This article shares the research findings in one study and describes 3 powerful workplace learning strategies which have proven to shorten time to proficiency of employees and explains a model to shorten time to proficiency by leveraging these strategies.
The scanning of past research studies on workplace training and learning suggests that there are many training and learning strategies to enhance training outcomes and make learning more effective, enhance training transfer to the workplace, and accelerate skill acquisition. It looks like there are quite a few workplace training strategies that may hold the potential to reduce time to proficiency. However, it seems that the training field needs an integrated framework that could be scaled to different contexts, content, and job roles. However, there is a very limited amount of research efforts to develop a holistic framework to guide the design and delivery of training at the workplace with the goal to reduce time to proficiency in business organizations. Hoffman et al. (2010) believe that “there is relatively little research on training at the high end of the proficiency” (p. 59). This gap was bridged with intensive research I conducted as part of my doctoral research which addressed a much larger question on business practices and strategies to accelerate time to proficiency in organizational settings. Though the study was focused on overall business practices/strategies, part of it surely linked to workplace training and learning strategies. A section of findings in the research study specifically answers the question: What and how specific training strategies (methods, techniques, mechanisms, systems, processes, instructional design, methodologies, interventions, etc.) are used by training experts in various contexts in leading organizations which have successfully reduced time to proficiency of employees in complex job skills? The workplace training and learning-related findings and a conceptual model were presented at 9th International Conference on Researching Work and Learning (RWL) in Singapore, titled Conceptual Model of Workplace Training and Learning Strategies to Shorten Time-To-Proficiency in Complex Skills: Preliminary Findings. The paper report preliminary findings and the framework developed based on that in regards to how workplace learning and training interventions are leveraged to shorten time to proficiency of employees. This post will summarize the findings and the models from that research paper and provide some additional design guidelines for training practitioners. If you are interested in knowing e-learning strategies that were found to accelerate time to proficiency, click the link to read that post. Alternatively, if your focus is on classroom-based instructional strategies, you may refer to the link to that article.
Value of Workplace Learning Strategies
Participants’ responses revealed that most organizations were getting away from traditional classroom-based training models and moving toward workplace learning strategies as a means to shorten time to proficiency. The study investigated the traditional training models utilized by training experts which potentially led to a longer training cycle and longer time to proficiency. The major issue across the board was that most organizations tended to copy models from educational institutions that were more instructor-centric, content-heavy, classroom training based but very thin on including job experience. Major critics of such instructor-centric models were that these models were good enough for delivering a mass of content in a short time but not for developing and accelerating workplace skills. This research established that the traditional industrial-era training model fundamentally contradicts the goals of shortening time-to-proficiency.
Most of the participants appeared to favor on-the-job learning at the workplace as the biggest contributor to shortening time-to-proficiency. It was noted that training experts increasingly believe that boundaries between learning and the workplace need to be diffused. It seems that involvement with the task and emotional loading of tasks amidst the realities of the workplace is the key driver as to why proficiency gets accelerated in actual workplace settings. “By and large, most things that happen in a training room are fairly ordinary. People are sitting there absorbing stuff, talking about stuff, and it’s not an emotional rollercoaster, let’s put it that way. Now if they’re learning stuff in the workplace, chances are there are a lot more emotions involved. It’s more real. It’s more immediate. There are other people directly involved. There are consequences for failure or success. All of those things put an emotional loading on whatever is learned and that means that learning will stick more. So in that sense, there’s a pretty good chance that it will stick better if it’s learned at the point of work rather than in a classroom. But it’s not because it’s formal or informal, it’s because of the way those memories are encoded and the richness of the sensory experience that’s going on when that encoding happens.”
On those lines, the majority of participants mentioned that on-the-job experience and social interactions at the workplace accounted for up to 90% of the total learning. It is suggested that this 90% part is mostly instrumental in increasing the pace of proficiency acquisition. Systematically leveraging on-the-job and workplace learning is fundamental to accelerating time-to-proficiency.