27 September 2023

Hands on: How learning to work is as good as working to learn

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Julie Hiipakka* says high-performing organisations take an approach to employee development that sees work as learning and learning as work.

Maybe it’s happened to you: your employee satisfaction scores for learning are low.

Training, or the lack of quality of training, comes up in worker exit interviews.

Does it feel like learning in your organisation is something that has to be endured so people can get back to their “real” jobs?

That’s a bad feeling for you, your organisation, and your employees.

And yet most organisations understand they need to help employees develop new skills to keep pace with a business environment in constant flux.

People want easy access to answers and to be able to tackle new tasks and challenges.

Something has to change.

Learning — if executed properly — can be critical to the life cycle of an employee’s career.

So, how can organisations make it work well?

Applying design thinking

High-performing organisations take a specific and differentiated approach to employee development: work is learning, and learning is work.

The two are so tightly intertwined that one’s experience as a learner is identical to the experience as an employee.

Through this “work-is-learning” approach, organisations can enrich employee experience while helping individuals perform, leading to the sense of mastery that instils self-confidence.

Design thinking is a critical aspect of this process.

That means using anthropological techniques (e.g., conducting interviews and directly observing employees at work) to understand who your workers are and what they’re doing, as well as to identify knowledge gaps that could be holding them back.

The approach is similar to how consumer electronics companies put prototypes in consumers’ hands to see how they’re used.

The process reveals pain points, moments of delight, and areas to improve.

This understanding helps organisations give workers information they need, when and where they need it, in ways that recognise the differences in those moments.

If a tenured employee needs an answer to a specific question, being able to contact an expert via a chat addresses that need much better than being told to take a 30-minute online course.

Using design thinking can lead to employee learning experiences that are far more engaging and authentic — and it can empower workers to enhance their performance.

Our research has found that organisations that leverage design thinking and other practices to create what we call designed growth realise significant productivity outcomes.

That’s a win for workers and for organisations!

* Julie Hiipakka is Vice President and Learning Research Leader for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

This article first appeared at hrtimesblog.com.

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