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Adult Learning: Thoughts of Lou Russell

I originally approached Lou Russell’s June 2016 LearningFlash as a review of the 2016 ATD Conference hosted in Denver. However, I soon realized that the newsletter was a general overview of all things important about adult learning. I liked the instructive edge to her article “Performance = (Knowledge + Skills) x Motivation” as well as the reflective side, “I love learning new things and most of them don’t change my behavior much.”

However, what holds the article together is the coverage of key research points of Jennifer Hoffmann and Brad Thurber, from their e-book report: The State of Learning and Development in 2016. According to Lou, companies are not following through to drive improved on the job performance. She lists a few statistics to drive this point.

  • Face to face classroom learning is still the most popular mode of training, with 94% of L&D teams using it. Virtual training (instructor and self-led) is on the rise.
  • The most overrated learning modalities are online games and face-to-face learning. (note: 94% are using these methods).
  • Only 3% of L&D use solely virtual training methods.
  • Only 9% of the successful L&D programs use standardized methods for measuring their success.

Lou Russellou_russell_blogl’s commentary really hit home when she discussed, “the dirty secret of training- performance [improvement] will not change unless bosses and peers recognize, encourage and demand the performance [improvement].” She emphasizes this point by stating that on the job learning without improvement is simply acquiring skills and knowledge that serve without purpose.

Russell reveals the terrible truth to learners: when people attend professional development sessions, they are rarely asked what they learned once they return and even worse aren’t expected to use the skills and knowledge that they have acquired. Clearly, Lou is continually bothered by the fact that adult trainers are not given the respect they deserve. She asks these two questions:

  • “Why don’t we push back and sell our services to our internal customers more effectively?”
  • “How do we market the value of learning and the process to drive performance?”

In the next section, Russell reviews what we already know about how people learn; learning is best done through social experiences with lectures as the last resort.

Lou finishes the article by coming back to the ATD conference where she rants about how every year “a new group of vendors show up with impossible promises, cool giveaways, free drinks and the new God’s-Gift-to-Training. The next year they are gone and a new crop appears.” She lists a few of her particularly least favorite groups:

  1. Giant libraries of micro-learning
  2. Growing number of LMS vendors and consultants who want to help you remove your LMS
  3. Disk vendors who don’t seem to get it
  4. Vendors with screaming crazies

Lou concludes by asking “Who’s On First?”  She says we all are. However, she admits that we are immature in regards to training and development and are still in the process of learning ourselves.

My own reaction to this article is that I personally feel the same way about eLearning. We are still in its infancy and it lacks the respect that it deserves. Kudos to Lou Russell on a wonderful piece reflecting issues still faced in the industry of performance improvement.

 


Want to hear more from Lou Russell? Register here for your seat now with our upcoming Webinar “Strategies for Impossible, Never Done Before Projects” featuring Lou Russell, Tuesday, June 28.

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