Your Learners Have Attitude

Some of your learners may be showing new behaviors that look more like online dating.

attitude, learner preferencesLearners have a lot of attitude these days.

Their choices are changing; their attitudes in the middle of learning experiences are shifting; and their assumptions about the yield of learning time invested are evolving.

Your learners aren’t being rude or arrogant, but they do have a new attitude, which may be surprising, disappointing or confusing to us learning and development veterans. Some of your learners, normally grateful recipients of all the development you can give them, may be showing new behaviors that look more like online dating. Your learners look at a learning offer and:

  • Quickly give it a swipe left or a swipe right — keep it or let it go.
  • Want to know, “Did other employees like this? Is it worth my time?”
  • Say, “Hey, give me the good stuff; skip the fluff.”

Your learners are better guardians of your wage time than you. Set up a 75-minute webinar for every regional manager, and their attitude kicks in:

  • “Is there really 75 minutes of new and valuable stuff?”
  • “Could I watch the archived version, and skip to the few minutes of important info?”
  • “Ah, let me order my lunch, check my emails, and have a side telephone call during this very long webinar.”
  • Your learner’s attitude will grow as the panorama of learning options expand. They will:
  • Skip the leadership videos your learning and development group purchased and watch a few 18-minute TED Talks that seem more engaging.
  • Ask to take the assessment quiz before the class — to skip the teaching and jump to the certification.
  • Partner with other colleagues to gain efficiency. One person goes to the important meeting and sends real-time, internal update tweets. Or, Joe does module 1, Karen does module 2, and they collaborate to save time and energy. Both pass.

Your learners have attitude because times are changing, and choices are getting more complex:

  • Memorization is less important. Learners know they can get content online, so why pretend to memorize it? Navigational readiness may be all they need or want.
  • The employment lifespan for a new employee is much lower. Some new hires want to jump in and start performing quicker, since they may not be sticking around for long.
  • They may be more interested in context than content. They can’t look up the real backstory online, so in a classroom they hunger for context, not PowerPoint slides.

Your learners have fewer barriers to keep them from getting the best learning experiences. Beware:

  • Given an IT problem, they may call their friend who works in the IT department of another company for help. Why? They trust them and will get a more targeted answer.
  • They will likely validate or confirm knowledge from a trainer via a real-time search. I mentioned a statistic in a program last year, and five minutes later one of the participants kindly corrected me based on real-time research on my stated fact.
  • They are more drawn to short videos and FAQs, not a well-formatted instructional layout.
  • They want us, as teachers and facilitators, to honor what they know already and sort by what they need to know now.

Your learners have attitude, and it is time for learning leaders to adjust our own attitudes:

  • Encourage learners to own their learning process.
  • Toughen up and tighten assessments to be of more value and guidance to learners.
  • Expand the curation skills, tools and organizational strategies to harvest and target more personalized content.
  • Take the school branding out of learning resources, treat learners more as colleagues, employees and candidates — rather than students.
  • Allow our own attitudes to shift. My lectures can go on video. My ice breaker activities may be too familiar. And learners want to connect with my knowledge more than my curriculum.

Learning deserves some new attitude.

Elliott Masie is the chairman and CLO of The Masie Center’s Learning Consortium and CEO of The Masie Center, an international think tank focused on learning and workplace productivity. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.

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