by Randy Sabourin
The complexity of deploying new training over a large number of learners can be an enormous undertaking. The challenge grows exponentially when the learners are distributed over a large geographic footprint and time away from the field negatively affects the budget and return on investment (ROI) objectives. Turning to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ e-learning program is often the solution even though the trade-off results in much lower knowledge retention and skill development.
Rather than compromise with traditional one-to-many solutions driven by technology consider a one-to-one solution focused on people learning and practicing with people. Having had this conversation with many learning professionals the next step in the discussion is inevitably the reaction to the assumed increased costs associated with a one-to-one learning interaction. This assumption is incorrect.
The trend toward ‘bite sized’ or retrieval-based learning speaks to the awareness of one-to-one learning as a viable solution. It seems counter-intuitive to look to technology as the only path to solving what is effectively a one person at a time problem. The idea that one-on-one training is unaffordable is a common and incorrect assumption. Technology is not required to make the price point attractive.
If we consider an Occam’s Razor type approach to the problem, what Corporate Learning Department would not welcome a simpler approach to solving this problem. There are a few key factors that advance one-to-one learning initiatives as a viable solution. First, Sales or Customer Service training, Coaching, and Leadership Development are areas that can most benefit from this person-to-person learning approach. Learners need to adapt skills to their own individual style on order to be successful. It is ‘high touch’ content that benefits from individual style and adaptation. Second, corporate learners often begin a learning process with a fair amount of knowledge. In our experience, many learning programs change a few aspects of the process, or define a model that already is in the learner’s knowledge base. Third, working as a team is not a necessary part of the learning objective. Certainly there is value in learning as a team, however in group learning, it’s easier to hide.
Keeping with the theme of simplifying, we’ve found over years of implementing numerous sales processes and coaching models that at their core, the principles are very similar. The ‘bells & whistles’ are added to market and differentiate products not add value to learners. True differentiation is revealed when an individual who is expected to use the model adapts the process to align with their individual style, most effectively through practice.
A successful one-to-one learning program is divided into two phases. It begins with a content delivery or tutorial conversation; we consistently compress 3 hours of workshop content into a one hour one-to-one telephone conversation. The facilitator can ensure the learner truly grasps the concepts and can customize the learning to focus on an individual’s learning gaps. Phase two is practice; realistic scenarios are developed so the learner can convert knowledge into skill through realistic safe practice.
The value of practice and one-to-one learning is not a new concept; athletes, artists, the military, police, firefighters, and many other disciplines embrace these models. They recognize that one-on-one learning achieves more sustained results than one-to-many or technology based trainings. What is new is being able to engage in meaningful one-to-one learning for an affordable price.