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Build learning experiences that solve business problems in 4 steps

It might sound like the L&D equivalent of ‘if a tree falls in the woods’, but if learning experiences don’t solve problems, do they really make an impact? 

The trouble is, a lot of the time, people roll out training programs before truly understanding what the problem is, making it even more difficult to add value through L&D.

So, the first step is obviously to work out which challenge you’re trying to overcome or goal you need to reach. On a company level, but also down to an individual level. Fortunately, once you’ve done that, there’s an easy-to-follow process you can use: We’ll call it The Four Rights.

1) The right resource

This could be something like a job aid, a short video or a live synchronous session. If it’s a real-time challenge, a short and on-demand resource is a better fit. If it’s a topic that benefits from discussion, bring people together to share knowledge.

In many cases, there’s an ecosystem of learning resources for you to choose from, and it’s a case of picking the right one for the problem at hand.

2) The right person

You’ll then need to connect that resource to the right person, and you’ve got two options. The first is to use the traditional approach of pushing learning out to people. It’s easy to write that approach off, but there’s still space for push learning if we use it in a more targeted manner. Use your data to segment the audience and target them in a meaningful way with meaningful content.

The second is to create an environment where people can find (or pull) relevant resources on demand and in effective ways that help them solve the problem. Often, it’s about finding the balance between that push and pull.   

3) The right time

Number one and two are essentially useless unless we can do this in people’s moments of need – when the problem needs to be solved, and learning can be applied! There’s no point teaching someone how to do a VLOOKUP months before they’ll log in to Excel for the first time.

Essentially, we need to connect people with knowledge at the right time. If you’re a sales rep, for example, it would be extremely useful to find it within your CRM. 

Why the moment of need matters

Because it’s when we’re most motivated to learn! Think about how you solve problems and learn things out there in your everyday life. We discover there’s something we need to know, we open up Google, search for the content that meets our needs (right problem and right format), engage with that content and apply what we learn.

We’re aiming to solve the problem in real time, we know what the impact is, we’re already the right person, and so we find the right content and format that helps us overcome the hurdle. If we’re cooking something for dinner, we find the recipe in minutes, not a course that’s happening in months.

Too often, learning experiences are designed at the convenience of the L&D schedule. Rather than around the moment of need and putting people front and centre in the learning experience. 

4) The right impact

We’ll never know whether our learning experiences are a success if we don’t define the impact we want to have. Not as an afterthought, but right at the start of building them out.

Sit down and work out which measurable improvements to performance you want to see and build the learning experiences around that.

How do we understand the right problems?

It’s an age-old dilemma for L&D teams. Someone high up in the company comes to you with a request for learning, they’ve already decided the solution and want you to sign it off.

The trouble is, that’s a solution based on a lot of assumptions. It’s typically what that leader thinks the best response is, not necessarily what the learner needs.

So, we have to ask the right questions. Ask why and what as many times as it takes for us to truly understand the problem! Why do your learners need this? What’s preventing them from reaching goals? What data do we have about performance? Having more candid conversations and building relationships that allow us to challenge people more frequently.