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The Secret to Learning at the Point-of-Need

*The secret*:

‘Learning’ is rarely (if ever) required at the point-of-need. Instead, answers, support, insights or guidance are more likely to be needed.

To make the distinction, ‘learning’ (in the context of work) is often required because of the gap (days, weeks, perhaps even months) between a ‘learning event’ and a ‘situation occurring that that requires recall and application of what was learned’. ‘Learning’ (or just ‘remembering’) has to take place to be recalled. Otherwise, ‘learning’ happens by ‘doing’.

‘Influencing’ what is done (or how it is done), in order to impact results, should be our aim at the point-of-need. I think we could even be so bold as to state that ‘learning’ is inconsequential at the point-of-need. If the employee doesn’t ‘learn’ but knows where to go to find the path to getting the right things done in the most efficient way then that’s just as valuable (and more efficient for the worker – and L&D). Learning may be a by-product of influencing and enhancing the work being done but not the goal.

When we free ourselves up from the burden of ‘learning’ we can see that there are other ways of influencing the way that work is done: equipping workers with tools to overcome their challenges and supporting them with answers, support, insight and guidance at their point of need.

Whose Point-of-Need is it Anyway?

To my surprise, I’ve had L&D practitioners tell me that they deliver classroom training at the point-of-need. But whose point-of-need was that? For the stars to align and a classroom event to coincide at precisely the time that a worker (and 11 of their colleagues) face the same challenge is uncanny… and highly unlikely. That’s because it’s the organisation’s point-of-need:

“Welcome to your first day induction programme in which we’re going to tell you everything we think you need to know, including the history of the company, the strategic goals, show you a load of org charts and internal systems, and have you complete 5 compliance e-learning modules (and so on)…”

“Just before we let you loose on our brand new IT system, we’ve brought you all together to show you everything that it can do to prepare you for using it in your job…”

“Now you’re in charge of managing people for the first time, here is everything we think you’ll need to know about and a handy 50-page manual that covers everything again and more!”

To be absolutely clear, these are not examples of point-of-need. These are examples of traditional Training. Point-of-need should be determined by the workers as they face their work challenges to which they require additional confidence and competence to perform a specific action (or set of actions).

You can define point-of-need by the existing approaches they (workers) and you (also workers) choose when you need help, support, answers or guidance. We are all likely to either ‘Google it’ or ‘ask somebody’. I know this because I’ve been asking people for well over a year now, in conversation, at conferences, in webinars and workshops – and nobody has ever said anything different. This is point-of-need. And you can’t design and deliver a course for it.

A good acid-test is: if ‘learning’ is required then it’s unlikely to be point-of-need.

Planning for those Points-of-Need

To reassure you, there will be no need to sit with every employee at your organisation to learn their jobs and recognise their points-of-needs. It’s much more simple than that to get started and there is unlikely to be a course; no big launch of a big internal system; just immediate business alignment and demonstrable value added. It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?

First of all, identify one group of workers who need your help more than most. Go where the pain is. Where there is a clear point-of-need (the worker’s point of need… You get it, right?).

Resources (not Courses) at the Point-of-Need

‘Resources-first’ describes the approach to tackling employee performance and capability issues with Digital Resources that combine the ease and intuitiveness of a web-search with the context of your organisation, sharing what successful workers know and do – all with the aim of influencing ‘better working’. These resources address specific work challenges for distinct employee groups, and may be accompanied by supplementary activities (including a face-to-face or educational element) or may not.

The central premise of the ‘resources-first’ approach is that employees want easy-to-find, point-of-need support to overcome their real-life challenges, so they can both do their current jobs better and faster, as well as improve their prospects for the future. This is not achieved with ‘learning’ but with ‘access’. With this access, we are looking to increase competence and confidence towards the goal is better ‘working’ for better ‘results’.

Previous articles I’ve shared will show you how you can employ this approach and start achieving real business impact with initiatives that launch to whole employee group just days after they are conceived.

This approach immediately aligns L&D to the business and also creates impact that traditional approaches only hope to achieve.

In more ways than one, planning and building for the point-of-need makes Learning Work – for workers and for the business.

See also:

Digital L&D pt 2: What Are Resources?

Digital L&D pt 3: How To Run A Resources-First Initiative

David James is Chief Learning Strategist with Looop and a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with nearly 20 years of experience in the field. Most notably, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region.

Looop help their clients all over the world to digitally transform their L&D and capitalise on how people really want to learn today with a platform that is renowned for its extraordinary levels of learner engagement.

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