Learning to Compete, Training to Perform, and a Revolution that will Change Employee Education

New learning needs and challenges

In a context of rapid change and shifting customer preferences, it’s vital for firms to become learning organizations in order to compete. “Learning organizations are organizations that tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in the organization,” (Senge, 2005). Yet the challenge is that technology has transformed the way we work and think, and it is advancing faster than companies can adapt. Learning has to respond to how 21st-century employees function and consume information. While attention spans are at an all-time low, the need for learning is at an all-time high. The speed of change and the rate of knowledge decay make it urgent to transform the concept of training and information accessibility.

Liz Wiseman in her Wall Street Journal bestseller Rookie Smarts: Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work (2014) writes: “As the pace of discovery quickens, what we learned yesterday may no longer be relevant today. In the 1970s it was estimated that the annual rate of knowledge relevance decay was over 10 percent across all industries. A more recent study in 2005 estimated that knowledge becomes obsolete at a rate of 15 percent per year. Another recent study reports that the annual rate of decay in high tech is 30 percent.”

With web-based lifestyles, mobile technology advancements, and the rise of online communities comes the need to re-evaluate established learning models. Informal learning models (that fit 21st-century learners’ mindset and habits) are gaining ground over more traditional approaches, such as lecture-style ‘sage on stage’ learning. In the latter, learners are told what they need to learn; in the former, learners discover and pursue what they need to learn. New learning models include:

  1. Facilitated learning: Face-to-face learning tailored specifically to the employee’s workflow, delivered in a coaching format based on tasks that the employees need to accomplish.
  2. Apprenticeship (also called experiential) learning: Learning by doing. Just as learning a trade requires hands-on experience with the oversight of a master, learning in a business context requires the same hands-on approach. When combined with a facilitated learning approach, the employee’s learning curve is lessened.
  3. Just-in-time learning (JIT): A do-it-yourself “Google approach” that can include user-generated content including videos, memory aids, job aids, and quick reference guides. Access to JIT learning materials augments a learner’s ability to learn by finding information that is relevant to the task at hand.

Why employee L&D matters

For learning programs to be established and justified, they have to be viewed by management as an investment with clear benefits rather than as an expense. A main benefit of learning programs is employee engagement. According to a Gallup research study, engaged employees exhibit higher than average individual productivity. A recent survey of 1,500 employees in the US by Carnegie Training showed that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202 percent. Meaningful L&D programs help employees feel they are “CEOs” of their careers and engage them to perform at full capacity.

L&D programs serve to attract and retain employees. As competition for top talent increases, it is important to recognize that top talent is typically looking for opportunities to grow. Companies who provide such opportunities gain an edge in attracting talented employees. Career development fosters loyalty and engagement, and engaged employees are more likely to remain with the company and to be promoted. In that sense, talent developed is talent retained.

L&D programs can also positively impact the company’s bottom line, as trained employees are better equipped to meet company goals and more likely to be engaged in their job. Employees whose professional development is a priority and whose learning objectives are clearly tied to corporate and personal goals are typically more invested in the company. Rather than being viewed as a budget item that can be cut, training should be viewed as a ‘must have’.

Performance Learning Revolution

Together with Cairn Investment Performance Consulting, First Rate designed an L&D program called The Performance Learning Revolution. This revolution is a learning curriculum combining practical knowledge with product knowledge. Specifically designed for performance professionals, the curriculum will present different perspectives on standard industry concepts while integrating product knowledge/understanding of those concepts, a revolutionary combination in wealth management.

The Performance Learning Revolution was developed to help performance professionals:

  • Provide a theoretical foundation of core investment performance concepts, to deliver constructive direction to firm initiatives and reporting.
  • Learn practical investment performance knowledge and tools and how they may integrate with specific product solutions.
  • Assist new employees with core knowledge to get them up and running quickly and provide even seasoned professionals with theoretical foundations and time-saving tricks to make them more efficient and productive.
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