Learning transfer – why should you care?

posted in: All, Learning, Team Development | 0

Perhaps you are the person in your organization responsible for making sure everyone learns a critical new procedure. Everyone attends a full-day training. The training event gets great reviews in the follow-up surveys, and the participants earn high scores on tests given at the end of the session.  But when the participants get back on the job, they have trouble applying what they learned and don’t follow the new procedure. What happened? Or rather, didn’t happen? Learning transfer. And when learning transfer doesn’t happen, it’s costly. Not only because the new procedure isn’t used properly (or at all), but also because of all the costs that go into training, and potentially re-training members of the organization.

What is learning transfer? It’s the ability of learners to apply what they learned in the “classroom” to their real-world environment. If you are familiar with the Kirkpatrick Model of training evaluation, you might think of this as Level 3, measuring how well learners apply what they’ve learned. The good news is that it’s possible to design instruction in a way that promotes learning transfer. Recent research about how our brains learn has found remarkable things with direct application to the learning environment. Instruction designed with a focus on these concepts is far more likely to result in learning transfer.

Learning transfer

Here’s an example. Research shows that our brains are constantly seeking new and interesting stimuli and there are limits to the amount of time we can successfully stay focused on one particular task (Sousa, 2011). This means that in a learning setting, our minds will begin to wander, looking for novelty if the instruction does not provide it. So when an instructor stands in front of a group lecturing for an hour, what do you think happens? Most listeners probably check out after the first 10-15 minutes, thinking about all kinds of things that are most likely not related to the instruction. John Medina (2008) refers to this as the 10-minute rule and designs his lectures around this concept, introducing something to refocus interest right before each 10-minute mark.

How do we ensure that training-time is time well-spent?   That participants come away from training able to apply what they’ve learned? That the same training doesn’t have to be re-administered a few months down the road because it hasn’t been applied?

The key is to consider learning transfer when designing every aspect of instruction: the learning environment, the format. the content, and everything else. In this way, the resources spent on developing, implementing, and participating in training result in the maximum benefit to the organization and its people.

 

References:

McGinty, J., Radin, J., & Kaminski, K. (2013). Brain-friendly teaching supports learning transfer. In L. M. Kaiser, K. Kaminski, & J. M. Foley (Eds.), New directions for adult and continuing education: Learning transfer in adult education, pp. 49-59). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Medina, J. J. (2008). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. [Kindle]. Retrieved from eISBN: 978-0-979=77778-3

Sousa, D. A. (2011). How the brain learns (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

What motivates us?

posted in: All, Bookshelf, Engagement, Motivation | 0

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

DriveGet ready to unlearn what you know about “traditional” methods of motivating people – at work, school, or home.  This book by Daniel Pink is another favorite from my bookshelf and a fascinating read about what motivates us, along with the things that demotivate.   You may find some of the demotivators surprising – I know I did! For example, rewards and punishments. That’s how we teach behaviors, from childhood to adulthood, and it works, right? Take a closer look and you’ll discover that maybe it doesn’t work as well as you thought.

What Pink helps us understand is the value of intrinsic motivation and how we can encourage it in ourselves and others. Something I found particularly interesting is the impact autonomy has on motivation. We don’t always have a choice in what needs to be done, but humans have an inner drive for autonomy. So the more control we have over a task, the greater our motivation to do it well. I may have a non-negotiable report that needs to be completed each month by the 15th, but if I can choose things like when and how I will prepare the report, I’ll experience a higher level of satisfaction and motivation, and likely produce a better product.

Pink incorporates recent research in engagement, positive psychology, and Deci and Ryan's Self-Determination Theory to show how our human need for autonomy, mastery, and purpose provide us with an internal drive to succeed.

 

To Purchase

Team-building’s bad reputation?

posted in: All, Engagement, Team Development | 0

Have you seen it?  People rolling their eyes when you bring up team-building?  Well, maybe not eye-rolling exactly, but perhaps a slight cringe or something else in their body language that says they’re not too keen on the idea.  Why is that?

Having had many experiences myself in the team-building arena, I have some theories.  I’d have to say first that for me, every one of the actual “team-building” events I’ve participated in was a positive experience at the time.  But only a few had any lasting impact.  What made the difference?  What takes a team-building event from a fun outing or activity to a different level, where it actually results in a team of people moving toward higher functionality and performance?  That phrase itself is part of it – “moving toward … functionality and performance.”  Because true team development is not a one-shot deal.  And while a fun day at the park, beach, golf course – you get the idea – can be an integral part of developing a team, it takes more than that to have a real impact on team dynamics for the long-term.Marble Tubes

Think about the team-building events that you may have been part of.  Were there clear goals?  Did all of the participants understand the goals from the beginning?  What kind of follow-up was there to any activities you participated in?  Did team members ever talk about their experiences or what they learned?

It takes a skilled facilitator to effectively interact with activity participants so they create meaning from their experiences.  Without effective facilitator planning and guidance, a lot of time and money may be spent with no meaningful outcome for the participants or the organization.

A scavenger hunt is a classic example of a team-building activity that is fairly easy to initiate and often incorporated in a conference setting.  Have you participated in something like that before?  It was probably great fun to work with your team to find and photograph different items.  But was your activity designed in a way that maximized engagement and participation; that tied to team and organizational goals from beginning to end; that gave participants an opportunity to gain insights about the way they communicate and interact as a group; that encouraged them to share and make meaning from those insights?  These are the kinds of things that can elevate “team-building” to lasting and powerful team development.

What kind of team-building activities have been most effective for you?  What made them so?

Friends at work

posted in: All, Engagement | 2

Yesterday I stopped in at a local chain store to pick up a couple of things. While browsing the shelves, I overheard two employees talking. One of them said, “Remember that question about having a best friend at work – you’re my best friend!” My immediate thought was that they must have recently taken some kind of employee engagement or opinion survey, as one area that’s been shown to influence engagement and job satisfaction is the quality of peer interactions (Harter, Schmidt, Agrawal, & Plowman, 2013; MacLeod & Clarke, 2009).

Friends at workWhen paying for my purchase a little while later, I realized what a pleasant experience I’d had shopping at that store. The employees were friendly, helpful, and efficient. No scowling, heavy sighs, or customer-avoidance – those things customers sometimes experience when employees just don’t want to be there. I didn’t give it any more thought at the time, but later connected the dots between these pieces. It’s anecdotal, yes. But here, in a common, everyday interaction, I’d experienced the benefit of doing business with a company that cares about engagement and creates an environment that fosters it.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, research has shown that interpersonal bonds are one of the keys to engagement in the workplace (Fisher, 2013; Tuckman, 1965). While friendships at work have not always been encouraged or even tolerated, those attitudes are (thankfully) changing today. The myth that friendships interfere with getting things done is evaporating – and is rapidly being replaced with a recognition of and appreciation for the value of interpersonal relationships in generating and enhancing group functionality.

Think about a time you’ve been extremely productive at work. How did your interpersonal relationships (dare I say “friendships”?) fit into the picture?

 

References:

Fisher, D. M. (2013, November 4). Distinguishing between taskwork and teamwork planning in teams: Relations with coordination and interpersonal process. Journal of Applied Psychology, 1-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034625

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., Agrawal, S., & Plowman, S. K. (2013). The relationship between engagement at work and organizational outcomes (2012 Q12). Retrieved from Gallup website: www.gallup.com

MacLeod, D., & Clarke, N. (2009). Engaging for success: Enhancing performance through employee engagement. Retrieved from Department for business innovation & skills: http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file52215.pdf

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological bulletin, 63, 384-399. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0022100

The Speed of Trust

posted in: All, Bookshelf, Engagement, Trust | 0

Speed of TrustTrust - intuitively, we know it's important.  We'd rather live and work in a trusting environment than one of fear, suspicion, and distrust.  We have a sense that things seem to go more smoothly when we trust those around us and they trust us.  But why is that?

Using real-world examples and personal experiences, Stephen M. R. Covey shows the direct correlation between trust, cost, and speed in The Speed of Trust.  When trust is low, it takes longer to get things done and at a higher cost. Increase trust and tasks are completed more quickly with less cost.  In his book, Covey shares practical methods for increasing trust in your personal and professional relationships.

If you're looking for more insight into how to make a difference personally and in your organization by creating higher levels of trust, check this out!

To purchase

What’s the big deal about Engagement??

posted in: All, Engagement, Trust | 0

What is the big deal about engagement?  It seems everyone is talking about it.  It’s at the heart of nearly every conversation about productivity – and for good reason.  Companies spend a considerable amount of money surveying their employees each year to determine how engaged those employees are.  Why? Because studies show, again and again, that the level of employee engagement impacts the bottom line, and significantly (Harter, Schmidt, Agrawal, & Plowman, 2013; MacLeod & Clarke, 2009).

Studies such as the Gallup Q12 Meta-Analysis and the MacLeod Reemployee engagementport show correlations between employee engagement and outcomes in areas of:

  • Customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Goal achievement
  • Safety
  • Turnover
  • Employee productivity
  • Improved working lives of employees

The Gallup Q12 showed that businesses measuring the highest levels of engagement show an 80% probability of achieving above-average performance results. In contrast, the cost of disengagement for US companies is estimated at over $300 billion annually. So, clearly engagement matters. But how does an organization go about creating an engaged workforce?   Research has shown that two of the things that influence engagement are whether there is an environment of trust and whether group members are able to function together effectively.

In order to be willing to take risks and invest energy in support of the organization’s goals, people need to be able to trust that their actions won’t be perceived negatively (Schneider, Macey, Barbera, & Young, 2010). When we feel psychologically safe, we are more likely to share our opinions, ideas, or concerns. A trusting, psychologically safe, environment encourages the open exchange of ideas and information and allows problems to surface before they become severe. When we are concerned with being judged it’s easy to become distracted and disengaged as we may be focusing more on what others are thinking than on the task at hand (Kahn, 1990).

Groups that function effectively typically have strong interpersonal bonds. Often these groups are characterized as cohesive. Tuckman’s (1965) model describes the process of a team’s development of connectedness and functionality over time, ranging from the initial stages of group formation to later stages where groups exhibit cohesion and are successful at achieving group goals. At Tuckman’s final stage of performing, interpersonal relationships are a key to successful problem-solving and goal achievement. In my own research, I found that when team members know each others’ strengths and interests, and then aligned tasks accordingly, they were more successful at achieving their goals.

What does engagement look like in your workplace? Do you see these factors at work?  Is forming personal relationships with members of the workgroup encouraged or discouraged?  Is the environment psychologically safe?  How do you think the level of engagement could be improved in your organization? Are there things that you’ve tried or have been thinking about trying? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, please join me in the coming weeks to explore more ideas about what it takes for individuals and groups to perform at their best. I’ll also be sharing selections from my bookshelf each Thursday.

 

References:

Gallup Q12. (2013). https://q12.gallup.com/

Harter, J. K., Schmidt, F. L., Agrawal, S., & Plowman, S. K. (2013). The relationship between engagement at work and organizational outcomes (2012 Q12). Retrieved from Gallup website: www.gallup.com

Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at work. Academy of Management Journal, 33, 692-724. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/256287

MacLeod, D., & Clarke, N. (2009). Engaging for success: Enhancing performance through employee engagement. Retrieved from Department for business innovation & skills: http://www.bis.gov.uk/files/file52215.pdf

Schneider, B., Macey, W. H., Barbera, K. M., & Young, S. A. (2010). The role of trust in understanding employee engagement. In S. L. Albrecht (Ed.), Handbook of employee engagement: Perspectives, issues, research and practice (pp. 159-173). Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc.

Tuckman, B. W. (1965). Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological bulletin, 63, 384-399. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0022100