Learning and development professionals tell us that $billions are spent each year in the U.S. on professional development. Having worked in that arena for better than two decades, I agree with that characterization and hasten to add that a good bit of that money (and time) is being misspent. Rather, it is being wasted. Why? Two reasons: The efforts and expenditure are not particularly focused (well targeted), and they are almost never followed up. Let’s talk about that last one a bit because it harbors a lot of low hanging fruit.
We tend to treat such efforts as events… We read the book, watch the webinar, hear the speech, attend the seminar, (WHAT) rollover, and move on to something else, without much thought or planning regarding how (if at all) we’re going to interpret (SO WHAT) and apply any learnings (NOW WHAT) to our own situation.
The small bandage on my right arm at the moment reminds me that I had blood drawn this morning for a CBC blood test. In a few days, my physician and I will review the results, discuss his interpretation and action plan steps to take in order to maintain and improve my health. To be sure, we’ll track results over time.
In our professional lives, we tend to draw the blood and just move on, with little to no consideration for the “So What” (make meaning) and “Now What” (take action) parts. A suggestion:
As leaders, it is our duty to at all times be aware of the developmental needs of our team, and provide teammates with opportunities to close the gaps. But it mustn’t stop there. It’s incumbent upon us to verify that:
The learning opportunity was what we and they hoped and expected it to be…The desired learning did in fact occur, and… That the new knowledge or understanding is being applied. Here’s a simple suggestion in that vein. Whenever someone on your team participates in a formal learning event or process, immediately upon the conclusion, personally ask them:
- What they learned, relative to what they had hoped to learn,
- How they plan to apply it,
- What help they need (if any) and
- How they want to be held accountable for doing so.
Try it. I think you’ll be amazed at the difference.