Is Your Learning Mindset in Need of a Change?

Randy Emelo
Written by
Randy Emelo

Mentee and Mentor Training Tips

Time for ChangeAs learning and training professionals try to blend technology with learning, it can sometimes leave people feeling confused, directionless, and disenchanted with their learning experience. In order to make the most of learning opportunities, we have to realize that technology exists solely as the enabler for us to bring learning to people in a new and different manner. However, to enact real change and bring real value to our learning efforts, we must help our learners change their mindsets about what to expect from their learning activities and how to participate in this new form of learning that is more self-directed, social, and personalized.

Here are four changes you can put into practice to help shift your learners’ mindset and to help make your learning initiatives more effective.

1. Move away from learning events and move to learning being a process.

Learning and training often occur within the context of a singular event, such as a training class to bring people into compliance with a new policy. But what happens once that event is over? Does learning stop? Sometimes. Should it stop? Of course not.

Instead of the learning stopping, we have to stop conducting learning and training in isolation of daily work, as though the topics and time spent in pursuit of knowledge have no bearing on the jobs that people do every day. We have to start making learning an embedded part of the typical workday, something that occurs seamlessly as people complete daily tasks. Adults value context and personal experience when learning, which is why mentoring is such a sought-after endeavor; we need deliver learning that meets these expectations.

Learning is an ongoing process. In fact, I hope we can all say that learning is never done. It is a constant pursuit, and one that we should help our organizations embrace as we revamp how we help people pursue knowledge and insights.

2. Move people from being only consumers of learning to becoming producers of learning.

Mentoring plansWhen it comes to corporate learning and development, employees typically play the role of consumer. They peruse the virtual shelves of your e-learning catalog, or thumb through the list of upcoming training courses while getting a cup of coffee. In a word, they take. But what if we want them to give, too? What would that do to your learning framework and mindset?

If you look at learning as a cyclical process, people not only take, they also give. When people teach someone else or share what they know with colleagues, they further develop their own skills (one of the greatest benefits of mentoring, according to mentors). Their knowledge is reinforced, their assumptions are tested by questions from the learners, and they build even deeper understanding of their areas of expertise. We lose untapped learning potential by not having our employees be producers of learning in addition to consumers.

I understand that this can be a scary concept—to let go of the reins and allow the control to be in the hands of learners. However, I believe the benefits of having our learners be producers of learning as well, far outweigh the concerns we may initially feel about giving up control. Consider thinking of these mentors as the experts who have been tapped on the shoulder to share what they know. If you didn’t have faith in their talents, they wouldn’t be mentors.

3. Move learning from being an isolated personal occurrence to a collaborative practice.

Learning CollaborationLearning can be a lonely pursuit. Learning can also be a collaborative, engaging practice that pulls people together. I think it’s up to us as learning and training professionals to change how we and others view learning, going from a mindset of learning as a singular pursuit accomplished by individuals, to a mindset that views learning as a collaborative endeavor tackled by peers throughout an organization.

The virtual world of social learning flourishes when people work together, build community, and collaborate with one another. We can help our learners get to this point by providing them with a way to openly and willingly spread knowledge, skills, and know-how among colleagues. One way to accomplish this is by having people give positive feedback about each other’s collaboration style. A common set of positive adjectives, such as inquisitive, pragmatic, innovative, or responsive, could be used so that people start to build their virtual reputations as social learning collaborators.

By focusing on positive feedback only, people can emphasize the strengths that a colleague bought to the social learning environment. I created the following list of positive attributes for you to use and to help you get started (see Table 1). Simply ask your learners to choose three adjectives to describe a colleague’s collaborative style. For example, “I think of [insert the person’s name] as…” After they have chosen three descriptors, ask people to include personal comments for the individual. The goal is to give people a chance to share genuine feedback and appreciation for one another, which in turn will help create a positive collaborative environment.

Table 1. Positive Collaboration Attributes

Conceptual Decisive Supportive Knowledgeable
Pragmatic Creative Analytical Empathetic
Loyal Organized Results Driven Tactful
Objective Direct Friendly Innovative

4. Move learning leaders from a role of encouraging learning to architecting it.

I know we all do our best to encourage learning—from being a cheerleader for new learning initiatives to being an active participant in training courses relevant to our own development. But what if we move away from encouraging learning, and instead use that energy to actually architect a learning environment? What would that mean for you? What would change for you?

In a 2014 CEB report called “Preparing Learning and Development for the Future,” authors Thomas Handcock and Duncan Harris encourage just that—move from encouraging learning to architecting it. But what does this really mean for you on a daily basis? Simply put, architecting learning means building a learning environment with the right structure already in place so that it can sustain itself without you having to be in the middle of it. Truth be told, I think we need to get out of the way and let our learners be the center of learning, not us.

Learn more about changing the learning mindset and discover Xerox’s innovative process in Randy Emelo’s article in the October issue of Training Journal.

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