Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.
Anyone who keeps learning stays young.
- Henry Ford

Organisations need competent people with the right knowledge and skills to carry out their day-to-day operations. Training has always played an important and integral part in the learning and development of people. It presents an opportunity to expand the knowledge and skills base of employees. Providing the necessary training creates an overall knowledgeable workforce who can take over from one another as needed, and work independently without constant help and supervision from others. On the downside, some employers find the training development costs prohibitive. Employees may also miss out on work time while attending training sessions, which may delay the completion of their projects. Furthermore, the training may not be customised and, therefore, may not meet the organisation’s requirements. 

What then is the solution for organisations? One possible solution is to use in-house line managers or technical experts to develop and facilitate training. These managers and experts know the specific learning needs of their team members, are aware of their current competencies and strengths, and understand the organisation’s strategy and direction. 

In the Annual Survey Report 2013: Learning and Talent Development by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), it was noted that ‘in-house development programmes’ and ‘coaching by line managers’ were two of the top three learning and talent development practices that respondents believe are most effective. Using line managers as ‘trainers’ may save the company time and money as a result of in-house training; however, untrained or inexperienced trainers may not have the wherewithal to train their own adult workers. In order to transfer knowledge effectively, line managers need to become acquainted with adult learning theories and be provided with the essential learning structures. 

The most important consideration when creating learning experiences for adults is the underlying nature of adult learners. There are many studies and research findings related to adult learning. One widely used model is the adult learning model by Malcolm Knowles, an American professor in the field of adult education, which is expressed in the following six characteristics:

  1. Adults perceive themselves as self-directed: Adult learners are not only defined by their role as participants. It is common for an adult to have other roles in their life, roles that may take precedence over their identities as participants,
  2. Adults bring a wealth of experience to the learning process: Adult learners bring prior educational, professional, and life experience to the classroom. 
  3. Adults come to the learning process ready to learn: Adult learners are typically eager to acquire new information that is relevant and directly beneficial to their professional lives.
  4. Adults are oriented toward immediate application of learned knowledge:  Typically, adults learn from a performance-oriented and problem-oriented mindset. They want information that they can immediately apply to their life tasks to enhance their professional performance, in addition to wanting information that they can use to solve problems.
  5. Adults need to know the reason for learning something: Designing a curriculum for adult learners that makes explicitly clear the reason, purpose, and usefulness of the subject matter is a necessary component of effectively reaching adult learners.
  6. Adults are driven by an intrinsic motivation to learn:  Adult learners juggle multiple responsibilities, and take ownership of their education, with the goal of improving their knowledge base and career opportunities.

Some of the key considerations that a facilitator needs to take into account, prior to designing and developing a structured learning programme, include the following:

  • Respect for the knowledge and experience that employees bring to the classroom
  • A formatted or facilitation process that encourages employees to share their knowledge and experience freely
  • Content that focuses on real life situations, addresses immediate problems, and offers direct applicability to their professional roles
  • A learner-centric approach to programme delivery that incorporates active involvement by employees in the learning experience, with facilitators utilising technological tools and resources
  • A conscious effort on the part of facilitators and/or course developers to meet the needs of employees with varying learning styles

Once the facilitators understand these underlying factors, they can then design and develop an effective learning programme. ADDIE is one of the more commonly-used design and development models which is presented in 5 phases -- Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation. Analysis is the goal setting phase which helps to identify instructional problems and objectives as well as the learner’s existing knowledge and skills. In design, learning objectives are projected in the lesson planning. Facilitators also decide on the instructional strategies and determine the delivery and evaluation method in this phase. Next is development where facilitators prepare for training by creating prototypes of learning content. Prior to the actual training, a test or dry run takes place in implementation to anticipate potential ‘hiccups’. Lastly, evaluation, where learning outcomes are measured to review the effectiveness of the programme.

Often this is a delicate part as the facilitators themselves need to be equipped with the essential knowledge and skills to effectively design, develop and deliver a training programme. By gaining an understanding of how adults learn, and then building that knowledge into a training programme will greatly increase learner engagement, knowledge retention, skills enhancement and application of these on the job.

 

Meyer, K. (1989). How to Train Managers to Train. Alexandria: American Society for Training and Development.

 

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