September tends to evoke strong ‘back-to-school’ memories. The smell of freshly sharpened #2 pencils. The feel of a new binder filled with college- (or wide-) ruled paper. The pride and excitement associated with the coolest new lunchbox. And memories of favorite teachers instructing the 3Rs: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmatic.
In today’s workplace, learning revolves around a different 3Rs. And whether you’re a training professional, line manager, or employee, mastering and leveraging these new 3Rs will dramatically improve learning and results.
In his book, Give and Take, Adam Grant describes the work of pioneering psychologist Raymond Cattell, who developed the investment theory of intelligence during the 1960s. He determined that interest is what inspires people to make the emotional, mental or physical investment in learning and mastering new skills.
“Motivation is the reason that people develop talent in the first place.” - Adam Grant
As a result, it’s essential to engage learners - grabbing
them by the heart and not just the head. It’s important for them to
understand the rationale for learning a new skill or acquiring new knowledge.
And it’s important to translate that rational into personal terms, framing up
the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?).
For leaders, helping employees appreciate the rationale and
personalize the interest becomes even more critical when offering non-classroom
based learning experiences that are more amorphous and easier to be
misinterpreted. That’s because employees quickly recognize more work
masquerading as ‘development experiences.’ It’s incumbent upon leaders to
connect the dots in a way that explains the ‘why’ and personal benefits. For
Don’t: “Here’s some more work.”
Do: “Leading this project team will help you develop the leadership and influence skills required to move in the direction of your career goal of moving into people management.”
For best results, explain the rationale for recommended (or required) learning. Frame it in ways that allow others to personalize, buy into, and embrace it. You’ll enhance receptivity and put learning in a meaningful (and more motivating) context when you do.
New skills don’t suddenly appear. Long-term, sustainable behavior change is the result of ongoing practice, application, adjustment and honing. Rehearsal leads to results.
Yet practice is frequently a casualty of today’s time-starved workplace. Employees receive information and how-to's; then they’re expected to immediately ‘go live’ and use new skills under real-time conditions and pressure to perform.
You’ll experience better outcomes when people are allowed to try on new behaviors, practice new skills, and work out the kinks in a safe and supportive environment. Role plays (with scripted typical conditions), skills practices (based upon the learner’s real-life experiences), and simulations offer multiple benefits. They reduce the risk of poor performance by identifying and correcting mistakes early on and in a low- (or no-) stakes environment. And they allow employees to begin to develop the muscle (or mental) memory associated with new skills and behavior.
“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” - Vince Lombardi
And finally, whether you are a training professional or line manager, it’s important to keep in mind the value of feedback in the learning process. Helping others constructively review their performance or use of new skills offers innumerable benefits as it:
- Builds a mental discipline and helps employees become more self-reflective and more self-directed in their learning and performance improvement efforts;
- Interrupts the development of bad habits;
- Demonstrates interest, respect, care and concern; and
- Is motivating to employees.
Positive comments and an appreciative review of new skills build self-confidence and stronger relationships – as can corrective feedback framed in a constructive, forward-focused fashion.
The new 3Rs – rationale, rehearsal, and review – may not evoke memories of crossing guards and super-hero thermoses. But they will drive another essential "R": results.
Your turn: How do you promote learning in your organization?