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The Learner Experience must never be compromised

This article appeared in Training Journal on 20th March 2017.

The Need for Development

Humans have a psychological need to develop and grow; it’s fundamental to our well-being and self-esteem. It’s important in both our personal and professional lives. We are born unique and with the capacity to do far more than we believe. If we don’t develop we stagnate, leading to disengagement, which in the workplace benefits neither employee nor employer, let alone the customers being served.

Businesses are no different as, through competitive and stakeholder pressure, they also have a primary need to develop and grow. However, organic growth will only occur through the development of people. Of course, we hear of talent shortfalls restricting strategic ambitions, but what’s given less airtime is the lack of thoughtful investment being given to people development. Whilst responsibility for development rests with the individual, accountability for fostering the environment that values development sits with the organisation.

Learning & Development (L&D), is considered discretionary spend, a tap that can be turned on and off depending upon current trading. Organisations might trot out metrics confirming the number of man-hours invested per capita, however, we all know that this rarely infers ‘thoughtful investment’. In a similar vain, accreditation is often seen as the kite mark of attainment and therefore money well spent. The kite mark may convey a known level of attainment but it certainly doesn’t signal the best development option for your people or your business.

Rather like our education system, accreditation bodies are adept at introducing protocols that ensure quality standards are achieved, but the emphasis is on conformity rather than uniqueness and on theory rather than on practice. Despite record numbers of degree qualified people entering the world of work, we continue to hear of talent shortfalls – confirmation that attainment doesn’t confer ‘fit for purpose’ development.

The Learner Experience

L&D investment can only ever be considered ‘thoughtful investment’ if the interests of the learner are understood and aligned to organisational needs. The following criteria can help promote the optimum learner experience, the most critical component to get right:

  • What are the learner needs and why are these important?
  • Is there a clear projection of how the learner will be post development
  • Is the content fit for purpose; does it stand a chance of delivering?
  • Is the learning modality the best fit for the learner?
  • How will the learning be assessed and supported post development?
  • How will the learner’s learning be embedded post development?

These criteria comprise the learning journey. No one criterion is more important than the other – collectively they provide the best learner experience possible. Does your organisation ever consider these criteria?

The Sponsoring Organisation

As the sponsoring organisation how do you assess the utility and validity of internal and external L&D programmes? How do you rate against the above criteria? How do you ensure the content, not just the promotional summary is ‘on the money’, is delivered in a manner that encourages engagement and can be leveraged back into the workplace? Invariably, organisations skip this ‘fit for purpose’ piece believing that if the course title has been accredited to a standard level then all will be well. Have you ever assessed those responsible for setting and monitoring the standards and assessed their ‘fit for purpose’?

The L&D Provider

Whether you do or do not seek accreditation to support your choice of provider, the most important element of your decision-making must be the quality of the learner journey. If learners become capable of doing more as a result of their learning experience and can embrace their roles with growing confidence, then you’re making the right choice. How many organisations can confidently make such an assessment?


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