How Expert Learning Helps Organizations Close The Skills Gap With James McKenna

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Hello everyone! My name is Ladek and my guest for today is James McKenna, the author of Upskill, Reskill, Thrive! Optimizing Learning & Development in the Workplace (2023). He serves as Assistant Director of Professional Learning and Leadership Development at the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. He also runs a consulting firm, McKenna Learning, where he helps organizations take a human-centered approach to learning and improvement. 

In this ‘very expert’ conversation James and I talk about

00:00 › Start

01:33 › Workforce Insight
—James shares insights from his book, which sets the stage for a deeper discussion on expert learning and its significance in today’s workforce

05:43 › Experiment, To Learn
—James delves into the critical topic of experimentation and learning from failures, where he advises introducing these essential skills to colleagues and creating an environment that nurtures innovation and resilience

08:42 › Culture Roles
—James then explores the pivotal roles within the workplace that enable and support a learning culture, highlighting the importance of leadership, management, and peer support in facilitating continuous growth and development

13:42 › OMG Moment
—We pivot to address the “OMG moments” of learning discoveries that have the potential to transform organizational processes and outcomes, discussing how to effectively bring these insights back to the team without resistance

17:21 › Of All Sizes
—James underscores the principle that “one size doesn’t fit all” in learning, elaborating on how expert learners navigate and personalize their learning journeys to meet their unique needs and objectives

22:21 › When Learner Goals Deviate
—James discusses the challenge of managing learners who might deviate from organizational goals in their quest for knowledge, seeking strategies to balance individual learning aspirations with business objectives

24:54 › Learning Culture Forward
—We examine the common obstacles that organizations face in creating and sustaining a learning culture, emphasizing the mindset shifts and systemic changes necessary to overcome these barriers

29:30 › Practicalities
—Our dialogue shifts towards practical steps for integrating a learning culture into the daily workflow, discussing how organizations can make learning an intrinsic part of their operations without overwhelming their employees

33:35 › Owning Every Learning
—We touch on the importance of recognizing and formalizing learning achievements, exploring ways in which individuals can showcase their skills and competencies in a manner that aligns with career advancement goals.

36:06 › James offers actionable advice for organizations eager to start implementing expert learning practices today, providing a roadmap for gradual, impactful change.


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This is the eLearn podcast. If you’re passionate about the future of learning, you’re in the right place. The expert guests on this show provide insights into the latest strategies, practices,

and technologies for creating killer online learning outcomes. My name’s Ladek, and I’m your host from Open LMS. The eLearn Podcast is sponsored by eLearn Magazine,

your go -to resource for all things online learning. Click -by -click how -to articles, the latest in edtech, spotlight on successful outcomes and trends in the marketplace. Subscribe today and never miss a post at elearnmagazine .com and Open LMS,

a company leveraging open -source software to deliver effective, customized and engaging learning experiences for schools, universities, companies and government. governments around the world since 2005.

Learn more at Open LMS .net. Hi there, my name is Ladek, and my guest for today is James McKenna, the author of Upskill, Reskill, Thrive, Optimizing Learning and Development in the Workplace.

James serves as the Assistant Director of Professional Learning and Leadership Development at the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, and also he founded a consulting firm. McKenna Learning,

where he helps organizations take a human -centered approach to learning and improvement. In this very expert conversation, James and I talk about his insights from his book, which sets the stage for a deeper discussion on expert learning and its significance in today’s workforce.

James then delves into the critical topic of experimentation and learning from failures, where he advises introducing these essential skills to colleagues. and creating an environment that nurtures innovation and resilience.

James then explores the pivotal roles within the workplace that enable and support a learning culture, highlighting the importance of leadership, management, and peer support in facilitating continuous growth and development.

Next, we pivot to addressing the OMG moments of learning discoveries that have the potential to transform organizational processes and outcomes. Discussing how to effectively bring these insights back to the team without resistance.

James then underscores the principle that one size doesn’t fit all in learning, elaborating on how expert learners navigate and personalize their learning journeys to meet their unique needs and objectives.

James then discusses the challenge of managing learners who might deviate from organizational goals in their quest for knowledge, seeking strategies to balance individual learning aspiration with business objectives. Next we examine the common obstacles that organizations face in creating and sustaining a learning culture,

emphasizing the mindset shifts and systematic changes necessary to overcome these barriers. The dialogue then shifts towards practical steps for integrating a learning culture into the daily workflow,

discussing how organizations can make learning an intrinsic part of their operations without overwhelming their employees. We then touch on the the importance of recognizing and formalizing learning achievements,

exploring ways in which individuals can showcase their skills and competencies in a manner that aligns with career advancement goals. And then finally, James offers actionable advice for organizations eager to start implementing expert learning practices today,

providing a roadmap for gradual, impactful change. Now, remember, we record this podcast live so that we can interact with you or our listeners, in real time. So don’t be surprised when you hear James and I answer questions and react to comments as they come in.

If you’d like to join the fun every week on LinkedIn, on Facebook, or YouTube, or even X or Instagram, just come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe. Now I give you James McKenna.

Hello everyone, welcome to the Elearn podcast. My name is Latic. I’m coming to you from an organization called Open LMS. but this entire show, as a matter of fact, none of this conversation is about me.

This is about my guest here, James McKenna. James, how are you today? I’m great, Ladek. Thanks for having me. My pleasure. As I ask everybody in the world, I believe as we’re recording this,

this is going to be episode number like 165 or something like that. We’ve had people from all over the world. Where do we find you sitting? sitting? I’m in the south part of Los Angeles County,

La Mita, California. La Mita, California. You know, I’m honest. I don’t have any idea where that, I mean, I know where Los Angeles is. West of Long Beach and near the Bitton area we call the Beach Cities towards Hermosa,

Redondo Beach. Fantastic, but you’re not from there. As you told me in the green room beforehand, what brought you to California? Um,

you know, no nights, no weekends as a classroom aid and then slowly over time, education became the focus and then adult learning and here I am. Fantastic, wonderful.

Um, you are the author of up skill, rescale, thrive, colon, optimizing learning and development in the workplace. I love that. Um, that’s one of the, one of the things that you authored out there.

Um, but we’re here to talk about expert learning as well. So before we dive into that, I always like giving my guests, you know, the platform here to just sort of introduce yourself Tell us, you know,

what is you know, what’s your focus? Tell us about the book and and where we want to go from here Thanks, you know my You know ever since and probably before Simon Siddiquat has great talk,

you know we talk about your why my why is I always say I have a bone to pick with lost potential and And whether it’s, you know back on my own life and like places where I would have liked to have done a better job or taken advantage of opportunities,

working with kids with extreme challenges who a lot of people had given up on to then working with teachers in challenging situations and then consulting with different organizations.

I’m always looking at, well, like, how do we help people do the things that they already want to do with… and be their best selves in their work? And so, several years ago,

I came across, I just finished doctoral studies in leadership and in psychology. So how we learn and what motivates us. And I came across this framework called universal design for learning,

which was how do we make learning work better for everybody instead of, you fits all. And I looked at that, and I said,

“Well, this is great,” and at the time I’d been asked to create some learning supports for teachers on how they could use this with their students. But when looking at it, I said, “Wait a second.

This is not just based on how kids learn. This is about how people learn. So how do I help people learn better looking at teachers at different emotional states,

different experiences?” experience levels, working in different contexts, different beliefs about professional learning and say, “Okay, how do I make this work so that all of them can still get to these,

you know, clear challenging goals to put this work into practice?” And that became my, you know, my road to where the book came out is saying, you know, how do we make work and learning work better for more people?

How do we get things out of this? their way And that’s really the focus of what expert learning is all about expert learning is It’s the endgame of universal design for learning. It’s the idea.

It’s both It’s a way of operating and so I like to say that expert learners are people who have the will and the skill To learn and continuously improve and own that improvement and that takes two,

that comes in two big areas. One is the capacity, like learning is a skill, being reflective, monitoring your own progress, knowing where to find information, how to make connections, how to make plans for improvement,

all that stuff. Those are learned behaviors that you can, you can pick up and refine. You know, sometimes people are like, oh, they should just know how to do that. Oh, maybe they don’t, maybe they hope them, right? Or maybe they don’t believe it’s their responsibility because they’re whole – experience whereas learning has been something that’s done to them rather than they felt like by them.

So there’s that capacity piece. And the other part is the context. So I can have all the will and the skill but if I don’t get the time and the support and the freedom to try new things,

the psychological safety to, you know, tweak something, try an innovation and maybe it doesn’t work. If I can’t, if I’m not supported to operate in that way, I can’t. I can’t really do that. So the book is all about understanding how people are different,

what are the types of skills and attitudes that they need, and how do you create contexts for that to support people to operate that way? And when I think about learning, you know,

certainly an eLearning environment, a formal eLearning environment or a social one, but also just the learning that happens doing the hard work that people do every day. So that’s really what a lot of my work is about.

That sounds like a great introduction to what expert learning is. So if I am somebody who has had learning done to me, I find that what you just said doesn’t necessarily track with my personal life.

My personality is entrepreneurial, so I’m always breaking things and it’s figuring out. how they work. But for many of my colleagues or the people around me, how do I maybe introduce them or suggest resources about learning those skills of experimentation,

try again, go out there and do it again, those kinds of things? Well, some of the things, I mean, there are different sort of, depending on what their needs are, that you may be finding some specific training or books or experience.

that you can have. But part of it is they, how you model that, right? You’re modeling that you’re learning, and even calling out, hey, I’m learning how to do this thing. I didn’t know how to do it. So here’s what I did.

I tried this experiment, I found some resources, I’ve set a plan for myself, and just sort of modeling that, really, you’re doing that? People do that all the time in their own lives, but they don’t always necessarily think about it and work.

I think in COVID, everybody was learning how to… bake and make ceramics and all this other stuff, play an instrument, and you’re finding these different spaces to do things when they suddenly had the time and the emotional readiness to do it.

I think part of it is modeling that and also making space like this is something that you can do too. Hey, is there something that I do that you wanna learn about?

Can I coach you? Can I guide you through something? You know, why don’t you go play and bring something back and let’s look at what you did and let’s talk about it. I think it’s really making that space and creating an environment where learning is valued,

it’s safe, and it’s encouraged. And especially like, not only you saying, “Hey, you want to learn,” by saying, “You want to learn how something I do,” you’re saying that like, learning is not something that I’m just going to keep to myself.

I want to help other people. And that environment becomes contagious, we’re like, we want to help each other, right? And people know they have to continuously learn and improve.

And sadly, a lot of organizations, whether it’s mindset capacity, whatever, are not really set up to help people improve at the rate that they need to as fast as the world works.

So I think it’s really about creating that environment where I value you, I’m investing in your improvement. It’s okay for you to try new things. Maybe we,

depending on what is, I mean, certain things like in the healthcare industry, we don’t want to just go cowboy on it, right? But if you’ve got an idea, let’s workshop that, let’s try this, let’s role play it, let’s see how that looks.

Let’s kick the tires on it rather than know you just do what you’re told to do. do what the manual says Right and and there’s this one right way of doing things which sadly You know a lot of people are used to because that’s you know There are control issues or just mindsets of like that’s what learning looks like because that’s what looks like for them So who are these enablers you?

It could be a leader. It could be a manager. Is this also appear is this Could it appear anywhere? in the workplace or what’s your been in your experience there? Optimally, yes.

All of the above, everybody. So for the leader, it’s about getting clear on what is the value of learning? What do you believe about learning? What do you think people should be doing about learning and who should be involved?

And putting that together and not just keeping to yourself, well, I thought it was obvious for everybody, but put it into a learning philosophy. philosophy, right? That says, hey, here at Open LMS or Canon Learning or GM or wherever,

this is what we believe about learning. There’s a great example, and you can find it online for free. From of all places, people might not expect. The Marine Corps. Now, the Armed Services are the biggest training organization ever.

That’s all they do is train and learn. And so the Marine Corps has this doctoral publication. It’s wonderful. It’s under 80 pages called the Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication Number Seven Learning.

And it talks about why learning is important, how learning happens, who’s responsible. And they say everybody from the newest Marine all the way up to the common down to the Marine Corps is responsible to learn and continuously improve and to support the learning of others.

right? And understand how learning happens. It’s everybody’s job. You don’t get to sergeant, drop the mic, like, I have nothing left to learn. For them, I mean,

what’s more dynamic than a battlefield and they have to constantly think, learn, adapt and overcome. And so for an organization, it’s getting clear, like, this is what we believe about learning.

Here’s how we’re invested in your improvement. Right. This is, this is the responsibility of folks. And then once that’s out, actually have to act that way. Right. Right.

Because if I say, Melissa Daimler, who’s at Udemy, she has a great article in the Harvard Business Review, your, your folks who probably find it, and I think they get free, free articles every month called,

Why Great Employees Leave, Quote, Great Cultures. Sure. – Sure. – And it’s when the people, especially the leaders, don’t act in the way that they say they believe.

And people say, “Well, you’re kind of full of crap.” You know, “Oh, everybody should learn, “except there’s no one to coach me. “My manager won’t listen to me. “I can only go to training once a year “and it’s only the training that somebody says “I get to do.” – Right.

– You know? Or we incentivize people to keep knowledge to themselves and learn. get kudos for being the expert on something rather than rewarding them for building the capacity of others to do those things,

to share knowledge instead of hoard knowledge. So if we look at how our leadership acts and then our practices, our systems, our processes, like if do they facilitate learning in the way that we believe it should happen?

And if it doesn’t, well, then we need to tweak it or we need to be honest with ourselves later. like, do we really believe that? – Right. – If we did, we’d operate in that way. It’s okay to look at your system and have an aha moment and say,

oh my goodness, this is not doing things the way I want it, and then go change it, right? And we’re always trying to improve. – What about, well, go ahead, finish your thought there, sorry. – From a leadership perspective,

that’s really setting the tone and the expectations and giving the go -ahead for changes in the systems. And then with managers, managers often, get a hard time because traditionally,

there can be tension between say a learning and development department and a manager. Perhaps traditionally for that manager, learning looks something like, “You’re taking my people off the line,” and then they come back and I don’t know how they’re supposed to do this new thing.

Meanwhile, I’ve had to cover shifts and productivities down the way. have you, where there’s almost a tension with learning rather than how do we work closer with the managers and say, what do you need your people to do better?

How would it be if your people operated in a way where you just set clear expectations and boundaries and then they just crushed it and you didn’t have to monitor all the time? Well, let’s build their capacity to be critical thinkers,

to plan, figure out what skills they need to operate in that way. figure out how your role as the manager, you know, oftentimes we promote managers because they were good at the jobs they’re now going to supervise.

But now how do we build a manager’s capacity to be a coach, right? How to support folks, how to meet them where they are, how to set an environment that gets that knowledge sharing,

that makes it safe for new ideas, right? And managers may need to have that, especially if if they’re previous managers where their models for management didn’t operate that way.

Hi there. I’m sorry to break into the show right now, but if you’re enjoying this show, if you are challenged, if you’re inspired, if you’re learning something, if you think that you’re going to be able to get something out of this to put into your practice, do me a quick favor.

Pause right now and just hit subscribe on your podcast player right now. It doesn’t matter which one, just hit subscribe because that way it’ll make sure that you never miss an episode in the future. Thanks. Now,

back to the show. 100%. So the question I interrupted or I was about to interrupt you with before you got to managers there was, and I think you’ve set it up perfectly, is what if I’m a manager or a leader?

It doesn’t matter. And I have that OMG moment of, wow, I’m learning something and there’s something disruptive here that I really think is important. It’s going to change the game,

right? That’s either going to change our process or maybe I need five less people instead of, you know, or maybe, you know, maybe, or maybe I need to grow the team. Like discovery of through,

you know, through this learning process, discovery of like that, oh crap moment, like we really need to do it differently. What’s your advice about bringing that back to the organization or raising it, you know, raising the flag or raising a hand and saying,

this is something that we need to take care of or whatnot and not getting shut down. Well, I think first you’d have to have a clear value proposition, right? We change this. This is the expected benefit.

And here’s how, here’s how I know, or here’s why I have a strong suspicion that this will be successful. That’s a challenging thing about innovation. So do something innovative, just show me 10 other places where it’s happening already.

It doesn’t quite work, but But, you know, I, you know, looking at even asking people, you know, I had conversations with some folks around well, how do you help a learning and development folks provide more flexible learning,

right, imply universal design for learning, saying they’re formal. Well, part of that might be, okay, here’s the expected way of doing it. Can we want a little pilot on the side? Right. Can we do a little pilot program?

Can we try something out that promises results that start saying, Hey, instead of just saying we’re going to scrap, you know, our current pathway and try this uncharted path and see how it works,

you know, we’ve actually worked our way down this while we’ve been going the way we have, and we’re starting to see some clear data that’s really promising. So what if we started to shift resources into this new way,

right, now that we’ve had some time to, especially if it’s just a pilot, then that’s room, that’s psychological safety, that’s freedom to fail because we’re still doing it the way that we were expected to do,

right? That is traditionally, especially if you’ve been successful to a certain point, however you define that. Like, we’re fine with this, but we want to innovate. Try that on the side, right? And then see if you can build up some,

you know, whether it’s anecdotal or quantitative evidence that says, this is… actually working, right? And it’s still going to get us to the place, you know,

leaders, management team, where you want to be, but it’s going to save us time. Our people are going to enjoy it more. They’re going to be more excited about it. It’s going to help us out with the next thing we teach them.

We need them to learn how to do because we’re going to have built their capacity to take ownership of that and exercise some autonomy. I’m sure your audience is well familiar with adult learning theory,

but one of those things is like, people want to have some say in how they learn. They want to have some say in it. So having some of that and saying, OK, we’re motivating people, we’re operating in a new way,

and that should pay dividends, rather than just saying, OK, we just have to blow this up. That’s really scary. Because there’s a saying, I quote in the book, and it’s been used a lot. you know life is flux or right and so change is the only constant and people are afraid of change not for change’s sake but because they don’t know what the change is going to bring so if I told you you’re going to win the power

ball that’s a big change but probably wouldn’t be too afraid of it right maybe you’re like oh okay people are going to be calling me all the time right but I’ll deal with it right But if there’s gonna be a big change in your health tomorrow,

they’re like, what was it gonna be, positive? Negative? Right, exactly. You’ll find out tomorrow. Ah, right. And so how do we inform the expectations of what that change is gonna bring?

Talk to me more about the one -size -doesn’t -fit -all, you know, part of this. You alluded to universal design for learning. Most of the people… who are listening right now are familiar with UDL, but talk me through how an expert learner works through that,

decides what parts of UDL they want to bring in. I’m thinking about if I’m a leader or a manager and I’ve got a team I’m working with, especially if that team is of any real size,

I’ve got people going in all kinds of different directions or have different needs. How do I resource that and how do I support that? with all of these unique learning pathways?

– Yeah, well, let’s say we’ve got a team where we have a new expectation for all of them. So it’s the same new performance improvement goal, transfer, whatever it is.

We get this, we call a firm goal, right? This is what we need people to know and be able to do and how they want them to operate. And then thinking about, okay, looking at the different folks, folks in my team,

if I took my, let’s say a traditional path of doing a two -day workshop or whatever, is that gonna work for everybody? And if not,

why? What gets in the way? And saying, okay, well, do they have to all do the workshop or is it just we want them to all operate in this new way?

Or if they, the way they want them to operate, well, what in the workshop doesn’t work for everybody? Is it the fact that some people have trouble maintaining that level of attention? Is it, it’s not interactive?

Whatever it is, how do we think about, as we talk in UDL circles, what are the barriers in the environment that could get in the way of people getting to that goal and how do we empower them to address those barriers so everybody gets to the goal?

It’s really, really, you know, thinking about instead of one path, it’s taking this ecosystem approach. It said, here’s what we want for folks. What are the different things we have on hand that could help them get there?

How do we inform them to make choices, right? And leverage those things. So every, and give them feedback on their performance. So they all get to that goal without saying they all have to do it in that one right way.

– Mm -hmm, is there a, is there a, and to incorporate universal design for learning into their practice.

And understanding that that’s highly contextual and saying, “Okay, we’re going to have a firm goal for, say, X amount of evidence of transfer over so many observations.” And then say,

“Okay, well, what can we do? Well, let’s provide this level of support for those that are participating in this professional learning community. Can we also offer access to an online course,

right? And there are some free ones out there or there can be these facilitated ones?” Can we start a special interest group around that? Can we offer coaching to everybody, right?

But everybody, they have these options around how they want to learn with it, who they want to work with to contextualize it, but they’re all held to that expectation. By this point, we should see all for all our teachers incorporating these practices.

And this is how we’re going to look for for it. And it might even also be, you know, well, it could be not just assessment, but it could be the submission of their lesson plans, the, you know, a focus group of their students.

I find it more accessible and engaging now. I feel more inclusive that stuff is working better for me. You can look at student performance, look at different measures that say, okay, this transfer is taking place,

right? And so it’s really there, there’s some great models for for ecosystem design. One that I find is really sort of coherent with universal design for learning. I mean,

the name drop is the Owens -Kadakia learning cluster design model. Because it takes this same philosophy that people are different, roles, context,

attitudes, skill levels, right? And UDL takes that even further saying, okay, what are those expectations? What can we surround them with? with? How do we evaluate each level?

So they all get to that point, but depending on, it might just be the context of where they work, right? You know, across a big global organization, this training workshop’s gonna work for some,

but because of the location or workload or whatever, it’s not gonna work in this other thing. So how do we provide them some support so we can still meet the goal when their context is not fitting this one?

one path that we particularly determined for folks. Sure. What do we do about the expert learner who maybe goes off the rails a little bit?

You know, they want to experiment with something or they want to be learning something that isn’t necessarily cohesive or coherent or a part of the business, you know,

part of the business goal or maybe or maybe even you could take that to extreme, or maybe it becomes a little disruptive. Do you have suggestions or advice that you provide to managers and leaders about either engendering that and supporting that,

finding a place for it, or saying, “Hey, maybe that’s for your own time?” Well, I would look at, one, it’s first starting in a culture where learning is sort of a partnership.

[BLANK _AUDIO] like if I’m the manager and you’re my direct report, you’re on my team, like we’re mutually invested in your improvement. And it’s trying to find ways that those improvement not only help you,

but also helps the team in the organization, right? If people say, well, it’s just to help the org, how does that help me? Not so much. Or if it’s just to help you, like if you’re suddenly,

well, I really want to be able to teach yoga, I don’t know. how that’s going to work here in open lms Right, but let’s talk about how you can learn some other things that might move you to different parts of the company Right.

I took my book is about upskilling, which is getting better at the job You currently do and re -skilling learning how to do stuff to prepare for new jobs, right? And so I think there has to be uh A meeting in the middle between the organization and the individual that say,

how does learning and improvement work out to our mutual benefit, right? Because if you don’t invest in me and I’m forced to just invest in myself on my own,

then I’m not gonna have really a whole lot of loyalty, right? ‘Cause maybe now I’ve learned this new thing and even if you have a space for it, I might apply somewhere else because you didn’t help me get here,

at least to my perception. I helped me get here. But if we’re both invested in that, it’s a cooperative,

it’s a partnership, right? Everybody wins. Yeah, well, okay. And as I find in a lot of these conversations on the podcast, we’ve gotten to a point in our conversation now where this is a no -brainer,

right? The partnership between manager and direct report, creating a supportive environment so that people are continuing to invest in investing in their own growth as well as the growth of the company,

etc. So in your book, what are the challenges or the common challenges that you identify that either block this, prevent it,

people have a hard time working around or don’t see it coming? There’s a few things. I have a little chapter called align your mind. And so I think mindset is a is a big part of this.

So the way that we think about learning, our role in learning, our understanding of when learning or performance improvement isn’t happening, who’s fault it is,

right? That takes some real, that takes some real exploration. exploration. I think one of the things is we have to think about, well, what do we really believe about our people?

And do we expect, do we truly expect that everybody can grow and improve? Or do we have a certain idea of like, well, this person is, you know, this person’s going to be fact tracked,

but I don’t see that in this other person because they don’t have what I consider to be say, leadership or rock star potential, right? And so those biases, sometimes those biases get in the way of who we think we can improve versus looking at companies like 3M is famous for saying the CEO who was there for,

I don’t know, how many decades, I’ll listen to anybody with an idea. That’s why they have hundreds of thousands of patents, right? That there’s, there’s, we believe everybody can,

can contribute to something. It’s also also empathy. You have these performance expectations for folks, and especially if those expectations are set some distance from where the expectations are supposed to be met.

I met a gentleman at the time, was a learning and development executive for a national restaurant chain. I won’t say which, obviously. And he spoke of one of his biggest ahas where they had rolled out this whole new learning management system and eLearning modules and they’re like,

but why aren’t we seeing these these things change into performance? Why aren’t these this learning being put into practice? Then went out to look at where the learning was supposed to happen and primarily it was on an old computer next to an oven and a noise noisy kitchen.

I love the obviousness. Wait a second. They’re the most wonderful, engaging, interactive eLearning. It’s certainly going to be hindered by putting this in.

Wait a second. Well, let’s put it on a padlet. Let them take it out into a quiet break area and do that. And then they also looked at like, okay, we need to enhance our coaching, see how we can bring the learning closer to.

to the work. But it’s really going out and seeing what is learning like for these people at work, right? And what could get in the way? And how do we help them get it out of their way?

And how do we develop systems that help bring the learning to where people work? And the last one is to really take ownership. For those that are familiar with universal design for learning,

there’s a comment below. saying that barriers exist in environments not people right, and it’s You have to say that the default is as a as an L &D person my default is it’s my fault if they don’t meet the expectations what went wrong with the environment that I designed and I and I have to go interrogate that and maybe there are some occurrences occurrences where there are things that are beyond everybody’s control,

emotionally, whatever, for that one person, but it can’t be our default that it’s their fault. I train them, they don’t do it, it’s not my fault, right? It’s really to take ownership of that.

And now some folks might say, well, but how do I take ownership if I can’t control the managers, I can’t control how they interact with their colleagues? colleagues. Control what you can,

influence what you can’t, right? If you can’t be out there to do the coaching, who is there to do the coaching? And how can you free that person up and build their mindset and capacity or validate that mindset and capacity to go do the coaching that’s necessary,

even if you can’t do it? So you take ownership of that system and control what you can influence, control what you can. can influence what you can’t and But don’t start with well.

I did my part. It’s all on them. Mm -hmm Take me take me one step further there in in this narrative right now that Most of the people that I know all of the people I know You know,

I call drinking from a fire hose right where your day is already so full that that when somebody comes and says, “Hey, we’re going to put learning in here too.” Not only does it seem overwhelming,

but it’s like, “Wait a second. I had all these other obligations. How am I supposed to fit this in here?” Talk to me about that a little bit. It’s kind of like, how do we get started in that mindset shift to a learning culture within an organization,

but all having this just be a part of a normal day for individuals or a normal week, however you want to couch it. Well,

when I hear you talk about fitting learning in, I’m thinking, what do we fit like formal learning in, like consuming content or participating in something. And I think that’s certainly an important piece,

right? But I have the saying that work is learning and learning is work. So we’re constantly, as every time we’re trying to innovate, create, learn how to work with other people,

solve a problem, right? Find a work, we’re learning. And so how do we create environments in where we can do that better and share that better,

right? Share that learning with other people. because I mean, knowledge, bad knowledge management or sub -standard knowledge management is a huge contributor to inefficiency, you know, because like,

oh, I spent all this time figuring this out when, you know, Lottak down the hall had already figured it out last week. I just didn’t know it because there wasn’t a, there wasn’t a good line of communication and sharing that. So I think part of it is that thinking about that learning happens all the time.

And so if it’s happening all the time, time, learning is work, you have to be intentional about it. Okay, we have to intentionally talk about how we facilitate that team collaboration,

that sharing of ideas. How do we bring the learning as close to the work as possible, put things at people’s fingertips, so that they can get access to it at the point of need? I think there was a survey a few years ago from Josh Persson’s Burson’s Center at Deloitte about modern learning.

They said that people had less than 1 % of their time devoted to learning. That means it specifically carved out of the schedule, but learning is happening all the time. So how do we connect those dots?

Another great ecosystem model is JD Dillon’s Modern Learning Ecosystem, talks about not just the formal, but that takes place about as much. away from the work as you can get and say,

well, what about the feedback? What about the coaching? What about the reinforcement? What about the peer -to -peer network? What about just facilitating those, hey, how do I, conversations, right? And having things that people’s fingertips to do that.

I think that’s where you can really do some good work, but it will require redefining what learning looks like. like, right? And how we support that and where it’s valued to like,

well, the learning role is the L and D people train those people. Well, you manager, you come in here too ’cause you’re here to keep reinforcing them and bringing it up at the pre -shift meeting and giving people a chance to practice something and give them some coaching before,

after a shift or whatever and having those operations, seeing like that’s learning. too. Fantastic. So take me that one more level there. And by the way,

there’s no plug there for whoever’s listening right now. JD Dylan was literally the last guest we had on the show. So nice, nice plug for him. Nice plug for him way to go. That’s fantastic. Because he had a great, great conversation about that learning mindset as well.

There is this interesting part of the conversation that happens here where yes, learning is happening all the time, but people also want to be able to update their LinkedIn profile with a new certification,

but they want to be able to say, “Hey, I acquired a new skill,” or, “I’ve now done the five parts, so here’s my certificate.” Talk to me about that as a part of this constant learning and upskilling and rescaling menage that we’ve been discussing here.

– Well, I think that’s always a great point. You know, we talk about it in various organizations, like, okay, I’ve got better at being a project manager, but how do I show that on my resume?

Where’s my Google certificate or my P &M certification, right? And that’s where that partnership will like, hey, we’re investing in you and maybe it’s bringing in that piece or if we’re a big enough organization that can set up our own sort of skills matrix.

matrix with badging certifications, so whether you’re doing internally, externally, that allows people to demonstrate that competence. And one thing that is sometimes lacking is that,

is like, OK, I have to do the course before I can get to the assessment that shows that I have built this competency, where some people might have been doing this for a long time.

Why don’t you just let them take the test? Right. Right? Right. Like, is the point for this is the point for them to do the eLearning module or the two -day workshop or to demonstrate that they really know how to do this and people can trust them when they say,

I can do this. We know. And so they have that demonstration of ability. I think that’s another way of looking at it saying, you know, again, it’s different paths.

We can still have that same goal. And maybe the goals are part of that credential. or certification, but we allow people different ways of getting there, and depending on what the skill is, demonstrating that they’ve built that competency.

Does it have to be a multiple choice test, or is it an opportunity to do a presentation, or a fishbowl, or a simulation that shows,

I can actually do this? And so wherever possible, within design constraints and capacity, think about those places where you can open up and keep the focus on, what do we actually want people to do better and help them do that rather than get caught up?

Well, they all have to go to this training, right? 100%. 100%. Final question for you. If I am somebody listening right now who wants to bring these practices into my organization today,

you know, I want to shift to this mindset of the expert learner kind of ecosystem. ecosystem What are your favorite one or two go -tos? Here’s here’s how you can get started today Here’s here’s the you know one thing you could do or two things you could do right now No,

we talked about how learning happens in different places and I would say okay think about your own context and Some sort of learning experience or learning environment where things aren’t working.

Well, you know, whether it’s a a coaching, you know, a coaching system or in a two -day workshop or whatever. And think about that, pick that one experience rather than the whole culture.

And I like, there’s a wonderful person out there is his name is Thomas J. Tobin. And he came up with what he calls the plus one approach. And so let’s choose this environment.

Say it’s a two -day workshop. In your experience and the data, looking at that when you’ve delivered it before, and based on your knowledge of the people that are gonna go through that,

where do you expect the most hands to go up, the most eyes to glaze over, the parts of the assessment that they miss the most? Pick that what we call the biggest pinch point.

It’s not everything, just what’s the biggest thing? And say, okay, what do we think it’s gonna be? in the way there? The content’s moving too fast, there’s too much jargon in there,

we haven’t set norms so people feel safe to engage in discussion, whatever else it is, right? Figure out what that barrier is and okay, what’s one thing I could do to this learning experience or this environment that may address that,

right? I don’t know yet, I haven’t done it. What’s one thing I could try? Do something I add, something I tweak, something I take away. And then deliver it, observe it,

right? And then reflect, did that work? Did it make a difference? Talk to the people, right? And figure out if it was beneficial. Because yeah, we don’t have time to blop our entire catalog of supports,

right? That’s daunting. And it also interrupts all the good work that’s probably happening already but we do have time to make pluses and Operating in a new way You know that takes time There’s a saying slow as smooth and smooth as fast.

I’ve learned that in the Navy people use it all all the places This is a great slow as smooth smooth this fast approach where maybe I just have a goal of every so often I’m plus wanting some things but as I get used to interrogating the environment taking ownership spotting barriers plus one can become plus two Right because oh wait,

I’ve dealt with this in this other situation We’re gonna do this and then let’s try this other piece. It’s only plus two becomes plus three and then when you have an opportunity Now we’re gonna design something from scratch Okay,

let’s take everything we’ve learned about these other processes and let’s build I just,

I wrote this whole book to change the way we, or validate and enhance the way that we think about learning and then allow people to approach it in ways that work best for where they are,

which is why all the, you know, the tactics are in the back of the book. – Nice. – Because I just say, “Oh, you do this, this and this.” Well, I did the thing, so isn’t that UDL? No, it’s about the firm goals of flexible means thinking about these different things,

getting away of folks, taking ownership of it, right? And putting those into place. which may look like some of those things, it depends on what you’re trying to do, who you’re working with, what your work is,

right? – Excellent. James McKenna, you are the author of Upskill Reskill Thrive, Optimizing Learning and Development in the Workplace. This, thank you very much for putting it on the screen there.

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy day. I can’t believe how quickly 45 minutes it runs by. bias here, but thank you so much and I hope that this won’t be the last time we talk. Oh,

I would love to talk again. Thank you so much for having me on and I appreciate you and your audience for the opportunity to talk about things about which I’m passionate and hopefully a lot of other people will be passionate about. Thank you again for listening to the eLearn podcast here from Open LMS.

I just wanted to ask one more time if you enjoyed this show, if you learned something, if you were inspired, if you… were challenged, if you feel like, you know, this is something you can take into your practice, please do me a favor.

And right now on your podcast player, hit subscribe. That way you’re never going to miss a future episode. Also, come over to elearnmagazine .com and subscribe there as well because we have tons of great information about how to create killer online learning outcomes.


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