.

Susan Coulson
Customer contract national training manager

The learning team needs to act more as learning and performance management
consultants, as change consultants. Our role is to enable and inspire people to
learn. You need to use accelerated learning techniques that really engage the
learner’s mind – learning through fun and by using new and different forms,
rather than traditional classroom and powerpoint presentations which can be
seen as just ‘pour and snore’.

Sally-Ann Huson
Knowledge and Intellectual Property Director, TMI

In the main, learning is a long-term process, and training is often an
ingredient of the learning process. The learning that has the most impact takes
place over the long haul, and is linked with a performance management

Martyn Sloman
Advisor in learning, training and development, Chartered Institute of
Personnel and Development

It’s not about ‘sexy’ grabs for people’s attention. We’re not in the
entertainment business, learning is the important business. We’ve got to get to
the stage where people accept learning at work the way they accept IT.

With the reluctant learner, what you must do is make the initial experience
as positive and productive as possible, and you must give them adequate time
and support and, above all, what you’re doing with them must be seen as

Lynn Phillips
Head of HR and training, McDonald’s UK

I’m not sure a Learning at Work day will change anything. I think employers
have to really understand and embrace learning from the depths of their
organisation. In the workplace today, there’s still a lack of understanding of
how broad learning really can be. Organisations don’t think widely enough about
the different ways in which people can be developed. For example, there’s not
enough emphasis on coaching, but learners also need to be re-educated that
there are different ways in which they can be developed.

Rick Woodward
Recruitment and development director, Kimberly-Clarke Europe

We still believe strongly in tailored training, where people can take time
out to concentrate on skills development without the everyday distractions of
e-mail and business pressures. We also have a growing suite of e-learning materials
and arrange occasional informal lunch-time ‘teach-ins’ on subjects such as
appraisal skills or software developments. But for most managers, learning at
your desks is never going to happen, so taking time out is critical.

The key is to keep learning at the forefront of people’s thinking. We
organised a development fair where people came along and talked about
development, led special learning sessions as part of team meetings, and on one
occasion devised a task to develop remote working which involved international
delegates locating the restaurant for their evening meal.

Pat Stringfellow
HR director, Initial Hygiene and chair of National Training Awards judging

The best way to create a culture of learning is to make it part of
everyone’s job every day, make it fun and show the benefits and rewards of
gaining that knowledge. McDonald’s offers its staff continuous training
opportunities. Everybody is learning all the time, whether they’ve just joined
as a crew member or they’re running several restaurants.

Last year, we ran hundreds of workshops to give our staff cutting
edge-customer service skills. They were interactive and fun, and customer
satisfaction levels rose by five per cent.

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