To Make L&D Mission Critical, Bridge the Gap Between Theory and Practice

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How does your organization approach leadership development? Through workshops, mentorships, and online courses? Through trial by fire? Some combination of the above?

The 70-20-10 rule is an approach that guides the combination of three types of experience: 70 percent on-the-job experience, 20 percent developmental relationships, and 10 percent coursework and training. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, the underlying assumption of this rule is that leadership can be learned. Here at Quantified, we agree wholeheartedly. And we also agree with their assessment that experience (the 70 percent) should be at the center of talent development.

Where we differ is in the implication that these learning buckets—experience, relationships, and courses—are necessarily separate and distinct.

We see why it would be easy to make that assumption, of course. Learning and development programs are traditionally fairly generic and removed from everyday workplace challenges. They deal in hypotheticals and theories without any real guidance for putting those theories into practice. And while devoting 10 percent of your learning efforts to high-level theory is reasonable—and even beneficial—coursework and training could become a much more significant source of learning if you could find a way to tie it directly into your on-the-job experiences.

After all, mentors and bosses work with new leaders on real-time problems. Why shouldn’t coursework and training offer the same opportunities?

3 Ways to Create Training Programs that Make L&D Truly Effective

At Quantified Communications, we’ve worked hard to crack the code on bridging the gap between theory-focused training opportunities and on-the-ground learning experiences, and we’ve discovered three keys to implementing development programs that belong in the 70 percent.

1.   Personalize Learning

One of the reasons traditional trainings are difficult to apply in the “real world” is that their content is generic by design. Because these programs are made to help as many people as possible, their lessons have to be broad and high level. As a result, they’re often only tangentially relevant to users’ actual challenges.

But what if every employees’ training could be built around the specific work they’re already doing? What if the lessons could be tailored to address each user’s unique, real-time challenges?

The Quantified platform, for example, uses communication analytics to measure a speaker’s potential audience impact based on his or her current communication skills.So let’s say you want to become a better meeting facilitator. We use our platform to analyze your performance in recent meetings, identifying your current strengths and your biggest development opportunities, and then we deliver you a curriculum designed specifically to address your goals and needs.

So yes, this is coursework or training of sorts, but we’ve moved out of the hypothetical realm and into the highly specific. With training that’s this personal, that’s built from your on-the-job experiences, it’s much easier to apply what you’ve learned to make a quantifiable impact on your work.

2.   Measure Progress

Without any follow-up, how can we be sure a training worked? You may leave a day-long leadership seminar inspired to really make a difference in your organization, but as soon as you get back to the office—and back to your to-do list—that fire starts to dissipate. Maybe you make an effort to implement some changes based on the leadership theories you’ve learned about, but with no real way to gauge whether it’s working—whether you’re even taking the right actions—it’s easy to become discouraged and let old habits take over again.

But if you could check in periodically to measure your successes and reevaluate your ongoing development opportunities, you’d likely be more inspired to keep up the initiatives. Let’s go back to the meeting facilitation scenario. Once you’ve analyzed your performance, worked through the research and exercises in your personalized curriculum, and begun implementing your new skills, your next step is to measure your progress. We take a new batch of meeting recordings and run the same analysis on them to see where you’ve improved and where you should focus your efforts next.

With quantifiable results and a training program that evolves based on leaders’ evolving skills, it’s much easier to stay inspired and keep moving forward.

3.   Scale Training for the Entire Team

The process we’ve just described—developing lesson plans based on individual needs, reassessing periodically, and adjusting strategies accordingly—sounds very similar to what a leader might do with an in-person executive coach. But let’s face it: with small learning and development budgets and the high price of one-on-one coaching, organizations are lucky to be able to provide even one or two executives with coaches.

But if we could automate that relationship to make it scalable, organizations could provide expert-level, highly personalized training to every team member. At Quantified, we’ve done just that, leveraging a combination of natural language processing and vocal and facial analysis in our proprietary, artificial intelligence-driven platform to provide each user with an in-depth analysis of his or her current communication skills—and the action plans to help everyone meet their unique goals.

When coursework and training are high-level, theoretical, and at best tangential to new leaders’ actual needs, of course they should be limited to 10 percent. But when training programs are developed and maintained in direct relation to the users’ on-the-job experiences and challenges, they can (and should) play a much more significant role in the overall approach to learning and development.