Blended learning is not only about mixing technology and teaching. Blended learning also refers to the right customization and combination of formal learning, social learning and stretch assignments. There is no activity in the company that can yield more impact on the productivity of the organization than the training of your employees. And yet… it is a frequent frustration of C-Level and HR (Human Resources) departments alike that the ROI on training is not visible, tangible, measurable enough. Breaking news: active learning is indeed necessary but not sufficient by itself.
Whether provided online or offline, active learning (also called formal learning) refers to a type of learning program whose goals are defined by the training department, instructional designer, and/or instructor. During that course (as it is often a course), knowledge is passed from the instructor to the employee (think top-down). This approach is still to this day the main employee development method, leaving on HR’s shoulders the heavy responsibility of identifying needs, setting objectives, rolling out courses, and measuring the outcome.
There a simple truth that too many Human Resources are still pretending not to know and that top management chose not to see: a single top-down knowledge course by a single instructor, may it last an hour, a day, or a week, will never be enough by itself to make an employee develop the competency to the level of creating a lasting impact on the company’s results. Have you ever learned life-changing competency in the course of an hour? We haven’t.
Why is formal learning not enough?
To understand why formal learning is not enough by itself, we have to understand the life and environment that is shaping employees’ behaviors.
- Employees spend more time at the workplace than at home. They rely on their workplace resources (time and money) to develop skills
- Technology is accelerating the obsolescence of competencies. Jobs of tomorrow will rely on Future Competencies which are only emerging or haven’t appeared yet. Education systems and public policies will never adjust to those as rapidly as the private sector. The burden of training is on the company
- Information is everywhere. Our brains are now pros at multitasking and used to consume information from morning to evening (entertainment from Netflix, news from Twitter, etc). Being exposed to information doesn’t mean it will be retained. The same goes for learning at work. Size of learning, channels of delivery, repetition, and engagement mechanisms are needed to help employee retain information
- Knowing and doing are two different things. In an environment where disruption is the new norm (think Covid-19 crisis for example), employees are expected to answer with agility to workplace challenges and quickly adopt new behaviors. This quick reaction to change doesn’t only happen by knowing something, it needs practice.
How learning can create (lasting) performance
To keep a competitive edge, companies should rely on strong Learning & Developpement capabilities that allow employees to perform and achieve their optimal productivity levels. The chart below not only illustrates the critical impact of learning on skill development and performance but it also highlights the limitation of the learning phase itself. Without some stimulation and applications to put new competencies to practice, those may fade away as fast as the memory of that tweet you read yesterday.
Figure 1. The role of performance support (Rosenberg, 2013)
As highlighted in the chart, “post-training” is extremely important. Implementation of post-training systems is key for employees to put competencies to use and achieve their full potential. This is not something that can be achieved by HR alone and will require the full support of the organization through management and culture.
On a similar note, knowing of good practices across your industry and in similar businesses can help you identify activities to keep your employees on their learning curve. This effort does not need to be carried by your internal organization alone, as often outsiders will have a better understanding of what is happening in other companies. Refer to this article on “Why outsourcing part of my company’s L&D effort” to learn more.
Blended learning is the key to create a lasting learning experience
When thinking about the learning curve of your employees, you can refer to the famous framework of the 70/20/10 principles. It is often a good place to start.
The 70:20:10 learning model was developed by Morgan McCall, Robert Eichinger, and Michael Lombardo at the Centre for Creative Leadership in the mid-1990s. The theory identifies three different ways that people learn: Learning from experiences, interacting with others, or through formal training. Those are often quantified as the famous 70:20:10 framework.
70:20:10 is a guideline ratio and highlights that the vast majority of the learning is coming from on the job experience (“post-training” as shown in the previous chart). It is also important to understand that varying between the 3 learning types will allow different learning profiles to assimilate competencies, as some people learn better through repetition, others visually, and some through hands-on trial and error.
Get started and craft blended learning experiences for your employees
Because learning is a highly personal experience and not all topics can be learned according to rigid 70:20:10, you will not need to be too rigid in respecting the proportion ratios. Feel free to implement your own blend with ratios such as 65:25:10 or 55:15:30. The important thing is to include all components in your learning strategy. Repeating them as a pattern is also an option to make sure new competencies are retained over time.
Huneety splits its learning activities into 3 families that we name Active Learning, Social Learning and Stretch Assignments. Feel free to use those to draft your blended learning plans, and feel free to contact us if you require more ideas. Here are some extra tips to get the most out of each category.
Stretch Assignments: onboard managers to transform theory into practice
- Link assignments with relevant competencies and business objectives. Projects are often a good way to push an employee outside of its comfort zone, have him connect to other departments, or prepare a presentation that will help her/him get visible across the organization.
- Produce a SMART action plan.
- Let employees know they are being given a chance to develop and that this is part of their learning journey. Many companies fail to have employees acknowledge when they take part in a stretch assignment.
- This is a learning exercise. Have managers provide constructive feedback and monitor progress more often.
Need stretch assignments ideas? Check 10 assignments for human resources managers to develop future skills here.
Social learning: there is so much more to it than just feedback to subordinate
- Social learning can be about receiving feedback. But you can think out of the box and going outside of the classic Employee/Subordinate relation here. Constructive feedback can be equally offered by peers, customers, internal clients, or companies’ experts. Multiply opportunities to give feedback!
- Social learning can also include some type of networking component that will allow getting more exposure to a topic. How about being part of a discussion group, participate in peer conferences, or connect to people with similar challenges in other industries?
Active learning: have you considered all options?
- Always link training received with stretch assignments.
- Again, think out of the box: good training does not always mean spending big bucks and classrooms. Think about all the other ways to pass valuable information to an employee to multiple Active Learning opportunities. Reading a book, listening to a podcast, or engaging with an eLearning can sometimes be as valuable to an individual than a classroom session.
- Post learning assessments are often needed on Active Learning so that the individual deploys the needed focus on the task. Make sure those are embedded in Active Learning. It can be as simple as a test embedded in eLearning, a debrief session, or writing a summary note.
There is no “one size fits all” learning model. Learning & Development managers must tailor the blended learning approach according to each individual and training outputs. The right execution of IDPs (Individual development plans) ultimately depends on the right blend of on job assignment, social feedback and formal learning.
You can browse positions and development plans on Huneety. New positions are added every week.