Do Learners Need to Know How to Swim or How Not to Drown

Few would argue that in today’s business environment:

  • Change is the only constant.
  • You must do more with less.
  • You must do more in less time.
  • It’s survival of the fittest.
  • Competition is brutal.

Are Learners Drowning in “To-Do” Lists?

ID-10062848Many workers are stretched thin and feel as if they are drowning in responsibilities that don’t let up. As a learning leader, how do you respond to that? Are you teaching employees to swim or to not drown? That pointed question, and the inspiration for this post, comes from an article in this month’s issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine. It’s titled “Teach Swimming or Prevent Drowning.”

In it, Bob Mosher of Ontuitive tells a story from his teen years when he had a summer job to teach kids to swim in a one-week class. He laid out plans in his mind to teach the kids the finer points of swimming, the right strokes, breathing techniques, etc. Once at work however, a coworker pushed those plans aside and literally dove right in. His colleague wasn’t teaching the finer points of swimming. He was pushing the kids to learn very quickly how to tread water and make it from one end of the pool to the other.

Young Bob asked, “Aren’t we here to teach these kids to swim?” His colleague responded, “We only have a week. My goal is to teach them not to drown.”

Design From Performance Backward

When it comes to training and teaching tactics for the real world, learning to swim may not be an option. We have to teach employees not to drown. What does that mean? Let me quote again from the CLO article: “We need to design from supporting the performance backward.”

As training leaders, designers, and developers, we have to know what the desired outcome is first and then design backward from there. Whittle away anything extraneous until you know the kernel of what you need to accomplish. What must a learner know to survive in their job? Know the objectives you are working toward. Make sure your training has a direct and positive impact on the learner and their work environment.

If we’re not changing outcomes, improving performance, or improving workflow, then we’re not serving our function as training professionals.

As a learning provider, where have your training efforts been focused—on the process or on the outcome? Give us the details in the comments.

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