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How Do We Deliver Performance-Based Learning?

I’m working on a project team to boost how we design, deliver and administer performance-based learning. There doesn’t seem to be an out-of-the-box way to do this for our services organization of 600 people. Strategically speaking, how do we achieve our goal?

— Map But No Direction, Health Care, Jacksonville, Florida

April 10, 2014
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Dear Map But No Direction:

Learning in the workplace needs to be constantly adapting and evolving to continue to build talent in the most effective way for the learner. Performance-based learning, or PBL, is a great way to accomplish this. Although it can be difficult to design and implement, conducting it properly pays a huge return on investment.  

PBL is a type of teaching and learning that emphasizes gaining specific skills for a job. The outcome of learning is the focus rather than the functions and information being taught.

Studies have shown that PBL can cut lesson time by up to 50 percent for students while increasing their retention. Employees absorb the necessary skills and require fewer “touch points,” making them more effective on the job and within a shorter time frame — a big win for management.    

With an organization of 600 people, taking the time to focus on which employees need improvement with what skill may seem overwhelming and unrealistic. Your PBL curriculum can be manageable if you divide it into these three steps:  

  • Determine your competencies.
  • Design your training around learning outcomes.
  • Make it tangible, real and a little sticky.

Determine your competencies: Meet with your team leads and/or managers to determine core competencies. If possible, conduct a companywide survey to gain a pulse on what skills are lacking. The questions and outcomes must focus on which skills need improvement, not just the knowledge that has to be acquired.

To help your training take shape, take the top 15 to 20 needed skills and group employees with like needs. Your curriculum will become specialized and therefore more realistic to manage.

Design training around learning outcomes: Customize your training based off the survey results. Tailoring your training modules (instead of offering a blanket studying course) will encourage participants to learn vs. coasting through the curriculum. You can design your training program by:

  • Intermixing live training, webinars and e-learning to reinforce the outcomes by capitalizing on different learning styles.
  • Structuring time and encouraging employees to practice, make mistakes, reflect and try again.
  • Allowing for peer-to-peer regroup sessions to discuss the lessons and help each other improve.

It will take more upfront work, but learners need to learn by doing. Through PBL, employees can master a skill and there is less downtime spent on retraining those skills.

Make it tangible, real and a little sticky: To have a truly successful PBL curriculum, students need to take responsibility for their own scholarship. Education allows for increased confidence and ability. However, as with all lessons, an air of uncertainty and self-doubt can ensue. Overcome these limitations and make it stick at your organization by:

  • Re-evaluating the skills learned to ensure PBL is still applicable and effective.
  • Delivering direct and sincere feedback in a comfortable environment.
  • Having virtual (weekly newsletter, social media, community board, emails, etc.) and in-person (morning meetings, evaluations, etc.) recognition sessions on PBL skill accomplishments.

SOURCE: Brad Karsh, JB Training Solutions, Chicago

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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