True learning and implied behavior change requires a learning journey to boost professional development and achieve improved performance. In this article, I look at the link between learning journeys and how it can improve employee performance.

What Is a Learning Journey?

Traditional training has often been viewed as a one-time event: a training class, a webinar, a learning module.

However, if the goal of training is a change in behavior, which leads to improved employee performance, training should, instead, be viewed as a learning journey – a series of learning events made up of a blend of formal and informal interventions, nudges, and follow-ups that ingrain new knowledge and behavior in employees.

  • Formal training is one of the key elements of a learning ecosystem that typically facilitates the learning acquisition.
  • As you add informal training (some initiated by L&D teams, some initiated by individuals and coached by leaders), you create a learning journey.

Why Should You Invest in Learning Journeys?

Learning is the key to thriving business.

In the animal kingdom of North America, the coyote has perhaps proven to be the most apt at learning and has therefore thrived. When Meriwether Lewis in the early 19th century first encountered a coyote on his famous exploration, he was perhaps the first of European descent to see one. He attempted to kill and collect it as a new specimen. He and his men were unsuccessful though – an experience that thousands of American hunters have shared since. The coyote has learned to adapt and thrive to constant changes in their ecosystem and are now a common sighting in large cities like San Francisco (California) and Salt Lake City (Utah).

In business, those who can learn are the coyotes – they can adapt and thrive to changing circumstances. Companies should find and develop coyotes in their organizations – employees who actively participate in their own learning journeys and contribute to the journey of their coworkers.

From a business perspective, learning journeys provide highly customized programs that are structured around key enterprise goals and objectives. Leaders should provide this insight to help prepare their organization for future challenges.

Not only does this help futureproof their business by driving incremental and disruptive innovation but it also improves employee engagement. Employees are looking for organizations that value learning and encourage professional development.

Organizations benefit from employees who continuously strive for improvement.

From the employee’s perspective, the learning journey acts as a GPS that guides learners in their efforts, through formal and informal learning, to perfect their art by acquiring new skills and proficiencies in business domains and technological mastery. These GPSs guide learners through motivation, awareness, learning consumption, and knowledge application.

Learning journeys comprise formal and informal learning – opportunities to acquire skills for a specific role or technological domain. They are highly relevant to the individual, assisting him/her with his/her career aspirations.

What Do You Need to Consider While Creating an Effective Learning Journey?

The following are vital issues to consider when building learning journeys:

  • Look at the big picture and consider that, while foggy, the future is ever present. Learning occurs over prolonged time and should never been something that employees stop doing, nor should organizations ever rest on their previous laurels.
  • Employees go through the following stages in a learning journey:
    • Awareness: Before employees can begin a learning journey, they need to be aware of what is available, how the organization will support them, and what lies ahead.
    • Motivation: While some employees are motivated for the pure sake of learning, some are looking for additional extrinsic motivations. Organizations should set up systems to reward progression in the learning process, encouraging employees to begin and continue the learning journey.
    • Participation and experimentation: Throughout the learning journey, employees need a safe space to participate, digest, apply, and experiment with the new knowledge they’re gaining through the learning journey. The experimentation and feedback loop are key to achieving behavior change.
    • On-going connects: Design learning journeys that include more than formal training events. Develop guides for managers to follow-up with employees on what they learned, implement social and mobile learning strategies, and allow employees to direct much of their own informal learning.

What Are Key Aspects that Would Help You Create Effective Learning Journeys?

Leverage the following aspects when developing learning journeys:

  1. Start with the end in mind: Planning is too often abbreviated in the L&D field, a reaction to develop content as quickly as possible to please business stakeholders. Remember what Albert Einstein said about planning: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
  2. Include all stakeholders: During the initiation phase, include key stakeholders and ensure that everyone involved in the process has the information they need. Leaders should ask themselves the following questions: What do I know? Who needs to know? Have I told them?
  3. Build awareness of the solution with the target audience: Begin with primers to help them understand the big picture of the learning journey. Include an exposition on the current state, the desired future state, and the differences between those two states. Use microlearning hits that get to the point quickly.
  4. Invest on immersive techniques: During more formal training events along the learning journey, ensure effective knowledge acquisition by leveraging strategies that include higher-level processing:
    • Stimulate prior knowledge with which learners can scaffold new information.
    • Present content in the most appropriate modality.
    • Model learning strategies to help students assimilate new information.
    • Include as much application and practice as possible with healthy feedback loops.
    • Assess performance, giving additional feedback to learners.
    • Once learners are back on the job, use informal learning and coaching nudges to reinforce the application of new knowledge on the job. Employ performance support systems so learners can quickly find and share information they need in the flow of work.
  5. Reward behavior change: While punitive rewards may be effective in the short term, for effective long-term behavior change, learning journeys should offer employees as much purpose, autonomy, and mastery as possible. Once employees are paid a fair and competitive wage, purpose, autonomy, and mastery are more effective methods of motivation than even bonus models.

Making It Work – EI Design’s Learning and Performance Ecosystem Based Approach to Create Effective Learning Journeys

EI Design has developed a highly effective model for creating effective learning journeys in a Learning and Performance Ecosystem. It’s a cyclical model that includes the following:

  1. Capture attention about learning opportunities.
  2. Explain what employees will gain from the learning journey (what’s in it for me).
  3. Leverage immersive formal learning events that employ gamification, virtual and augmented reality, scenario based learning, and branching scenarios.
  4. Support formal events with performance support tools, giving employees access to information in the flow of work: exactly what they need, when they need it.
  5. Reinforce learning after formal events with safe places to practice and receive feedback on their performance.
  6. Provide social learning so that learners can collaborate with others progressing in the learning journey, sharing knowledge and experiences.

Parting Thoughts

Effective behavior change occurs over time as desired competencies and behaviors are reinforced through a blend of formal and informal training. Learning is not a onetime event. Professionals seek mastery of their trade, striving for autonomy and purpose. Learning journeys, thoughtfully developed and shared with employees, are an effective method of facilitating behavior change that aligns to enterprise goals and initiatives.

I hope this article provides the requisite insights on how you can use our unique Learning and Performance Ecosystem to create effective learning journeys and boost employee performance.