How to guide employees to turn learning into business outcomes.


You’ve just been to a workshop, soaking up tons of new knowledge like a sponge. You’re all fired up, ready to take on the world with your fresh wisdom.


But here’s the twist: 70% of your knowledge is gone within a day! It’s like your brain hit the delete button, and all that brilliance you had during the workshop is now just a faint memory.


Think of your brain like a garden. The new knowledge is like beautiful, blooming flowers. If you neglect it, your precious insights fade like flowers wilting.


So, how do you keep your mental garden thriving? The answer is simple: practice, practice, and more practice!


But before diving into why practice is essential, let’s look at two common problems many learners encounter when they attempt to practice.


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Lack of guidance.

While practising might seem like a no-brainer, many learners often struggle to apply what they’ve learned in real-life situations. They grasp the theory with gusto but often find themselves confused when faced with actual challenges.


Lurking in your mind is a nagging question: “Am I putting this knowledge into practice correctly?” You wish for a safety net to ensure you’re navigating the uncharted waters of real-world application without getting lost.


Practising is like trying to nurture a garden without any gardening know-how.


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Missed opportunities to practice.

Many training programmes fail to provide employees with the hands-on experience to implement their newfound knowledge. Have you heard learners say, “I’ve got all this fantastic presentation toolkit, but there’s no upcoming presentation in sight!”  It’s a classic puzzle – what do you do when your chance to shine is collecting dust?


Missed opportunities to practice are a bit like having a brand-new bicycle but no open road to ride it on.



What Can We Do About It?

The good news is that receiving support doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Let’s delve into why this occurs and what can be done about it.



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#1 Retention and Reinforcement.

Learning isn’t a one-and-done deal. Unlike a single magical transformation, it’s a journey that thrives on retention and reinforcement. The “forgetting curve” illustrates the importance of keeping knowledge alive.


Frequent interactions play a pivotal role, acting as gentle nudges that help learners refresh their memory and sustain their newly acquired skills. Without these regular check-ins, learners might veer off course, losing sight of their goals or stumbling upon hurdles they aren’t quite prepared to tackle.


For example, at HighSpark, we follow up with our learners three months after their workshop experience. This allows us to gain insights into their challenges and successes in applying the best practices within their workplace. Additionally, if learners struggle with any aspect, we offer a 90-minute session dedicated to recapping and practising alongside their trainer.



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#2 Accountability Matters.

Without someone to guide learners, there’s a risk of slipping back into old habits or letting their acquired knowledge slip through the cracks. To combat this, maintaining consistent engagement with mentors, coaches, or peers becomes pivotal in ensuring learners remain steadfast on their learning journey.


One powerful solution is the creation of action plans that outline the precise steps needed to implement these newfound skills. These plans could involve jotting down key takeaways and strategising how to apply them to upcoming events. This documentation is a personal reminder and opens the door to meaningful conversations with managers.


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Managers can contribute by engaging in career-oriented conversations with the learners, setting aside dedicated coaching time, and conducting post-workshop debriefs that offer invaluable feedback. These discussions help keep learners accountable for applying what they’ve learned. Thus, creating a sense of responsibility strengthens the bridge between learning and practical application, ensuring that newfound knowledge is not wasted.


The longer the time between training and transfer, the less likely that training generated knowledge create benefits for transfer.



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#3 Feedback Fuels Improvement.

Feedback is akin to the wind filling the sails of progress. It propels learners forward, helping them navigate the waters of skill development effectively. Devoid of feedback, learners risk sailing unquestioningly, unaware of their strengths or areas for improvement.


Regular evaluations and discussions act as guiding beacons, illuminating the path to growth and refinement. These exchanges offer invaluable insights that steer learners toward mastery.


Furthermore, early successes in applying newly acquired knowledge serve as potent motivators. When learners experience positive outcomes in their initial attempts to put what they’ve learned into practice, they’re more likely to stay committed to behaviours that support further progress.


To enrich this feedback-driven journey, consider implementing evaluation criteria and rubrics for career conversations. These structured tools provide a clear framework for assessing and discussing progress, ensuring learners confidently and purposefully continue their voyage toward their learning objectives.


The more success learners have in their first attempts to transfer what they’ve learned, the more likely they are to persevere in more transfer-supporting behaviours.



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#4 Spotting Opportunities to Apply New Skills.

Opportunity to perform isn’t just a catchphrase; it’s the key to putting newly acquired knowledge, skills, and behaviours into action. But how do you identify these opportunities? Well, it’s a mix of your work environment and personal motivation.


Trainees can actively seek out these chances to shine. The scope, level of activity, and the nature of the task all play a role in determining your opportunity to perform. It’s simple: more chances mean better retention of your newfound skills.


Work with your managers to craft projects or specific tasks strategically designed to encourage and facilitate applying your freshly acquired skills and knowledge. These assignments should align seamlessly with the objectives you learned during your training.


Since not everyone may have abundant opportunities to put their learning into practice, managers may consider introducing case scenarios that mimic real-life situations for those facing limited chances. These exercises allow you to practice and revisit your training content, ensuring your skills remain sharp and applicable.



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#5 Support is Essential.

The learning path is often challenging, marked by obstacles, uncertainties, and moments of self-doubt. In these moments, learners benefit immensely from consistent support and guidance to help them navigate these hurdles effectively.


Learners who feel able, after the training, to succeed in applying their learning will be more successful in transfer



Here are additional suggestions to offer your learners extra guidance and practice opportunities:


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Develop Clear Job Aids and Cheatsheets:
Craft comprehensive job aids and cheat sheets with step-by-step instructions on how to apply newly acquired skills. These tangible resources are reliable companions, boosting learners’ confidence to apply what they’ve learned.



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Offer Advisory and Coaching Support:
Make advisory and coaching support readily available. This ensures learners have a direct line to experts who can provide personalised guidance and address specific challenges they encounter during the learning application process—an advisory lifeline from your trainer, offering pearls of wisdom and battle-tested advice precisely when needed.



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Foster Peer Support Networks:
Create an environment where learners can connect with peers who have undergone similar training. Facilitate regular in-person meetings or interactions through various communication channels like email or social media. Encourage sharing success stories, experiences using training content, and strategies for overcoming workplace obstacles.


In HighSpark, we provide ongoing access to resources, a supportive community, and networking opportunities through our membership portal. Check out HighSpark membership here.


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Share Learning Application Newsletters:
Regularly disseminate newsletters that showcase how fellow trainees effectively apply their newly acquired skills. Feature interviews with individuals who have successfully translated training content into practical action. These stories serve as both inspiration and practical guidance for all trainees. Here’s an example on how we spotlight our top performing learners.


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Provide Mentorship:
Pair learners with experienced employees or peers who have previously participated in the same training programme. These mentors offer valuable insights, advice, and support tailored to the specific topic, further strengthening learners’ confidence and abilities.


By weaving these supportive strategies into your learning and development initiatives, you empower learners to overcome challenges and create an environment where they can thrive and confidently apply their knowledge and skills in the workplace.


Tackling Learning Motivation Challenges in L&D


As learning and development professionals, we diligently prepare a plethora of learning materials, meticulously design workshops, and craft engaging learning sessions to empower our workforce with new skills and knowledge. However, there are instances where, despite our best efforts, employee sign-ups are scarce, workshop attendance is lacklustre, and learning sessions seem neglected in favour of daily operations.


In this pursuit, we shall delve into the root causes of this disinterest and explore actionable approaches to cultivate a culture of learning engagement. By aligning learning initiatives with the needs and aspirations of our employees, we can create a workplace where the pursuit of knowledge becomes an integral part of the organisational fabric.


The focal point of this article will extensively explore Malcolm Knowles’ influential adult learning theory, which offers a remedy for addressing the prevalent lack of motivation to learn among employees. We can gain valuable insights into adult learners’ distinct characteristics and preferences by delving into Knowles’ theory. With this understanding, we can craft learning initiatives that align with their needs.


Adult Learning Theory:

  1. Adults need to know why they are learning something.
  2. Adults want to be self-directed.
  3. Adults bring more work-related experiences into the learning situation.
  4. Adults enter a learning experience with a problem-centred approach to learning.
  5. Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.



Why do employees refrain from participating in learning activities?

The first step to uncover the reasons behind the lack of perceived value in learning is to inquire why some employees refrain from participating when rolling out registration forms for workshops or training sessions.


The top common response would usually be

  1. They are busy
  2. It is not a good timing
  3. Content that is irrelevant to the nature of their job


Although these responses may appear disparate, they all share a common theme – a perceived lack of value in the training programme. In reality, everyone faces a busy schedule at work, but their prioritisation of activities reflects their values and preferences.


When someone claims they lack time for a particular endeavour, it often reveals their assessment of its importance relative to other commitments. Time allocation involves making trade-offs based on personal preferences and priorities.


Let’s explore the scenarios of Learner A and Learner B:


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Learner A

Learner A, driven by intrinsic motivation, values the knowledge gained in the workshop and sees its significance in their professional growth. Despite a busy schedule, they are determined to apply what they learned to an upcoming presentation. They recognise the importance of refining their skills and are willing to invest time and effort to make positive changes to their presentation deck. For Learner A, the workshop was an opportunity to deepen their mastery, and they are eager to see the tangible results of their enhanced skills.


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Learner B

Learner B perceives the workshop as just another chore added to their workload. They prioritise other tasks over implementing the new knowledge, considering it less valuable or relevant to their immediate responsibilities. As a result, they focus solely on their regular operational tasks, neglecting the opportunity to make improvements based on the workshop learnings. Unfortunately, this mindset can hinder their progress, leading them back to square one – their state before attending the workshop.


By actively seeking and considering employees feedback on why they refrain from learning, we can identify potential obstacles and misconceptions that dampen employees’ enthusiasm for learning and tailor our learning initiatives to address these specific concerns – Ultimately fostering a learning environment where employees recognise the true value and relevance of their growth and development journey.


From here, you can identify the main solution that this blog post will guide you.



Principle #1
Adults need to know why they are learning something.


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This principle suggests that adult learners are more motivated when they understand the purpose and relevance of what they are learning. Employees seek a clear understanding of how the new knowledge or skills will benefit them personally or professionally. Providing employees with a compelling “why” behind the learning content helps them connect the material to their goals and increases their engagement and commitment to the learning process.


#1 Explain how learning ties to the organisational or departmental strategy.

Learning is the secret sauce that propels organisations forward, setting them apart from competitors. However, employees may only fully grasp its value if they understand how training directly contributes to their work and the overall organisational strategy. To bridge this gap, leaders must champion the significance of learning, connect it with the company’s broader vision, and effectively communicate this message to their teams.


Action 1: Briefing by leaders.

One effective way to achieve this is by conducting a learning context-setting meeting led by a senior stakeholder. This meeting serves as a briefing before a training session, where leaders communicate how the training ties to the bigger organisational picture. They can highlight the specific skills and knowledge employees will gain and how these newly acquired competencies align with the company’s strategic objectives. By clearly showing each individual’s learning journey’s impact on the organisation’s success, leaders can inspire a sense of purpose and enthusiasm for the training.


Action 2: L&D to reiterate the goals.

Reiterate the goals during workshops to reinforce the connection between training and organisational strategy. By consistently reminding employees of the broader purpose and how their development aligns with the company’s vision, we can help employees stay motivated and remain dedicated to achieving their learning goals.


#2 Tailor learning content to employee needs.

Much like inquiring about the birthday person’s cake preference before baking their special cake, it is equally vital to customise learning content to meet employees’ specific requirements and desired outcomes. Gaining insight into their obstacles and ambitions offers a valuable understanding of the significance of learning for them. By evaluating individual objectives, we can develop focused learning experiences that align with their aspirations.


Action 1: Conduct a pre-workshop survey to understand the participants’ learning needs.

By conducting a pre-workshop survey, trainers can gain valuable insights into participants’ requirements and preferences. With this information, the workshop content and delivery can be customised to address specific pain points and offer relevant solutions. This approach also empowers learners to be actively involved in designing the programme according to their preferences, aligning with the adult learning principle that “adults need to be self-directed.”


Action 2: Explain how employees could benefit from the learning.

During the workshop, sharing insights from the survey and illustrating how the training directly aligns with participants’ needs will further engage them and enhance their relevance and motivation. Providing a clear and concise overview of the learning objectives and outcomes at the beginning of the session, along with practical applications of the concepts in real-life situations, ensures that participants understand the value and applicability of the training to their roles and responsibilities.



Principle #2
Adults need to be self-directed.


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In some instances, despite having a well-planned learning calendar for the year, L&D might still struggle to garner sign-ups or participation in workshops. This happened to many of our clients when employees were overwhelmed with numerous compulsory compliance and soft skills training sessions to attend within a year, which led to employees feeling burnout.


The main issue is that employees want to be given the autonomy to choose the topics they want to tackle. Offering employees the autonomy to decide what they want to learn can be a powerful solution to address this challenge. By encouraging self-sign-ups, participants take ownership of their learning journey and choose topics that align with their interests and career aspirations.


#3 Make attending workshops enticing for learners to sign up.

Creating excitement and anticipation around upcoming workshops is essential to attract self-sign-up learners. Thoughtful marketing strategies can make a significant difference in generating Interest and participation.


Begin by

  • offering participants a comprehensive course overview, including clear objectives, timelines, engaging activities, and relevant assignments.
  • emphasising the course’s direct relevance to their job roles and explaining how the content will be meaningful and applicable in their professional contexts, such as an upcoming event or presentation. This ensures that learners enter the workshop with the right mindset, understanding the personal and work-related significance of the course content.
  • additionally, sharing compelling testimonials or success stories from previous participants can further demonstrate the meaningfulness and usefulness of the course, inspiring potential learners to sign up and embark on their learning journey.


#4 Addressing the lack of a learning culture at the workplace.

If your organisation struggles to cultivate a robust learning culture or employees are not yet self-directed in their learning journey, there are effective strategies to boost Interest and participation. Consider the following approaches to create an environment where learning thrives:


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Start Small and Scale Up with Internal Influencers:

Identify a group of enthusiastic learners who are already keen on up-skilling and can become advocates to promote learning initiatives.


These create internal influencers who are pivotal in inspiring their peers to embrace learning opportunities. Begin by offering targeted coaching sessions to this group, capturing their Interest and commitment to personal growth.


As their passion for learning spreads, they gradually expand the offerings to include workshops and webinars, reaching a wider audience across the organisation.


From Mass To Mastery


Mass Appeal to Mastery:

Organise a webinar that addresses topics with broad appeal, drawing participants with its accessibility and relevance. This approach allows you to identify individuals expressing deeper interests and learning motivation.


For those seeking to delve further into specific subjects, provide comprehensive coaching sessions and workshops tailored to their individual learning needs. This progression ensures that participants evolve from initial curiosity to gaining expertise in areas aligned with their professional goals.


Dedicate a team meeting to learning together.

Alternatively, take a more relaxed approach to learning. Organisations can gradually reinforce the company’s learning culture by encouraging managers to lead learning moments during regular team meetings. There are no limits to how this session is conducted; it can involve low-commitment activities such as casual reflections on recent learning experiences, learning new skills together, or inviting a guest speaker.


#5 Crystalise nomination criteria

When it becomes necessary to nominate learners for workshops to upgrade their skill sets urgently, clarity is paramount in the nomination process. Transparent communication with employees about why they were selected is essential to avoid disengagement among participants who may feel unsure about the benefits of the session. In many cases, passive learners are nominated without a clear understanding of the rationale behind their selection.


Action 1: Convey the reason for their nomination.

To overcome this, managers should engage in one-on-one discussions with nominated learners, clearly conveying the reasons for their nomination and how the workshop aligns with their development needs. A well-structured checklist can serve as a guide during these conversations, ensuring all relevant factors are considered.


Action 2: Establishing explicit nomination criteria.

When selecting participants for workshops, it’s important to establish transparent nomination criteria. Consideration should be given to several factors, including:

  • Impact on Career Trajectory:
    For example, if employees do not undergo such training, it might limit their career progress. Thus missing out on essential skill enhancements that are crucial for professional advancement.
  • Upcoming Workshop Relevance: Some workshops are directly tied to upcoming projects or initiatives. Absence from these sessions could hinder the seamless execution of these projects, affecting their success and the employee’s contribution.
  • Organisational Significance: Gauge the workshop’s significance for the organisation’s strategic goals. Individuals whose participation aligns with key organisational objectives should be considered as it directly impacts the organisation’s growth and development.


Explicit criteria help ensure that selected participants are genuinely motivated and engaged. This strategic selection enhances the workshop experience and fosters active engagement, ultimately contributing to the growth of individuals who can significantly influence key organisational objectives.



Principle #3
Adults bring more work-related experiences into the learning situation.


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Adult learners possess a wealth of work-related experiences and prior knowledge acquired professionally. When engaging in a learning situation, they draw upon these experiences to relate new information to their existing knowledge. This practice helps them understand the practical implications of the new learning, making the material more relatable and easier to retain.


#6 Incorporating real-life presentation scenarios

Design presentation training modules with real-life scenarios that align with participants’ professional experiences. For example, adopt a best practice of tailoring examples based on our client’s industry, organisational context, and job roles. For instance, at HighSpark, we prioritise real-life examples from our client organisations. Analysing their presentation decks and context, we demonstrate before-and-after scenarios to showcase how specific presentation principles can be effectively applied in real-life situations.

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This approach provides concrete and relatable demonstrations, empowering participants to grasp the immediate practical implications of the training and foster a deeper understanding and retention of the presentation skills taught. By integrating real-life scenarios, presentation training becomes a powerful tool that builds skills and ensures seamless application in the participants’ professional realm.



Principle #4
Adults enter a learning experience with a problem-centred approach to learning.


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Adult learners are naturally inclined to approach learning with a problem-centred mindset. They are most motivated when they perceive the learning experience as relevant and applicable to solving real-world challenges in their work or personal lives. Learning content that directly addresses their issues becomes highly valuable, allowing them to retain and apply knowledge that offers practical solutions to their problems.


#7 Providing Diverse Case Study Options for Problem-Centered Learning

To embrace problem-centred learning effectively, offer participants various case study options that replicate real-world presentation challenges. Learners can select topics aligned with their interests and learning objectives. In a presentation training context, this choice extends to picking presentation formats like pitching, informing, or educating and providing flexibility to work on past, upcoming, or context-specific case studies.


Engaging with real-world case studies equips participants with valuable skills directly applicable to their daily work, fostering deeper understanding and knowledge application. This approach ensures learners recognise the training’s relevance to their personal and professional growth, keeping them motivated and engaged.



Principle #5
Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.


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Intrinsic motivation stems from their desires for growth, a sense of achievement, and the inherent enjoyment of learning. On the other hand, extrinsic motivators involve external rewards such as certificates, bonuses, or public recognition, which encourage adults to engage in learning activities even when the primary focus might not be on the learning itself. By acknowledging and leveraging these dual sources of motivation, L&D personnel and educators can design effective learning experiences that foster a genuine passion for learning while providing valuable reinforcements reinforcing the value and significance of their learning accomplishments.


#8 Rewarding and Recognising Learners

Picture a workplace that not only encourages learning but celebrates it! Fostering a learning culture where employees are motivated and engaged can be achieved through recognising and rewarding their efforts.


While different generations may have varying preferences when it comes to rewards, the following strategies appeal to all age groups:


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#9 Leaders to lead by example

In organisations where a robust learning culture is yet to take root, proactive business leaders can be the driving force behind its cultivation. Leading by example, leaders can profoundly impact the organisation’s learning mindset.


One potent approach is for leaders to engage actively in training and up-skilling. When employees see their leaders prioritising learning, they are inspired to seize valuable learning opportunities and invest in personal development. As leaders participate in training programs, they also reinforce the significance and relevance of learning for the entire team.


By blocking off specific time slots on their calendars for learning and development, leaders demonstrate the importance of prioritising skill enhancement. This proactive gesture sets the precedence for team members to emulate, fostering a culture where learning is at the forefront of professional growth.


At HighSpark, our leaders exemplify this approach by setting aside one hour at the beginning of each month to reflect openly on their recently acquired skills. By sharing their learning experiences, they inspire team members to do the same, nurturing a culture of continuous learning and growth within the organisation.


Through these intentional actions, leaders set a compelling example for their teams. Their dedication to learning and development and their willingness to share experiences and progress fosters an environment where continuous learning is encouraged and celebrated.


#10 Involve Managers in the Learning Process

In any organisation, managers are crucial in supporting employee learning and development. However, unintentional barriers can arise if managers lack the necessary support, pass judgment, or fail to foster a safe environment for open learning. Proactive steps can be taken to overcome these challenges and create a positive learning culture.


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Before the Training:
Winning managers’ support for training begins with thorough briefings on the programme’s purpose and how it aligns with the organisation’s business objectives and strategy. When managers understand the bigger picture, they become enthusiastic champions for learning, nurturing a culture where growth is valued.


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During the Training:
While managers can certainly participate in workshops to encourage employee engagement and understanding, a more impactful approach involves empowering managers to become trainers themselves. A ripple effect of encouragement and support can permeate the organisation by offering managers training opportunities and subsequently entrusting them to lead their teams.


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After the Training:
The journey doesn’t end with the completion of the training. Give employees ample opportunities to practice and apply their newfound skills. Regular discussions with employees about progress provide valuable insights, allowing managers to offer personalised support and encouragement. Keeping the learning momentum going ensures that skills are continuously honed and integrated into daily work.


For more insights on how managers can play a significant role in fostering a learning-focused workplace, check out our next article on what you can do when managers are not aligned with the best practices.


#11 Nurturing a supportive learning environment

Intrinsic motivation thrives in a supportive and positive learning environment where participants feel encouraged to grow and develop. To create a supportive learning space, let’s address barriers and foster a brave space for individuals to shine.


Look out for these signs to test your organisational learning culture.


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Supportive Learning Environment:
Employees feel safe expressing their thoughts, questioning, and admitting mistakes. Different perspectives are valued, and innovation is encouraged through thoughtful process reviews.



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Learning Processes and Practices:
Knowledge creation, dissemination, and application are actively practised. Systems are in place for sharing knowledge, and every employee has a personalised development plan.


ManagersAsset 34 as Learning Advocates:

Managers actively engage in dialogue, encouraging diverse viewpoints and allocating time for learning and improvement efforts. They champion learning, reward growth, and provide unwavering support. Identifying and addressing deficiencies in these areas will help transform your organisation into a learning powerhouse where individuals thrive, and the collective potential is boundless.



Watch out for Potential Obstacles:


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Poor Learning Environment:
An unsupportive environment, including unsympathetic managers, a lack of encouragement, or a culture that undervalues learning, can deter employees from engaging in learning activities.



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Extended periods of stress and burnout can diminish motivation for learning, as individuals may struggle to find the energy and enthusiasm to participate in additional activities.


By proactively cultivating a supportive learning ecosystem and addressing potential obstacles, we can create an inspiring environment where learning is cherished and growth knows no bounds.


52% of our learners see time as a barrier to learning and development.


Employees are busy with day-to-day operations.

Imagine a day when your calendar is bursting with back-to-back meetings, your inbox is a chaotic sea of unread emails, and your to-do list feels like an insurmountable mountain. Sounds familiar? The fast-paced nature of our work lives leaves us little breathing room, let alone time for personal growth.


At HighSpark, where we’ve conducted over 200 training sessions for 4000 learners, we meticulously sifted through consolidated feedback from 500 learners to pinpoint the primary obstacles to learning. A staggering 56% of respondents identified time as the most significant hurdle to personal growth and skill enhancement.


In a world where the pace of change is relentless, the ticking clock becomes an ever-present foe for individuals striving to thrive in the evolving work landscape. Eventually, learning resources go unnoticed, excuses to avoid learning to multiply, and fingers start pointing at the organisation for not investing in employee growth, which can ultimately lead to a talent drain.


In this segment, we will dive into practical steps organisations can take to conquer time as a learning obstacle. These steps have been carefully consolidated from various sources and real-life client experiences, saving you the hassle of searching.


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#1 Eliminate time wasters to avoid the culture of busyness.


Research indicates that employees spend a significant portion of their workday dealing with irrelevant emails, contributing to decreased productivity and potential burnout


In a world obsessed with busyness, employees find it challenging to make time for learning amidst heavy workloads and competing priorities. Even during remote work, longer hours and unnecessary tasks have added to the problem.


Action 1: Managers and employees to identify time-consuming, low-value activities and foster deep work.

Organisations can combat the culture of busyness by embracing deep work, as championed by Cal Newport, author of the best-selling book Deep Work. Deep work involves dedicating sustained attention to demanding tasks, which can be hindered by shallow activities like data entry and nonessential meetings. Conducting a time audit can help identify cognitively demanding tasks, enabling managers to eliminate or replace shallow work with more efficient practices.


Action 2: HR’s role in steering away from the culture of busyness.

In pursuing a healthier work culture, HR departments take centre stage by fostering an environment where employees can thrive without being overwhelmed by an endless stream of tasks. By embracing the six recommended steps for work prioritisation outlined in AttendanceBot’s article, HR can equip employees with actionable strategies to optimise their time management, thus creating space for valuable learning opportunities.


Action 3: Leaders set the tone for a healthier work culture.

Leaders can lead by example, fostering a healthier work culture that values well-being over busyness. Emulating the practices of influential leaders like Mark Zuckerberg and Todd McKinnon, who prioritise personal time and well-being, inspires teams to follow suit and dedicate time to learning and growth.



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#2 Give employees permission to learn through time blocking.


When seeking personal and professional development, employees often struggle to allocate time for learning amidst their busy lives, managing personal commitments, family responsibilities, and other non-work activities.


Recognising these challenges, managers play a crucial role in fostering a supportive learning culture by allowing employees to integrate learning into their workdays through time blocking. This simple yet powerful approach strongly conveys that the organisation values personal growth as an essential aspect of its workforce.


For instance, at HighSpark, we have successfully overcome time constraints by dedicating an hour or two every Friday for various learning purposes:


Self learning through online courses

Self-learning through online courses:
Employees are encouraged to delve into subjects they are passionate about or contribute directly to their professional growth, providing autonomy for self-directed learners to chart their learning journeys.




In house virtual webinars

In-house virtual webinars:
We regularly organise in-house virtual webinars, where our in-house subject matter experts share their valuable insights and knowledge. These engaging webinars are designed to make the learning process captivating and highly relevant to our team members’ roles and aspirations.



Some of our clients have also embraced a similar approach to learning. After attending external workshops or training programmes, they take the initiative to conduct specialised workshops for their team members, sharing the valuable insights they gained. This knowledge-sharing reinforces learning within their teams and fosters a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement.


Application of acquired knowledge

Application of acquired knowledge:
For example, after attending a presentation workshop, we advocate breaking down our key learnings and scheduling dedicated practice sessions over the next few weeks, focusing on one skill at a time to master it effectively.



Reflection on learning

Reflection on learning experiences:
After attending workshops, we are encouraged to block time to discuss applying what they’ve learned and brainstorm ways to overcome potential learning obstacles.



Action 1: Implement company-wide learning time.

Set aside daily responsibilities and take some time to learn.

Managers can take action to allow employees to carve out time for growth within their work schedules. They can advocate for blocking short, dedicated periods during the workweek to explore new topics, attend webinars, participate in skill-building activities, and engage in online courses that align with their career objectives.


Offer flexible time-blocking arrangements for learning.

Recognising that every employee’s schedule may differ, managers should offer flexibility and encourage open discussions to customise time blocks according to individual needs. For instance, some employees may find value in reserving 30 minutes daily for continuous improvement activities.


Action 2: Help employees send clear signals that they are learning.

To further support learning endeavours, managers can assist in delegating workload during designated learning hours or inform colleagues of an employee’s learning schedule to minimise interruptions. Additionally, employees can set their email status to “Out of Office” during these learning sessions to focus without distractions.


Action 3: L&D to communicate time commitment and allow for focus sessions

Before attending workshops, L&D should communicate the expected time commitment to participants in advance. Employees can plan their schedules, including any necessary pre-work or preparation.


Moreover, granting permission to step out from daily operations during workshop sessions enables full engagement in the learning experience without feeling guilty or pressured. This supportive approach ensures employees can concentrate on learning, maximising the benefits of the workshop.



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#3 Break down learning into manageable chunks


To make learning less overwhelming, take a step-by-step approach and set specific goals for applying new learnings instead of trying to accomplish everything at once. For example, many of our learners who attended our workshops get excited about revamping their presentation decks but often feel overwhelmed because they need more time to do so before their next presentation.


To address this, we recommend applying one concept at a time. For the upcoming presentation, focus on crafting effective headlines. Then, in the next presentation, concentrate on using analogies. Taking small steps like this ensures a more manageable and successful learning journey. To implement this approach effectively, Learning and Development (L&D) teams can take the following three steps:


Action 1: Guide learners on how to apply what they learned


CPD Cycle

After a workshop or training session, L&D teams can follow up with learners to provide clear and actionable instructions on applying what they have learned. For example, introducing a framework like the CPD cycle is excellent in guiding learners through the stages of development after learning. It typically involves planning, doing, checking, and acting to continuously improve one’s professional skills and knowledge.


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Alternatively, L&D may provide employees with an action planning document to facilitate learning applications. This document could include sections for learners to identify their top learning objectives, articulate their application strategies, define the results they hope to achieve, and specify the resources and support they need to apply their learnings successfully. By prompting learners to create a detailed action plan, L&D helps ensure that the new knowledge is put into practice in a structured and effective manner that does not overwhelm the learners.


Action 2: Explore the Concept of Microlearning

Microlearning can be a powerful approach to breaking down learning into manageable chunks. For example, L&D teams can design a 30-day challenge, where learners tackle one concept or skill at a time, weekly or monthly. It’s important to note that learners may progress at different speeds, and some may complete the challenge more quickly than others.


Action 3: Begin with five minutes a day.

Remind learners that the pace of progress matters less than ensuring continuous improvement. Emphasise that learning constitutes an ongoing journey, and individuals advance at their own pace. Even short, regular learning sessions can significantly enhance your workforce’s skills. For instance, dedicating five minutes every morning to learning amounts to 25 minutes per week and 100 minutes per month!


Action 4: Gradually expand the existing five minutes a day with the 10/5 rule.

This entails allocating 10 minutes at 10 am and 5 minutes at 5 pm daily for learning. This practice aids employees in maintaining consistency and fostering a learning habit that frames the workday.



Asset 13#4 Ensure learning resources are easily accessible to save time from sourcing.


Employees spend a whopping 9.5 hours per week searching for quality learning resources


When employees lack a defined roadmap for learning, it can be challenging to identify the most productive areas to invest their time and effort in.


Action: Assign courses to employees

Managers are responsible for curating and assembling learning resources. These resources cover a wide range, from online courses and comprehensive training materials to webinars, workshops, and mentorship programmes.


By allocating courses aligned with an employee’s career objectives, you’re helping employees engage with learning quickly and directly, which solves the issue of “What do I learn first?”.


With easy access to high-quality learning materials, employees are motivated to invest time and energy into enhancing their skills and knowledge.


Furthermore, they know that these learning resources align with the organisation’s vision and goals, addressing the issue of ‘what to learn next?’ This knowledge inspires them to embrace continuous improvement as an integral part of their professional journey.



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#5 Evaluate existing training practices.


In the digital age, people are bombarded with information from various sources, leading to shorter attention spans. It becomes challenging for employees to devote prolonged periods to focused learning. To make learning experiences worth employees’ time, organisations need to evaluate their existing training practices.


By understanding employees’ preferred ways of learning, the desired frequency and duration of training, and the relevance of the training content, organisations can personalise the learning experience and make it more valuable for each individual.


Informal vs Formal Learning 1


Action: L&D to roll out surveys to identify employees’ learning preferences.

To implement personalised learning, organisations should roll out surveys to capture employees’ learning preferences and desired areas of development. You’ll be surprised to find out that traditional training approaches that require extended periods away from work or lengthy courses may not align well with employees’ busy schedules, making it harder for them to commit to learning. Perhaps they prefer something bite-sized like a lunch and learn crash course and one that allows them to learn on the go.


These insights can then be translated into tangible actions, such as revamping training programmes, curating tailored learning paths, and offering a range of resources that cater to individual needs. By continuously gathering feedback and adapting the learning experience, organisations foster a culture of growth and empower employees to thrive through personalised learning journeys.



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#6 Recognise that learning can happen anywhere and anytime.


This section explores the 70-20-10 rule, which emphasises that formal learning should be kept to a minimum, allowing for significant time outside formal learning activities such as engaging in social learning or integrating learning into day-to-day operations.


70 20 10 Rule 1


Let’s visualise how the 70-20-10 rule can be implemented in a presentation training context:


10%: Formal / Informal Self-Directed Learning
Allocate a small portion of your time to attend a full-day workshop or enrol in an online course specifically tailored to enhance your presentation skills. This structured learning will equip you with foundational knowledge and essential techniques. For those with busy schedules, you can also explore self-directed options like subscribing to relevant newsletters or listening to podcasts during your daily commute to stay updated and informed.


20%: Social Learning
Actively seek manager, peer, or mentor feedback by delivering real-life presentations. You can also record your presentations and analyse them for improvement. Alternatively, you can explore creating group chats after attending a formal training event or joining public speaking or Toastmasters clubs to keep knowledge sharing alive.


70%: Experiential Learning
Apply your presentation skills to everyday conversations and interactions. Whether it’s team meetings, client discussions, or informal gatherings, treat each opportunity as a chance to practice and hone your skills.


By following the 70-20-10 rule, organisations and individuals can leverage the natural way people learn, seamlessly integrating learning into the daily workflow. It empowers individuals to learn continually without overwhelming them with additional learning commitments. Remember, the percentages are not rigid but serve as a reminder of where learning predominantly occurs.


Action 1: L&D to build learning interventions following the 70-20-10

To maximise learning outcomes and foster a culture of continuous development, L&D teams should adopt the 70-20-10 model when designing learning interventions so organisations can seamlessly integrate skill development into daily operations without overwhelming employees’ time. Check out this article for a comprehensive understanding of the 70-20-10 concept and practical implementation strategies.


While incorporating the 70-20-10 model into your organisation’s learning and development strategy is a powerful way to enhance employee development, it’s crucial to acknowledge that not all employees are at the same stage when it comes to becoming self-directed learners. Some individuals may thrive in a self-directed learning environment, while others might still require guidance and support in determining the most suitable learning format for their needs and the most effective way to learn.


Understanding the various stages of a self-directed learning model, such as the one proposed by Gerald Grow, can be immensely beneficial for L&D teams. Read more about the Four Stages of Self-Directed Learning here.


Action 2: Employees to embrace informal learning opportunities

Identify regular practice opportunities in your daily work routine, such as team meetings, client interactions, or any other relevant scenarios where you can practice the newly acquired skills regularly. Embrace these chances to refine your abilities, making the learning process integral to your professional growth.



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#7 Offer guidance on applying newly learned skills.


To help employees apply their newly acquired skills, offer close guidance and support during the application phase. Some learners may struggle with overthinking when applying what they’ve learned, and time pressure adds to the challenge. In such cases, seeking assistance from managers, coaches, or trainers can be beneficial in speeding up the application process.



Fastest Learner Wins


The fastest learner wins.

By implementing these practical solutions and strategies, you can overcome the lack of learning time and prioritise continuous professional growth and development. Remember, you can adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world by investing in your learning journey.



Up Next: Learning isn’t perceived as valuable.

You know that feeling when you’re about to hit the gym, but suddenly, other activities seem way more enticing? Well, the same goes for learning. Employees who don’t see the value in learning will conveniently use “not enough time” as an excuse to learn or apply what they learned. Ultimately, it all boils down to their intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.


While we have extensively explored the culture of busyness, designing effective learning interventions, and making learning convenient in this article, we’ll now delve into another underlying factor that greatly influences learners’ behaviour in using time as an excuse not to learn – motivation. Head over to the next article to explore more.


Setting Up Your Organisational Learning For Success


The Complexities of Soft Skills Training

In our journey to foster effective learning and development, we face a significant challenge in applying soft skills compared to hard skills. Although vital for personal and professional growth, soft skills present unique obstacles in their measurement and application. Let’s delve into the top three reasons that make the development and monitoring of soft skills a formidable task.


Harder to measure
Unlike the more straightforward nature of hard skills training, like safety and compliance, the impact of soft skills is not quantifiable. The effectiveness of soft skills often manifests through subtleties, such as improved teamwork dynamics or enhanced, none of which can be adequately captured by a simple numerical scale.


Indirect influence
The application of soft skills depends on various intangible factors such as individual personality, work environment, team dynamics, and organisational culture. These complexities make it challenging to assess the direct influence of soft skills training.


Longer Time Frame
Moreover, the development and applicability of soft skills often require a more extended timeframe and ongoing practice. Unlike hard skills that can immediately be applied to specific tasks, soft skills necessitate continuous reinforcement and refinement to become ingrained in employees’ behaviours.


Analysing Pre and Post-Pandemic Data Trends: A Three-Year Comparison

Drawing from valuable feedback from our past learners, we have identified the most prevalent roadblocks that hinder the seamless transfer of knowledge and skills from workshops to practical application in the workplace.


During the pandemic, time emerged as a major obstacle to learning. However, as businesses have begun to recover, we’ve noticed the emergence of additional learning challenges. This suggests that time is no longer the sole barrier employees face in their learning journey, although it remains the most significant.


Looking back, it’s clear that both organisations and learners are trying to promote a learning culture, and there has been improvement since the pandemic. This is a positive development. However, we shouldn’t overlook the fact that these challenges haven’t completely disappeared, and it’s still important to address them


HighSpark Internal Data. 001 2



  • The data for this analysis was collected from 300-500 learners who attended our workshops from 2020 to 2022.
  • The study includes learners from diverse backgrounds and various organisations.
  • The participants providing feedback differed each year, potentially contributing to some of the observed fluctuations in the data.


Unlocking your path to a successful organisational L&D initiative.

To address these obstacles head-on, we present a blog post series offering practical insights to assess your organisation’s current learning practices and empower you to overcome these barriers.


Throughout the series, we’ll share four articles dedicated to a specific obstacle and its potential solutions to create a more conducive learning environment within your organisation.


To dive deeper into these core obstacles, click on the links below for detailed insights:

  1. Lack of time to learn
  2. Lack of motivation to learn
  3. Managers not aligned with best practices
  4. Lack of guidance and opportunities to practice


Interactive checklist to guide you along.


The Ultimate Checklist to copy 1


Download this checklist to assist you in holding yourself accountable for implementing some of the strategies we introduced. It includes comprehensive, actionable tasks that complement each blog post to help you audit and revamp your current learning and development initiatives.


Within the checklist, we’ve assigned four pivotal roles for fostering employee development. By outlining these roles, we provide clarity and understanding to everyone involved, empowering them to contribute effectively to enhancing employee development initiatives.


They are

  1. Employees
  2. Managers
  3. Leaders
  4. HR/L&D Specialists


Use the checklist to audit existing practices:

  1. Flag areas where you are not currently implementing effective practices.
  2. Assign clear ownership and accountability for each identified obstacle.
  3. Collaborate with stakeholders to develop and implement actionable strategies to enhance your organisation’s L&D initiatives.


Overcoming these core obstacles is not a mere wish; it’s a necessity.

Remember, failure to do so could lead to lost productivity and missed opportunities for growth, and, eventually, failure to retain employees. By breaking down barriers and fostering a thriving learning culture, you’ll position yourself for success in today’s competitive business landscape.



Overcoming Hurdles in Learning Transfer – Managerial Misalignment


When Managers Hinder Learning’s Journey

Imagine a team of enthusiastic employees who just completed a series of Presentation Skills Workshop, brimming with newfound confidence to conquer stages and captivate audiences. The excitement is noticeable as they envision themselves delivering impactful presentations that leave a lasting impression.


However, as the spotlight shifts away from the training room, a lurking challenge emerges—one that often remains in the shadows: managerial misalignment. In this exploration, we embark on a journey to understand the hurdles that arise when managers and L&D efforts find themselves on different trajectories.


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Challenge #1: Managers in the Shadows

Time is often a scarce resource in the fast-paced world of management. This scarcity can lead to a situation where managers find it challenging to attend the learning sessions alongside their team members. The consequences? A disconnect between what transpired in the training room and what managers are aware of.


With this communication gap, managers are left uninformed about the skills and knowledge their team members have acquired. This misalignment often results in missed opportunities for managers to provide the necessary guidance and support for applying new skills.


Asset 27


Challenge #2: Clashes of Technique and Tradition

Within every team, there are established practices and methodologies that managers and team members are comfortable with. When managers have their own techniques that differ from those introduced in the workshop, it creates a mismatch.


Employees now armed with fresh skills might feel reluctant to embrace these skills if they perceive a misalignment between what they’ve learned and what their managers practice. This can lead to scepticism and hesitation and ultimately hinder the successful transfer of learning.


Asset 26


Challenge #3: The Support Conundrum

A supportive and encouraging environment is essential for employees to experiment confidently with their newly acquired skills. Unfortunately, when managers lack the freedom to provide the space for practice or exhibit a judgmental attitude, employees may feel apprehensive. This lack of psychological safety dampens the eagerness to apply new skills, leaving employees stuck between their desire to learn and the fear of negative repercussions.



Empowering Managers to Enhance Employee Learning Experiences in the Workplace

Managers play a pivotal role in shaping the success of L&D initiatives, and their involvement can significantly impact the overall effectiveness of the learning process. According to research by Will Thalheimer, a founder of The Learning Transfer Evaluation Model, “Learners with supervisors who encourage, support, and monitor learning transfer are more likely to transfer successfully.”


As we’ve delved into the challenges of managerial misalignment in facilitating learning transfer, it’s imperative to explore how managers can actively engage and support their teams to bridge the gap between training and application. The first step is to understand the different levels of managerial support.


Understanding The Different Levels of Managerial Support

Managerial support encompasses a spectrum of involvement, from basic acceptance of training attendance to active participation as trainers. Here are the varying levels of support that managers can offer to ensure the successful transfer of training:


Levels of Managerial Support. 001


To maximise the transfer of training, trainees need to achieve the highest level of support possible. The greater the level of support, the more likely that transfer of training will occur.


A Glimpse into Best Practices

Let’s delve into a sample scenario illustrating how managers can actively prepare, participate in, support, and sustain learning in a presentation training workshop for optimal learning transfer.


Asset 25


Step 1: Leaders Lead the Way

When the need arises to enhance presentation skills, this organisation takes a distinct route. Rather than instructing employees directly, the leadership steps forward. Senior-level leaders embrace the opportunity to undergo the presentation skills workshop themselves. This initial phase sets the stage for a powerful cascading effect.


Step 2: Leaders Become Instructors (Option 1)

After mastering the skills, these leaders become pioneers and instructors. They receive guidance on effectively conducting training sessions for the entire workforce. This guidance includes clear pre-training communication that explains the workshop’s purpose and what participants can expect. This demonstrates the organisation’s unwavering commitment to talent development.


Step 2: Partnering with L&D Specialist (Option 2)

However, if leaders are unable or unwilling to become instructors, they can still play a critical role in collaborating closely with L&D specialists to discuss learning needs and challenges. They have direct insights into their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and can offer crucial input to ensure the training addresses specific pain points and learning gaps.


Additionally, managers must communicate closely with their employees about the importance of attending the workshop. They clarify why participation is essential, setting the stage for an engaged and motivated learning experience. This collaborative approach ensures that all leaders and managers, whether they become instructors or not, are actively engaged in the learning process and contribute to its effectiveness.


Step 3: Facilitate Understanding

During the workshop, they actively ensure that employees are fully engaged and everyone understands the material by addressing questions and providing real-world examples. This hands-on approach by leaders fosters a dynamic and effective learning environment.


Step 4: Individualised Support

Following each training session, managers meet one-on-one with the participants to dive into their learning experiences. These sessions provide a platform for in-depth discussions about what was learned and offer personalised coaching and support. This personal touch ensures that learning doesn’t stop with the workshop but continues to foster individual growth.


Step 5: Sustained Growth

The organisation’s commitment to growth doesn’t end after training. Leaders actively contribute to skill development by following a structured approach towards career progression over the years. This approach includes setting clear expectations, providing real-time feedback, and holding themselves and their employees accountable for reaching talent development goals.


In this scenario, the organisation’s dedication to learning isn’t just a passing effort; it’s a dynamic ecosystem driven by leadership involvement, continuous support, and accountability. Each stage contributes to a comprehensive approach to learning transfer, where skills are honed, knowledge is shared, and growth becomes a collective journey.



A Checklist to Gauge Managerial Support

A checklist can be a valuable tool to gauge the extent of managerial support before, during, and after training. By assessing the agreement with a series of statements, managers can identify their level of support and tailor their involvement accordingly. The checklist acts as a roadmap for managers to align their actions with the needs of the learning process.


Before the Workshop

  • Understand the workshop topic to ensure it aligns with team objectives and requirements.
  • Offer insights to L&D on the training needs and provide any necessary resources to facilitate the workshop design.
  • Explain the importance of the workshop to employees and how it will contribute to their day-to-day operations.
  • Communicate workshop details (date, time, location and expectations or requirements) directly to employees instead of L&D specialists to demonstrate the importance of the learning event.


During the Workshop

  • Check on employee progress and understanding regularly.
  • Assist in answering any questions.
  • Encourage participation in activities.
  • Facilitate understanding by connecting the newly found knowledge to the real-life context.
  • Bonus: Managers to participate in the workshop to set an example.
  • Bonus: If possible, managers who have mastered the skills to become instructors.


After the Workshop

  • Schedule a meeting with employees to discuss their observations and ideas from the workshop.
  • Determine how newly acquired skills can be applied to their work.
  • Provide necessary support and ideas to assist in implementing new skills.
  • Consider additional training sessions to reinforce learning if required.
  • Create opportunities for on-the-job practice.


3 ways to improve your L&D needs analysis and drive organisational growth


It’s the time of the year again when Learning and Development managers plan for the year ahead. Sending a survey to gather insights about the learning needs is a common practice, but exactly how useful would these insights be? Will the data collected help L&D managers strategise learning initiatives that can drive organisational value and performance? 

The answer lies in how your questions are crafted. In the article “Is your feedback form effective?”, we explored the importance of designing purposeful questions that can solicit insightful responses. We can take the same approach for the Employee Learning Needs Surveys by being clear on: 

  1. The objectives behind the questions; and
  2. The types of questions to ask to help you achieve your objectives.

There are three areas to consider for purposeful and actionable insights from your employees. These areas can potentially save you massive amounts of money from implementing learning solutions that don’t deliver outcomes.

Different learning motivations Learning needs analysis Highspark

1. Look beyond the “What” and understand the “Why”.

“What skills do you want to learn?” is a standard question. 

A generic question like this would typically generate generic responses such as “communication skills, presentation skills, facilitation skills”.  While the question helps to identify relevant programme topics, it doesn’t offer insights into how the suggested skills:

  • are essential in enabling the learners’ to perform better at work; or
  • can support them in career progression (upwards or sideways); or
  • would help the teams or organisation excel.

Furthermore, the same responses may be given but with very different sets of motivations. 

Same-same, but different

For example, if both Sandy and Andrew indicate their interest to improve their presentation skills, without digging deeper into the “WHY” behind their responses, L&D managers may conclude that a presentation course is the solution. However, upon a closer look, Sandy and Andrew require different learning interventions to reach their desired outcome.

Sandy’s motivations and desires: 
  • Feel more confident to voice out her ideas during meetings.
  • Be perceived as competent and as a result, increase her chances of being selected for a leadership position. 
Andrew’s motivations and desires:
  • Help customers understand complex concepts for the projects he handles, so they see the value of his recommendations. 
  • Be trusted to manage bigger and more sophisticated projects.

Their learning objectives and outcomes are vastly different. Prescribing a generic presentation course to them doesn’t take into consideration their contextual needs and definitely won’t help them achieve their goals.

Here are a few follow-up questions you can include to remove ambiguity in responses: 

  • Why is this skill important to you?
  • Describe how this skill can enable you to excel at work
  • Describe the (personal or work) challenges that this skill can help you to address 

Note: The word “Describe” prompts the surveyor to elaborate their responses. This allows you to capture more nuances.


Result oriented training Learning needs analysis Highspark

2. Consider the most effective way to turn skills into results

Managers have to look beyond the process of learning to ensure that any solutions prescribed would be effective in achieving their goals. Learning is only the beginning. What gets your learners, teams, and organisation the results is the application of the skills, yet many learners struggle to apply what they’ve learnt. 

There are times when programmes are well-run and well-received but soon after the programme, learners revert to the default. This is as though the training didn’t take place at all! 

It is not the learners’ fault

One may reason that the learners weren’t committed enough to apply learnings but from our findings, most reasons are beyond the learners’ control. Two classic examples are:

Example 1: Lack of alignment


“My direct boss isn’t aligned to the best practices of effective presentations. I couldn’t convince him, and he kept revising my work. So, I gave up. If only my boss attended this course!”


Example 2: Lack of opportunities


“I haven’t had the opportunity to present my ideas for the past 2 months. Hence, I can’t practise”


There are also times when the learning solutions were well-designed but learners felt that they weren’t useful in helping them achieve their goals. Rather than tackling these obstacles after the learning initiative has concluded, you can prevent them from surfacing.


Consider including these questions in your L&D needs survey to set your learners up for success: 


What have you tried to get better at X?
What worked and didn’t work?

If the employees have attended fundamental courses in the past, you can plan programmes to reinforce their existing knowledge rather than sending them for another similar course. You can also adopt elements that are effective and avoid pitfalls.


What are some reasons/potential reasons that are stopping you from getting better at X?

You may find that employees aren’t skilled in certain areas not because they aren’t interested to learn but because they struggle to find time to do so. If this is a common challenge across teams, L&D teams can consider micro-learning or speaking to team leads to dedicate a specific amount of time in a month to learning.


What needs to be considered in order to ensure skills can be applied at work?

This allows L&D teams to set up processes and involve relevant stakeholders who are critical to the success of the learning. These insights can also help training partners take into account the organisation’s contextual requirements to customise programmes and materials.


What would be the most effective way for you to get better at X?
Give a score for the following so that they add up to 100.
    1. On-the-job coaching by an expert
    2. Mentoring from boss  
    3. Learning from peers 
    4. Teaching peers 
    5. Project-based learning 
    6. Structured classroom learning
    7. Micro-learning
    8. Others

Notes: You may list a few options for learners to choose from but always leave room for alternative suggestion(s) to unearth new possibilities.   


Ask positive questions Learning needs analysis Highspark

3. Positive framing of questions

While one of the objectives for the Learning Needs Analysis is to unearth competency gaps, we have to be careful around using words with negative connotations. “Gaps” is one such word. 

This is especially so when a survey form isn’t kept anonymous. One may hesitate to provide honest feedback to HR or L&D teams with the fear that it may affect their work appraisal. Would revealing more gaps create a perception that they are incompetent? Competent people have little to improve, isn’t it? 


To tackle these, you can:

Avoid questions such as: “What would you like to improve?”

This can make learners feel that they are lacking in something and deter them from being transparent about their gaps for fear it may affect their performance appraisal. 

Instead, use questions such as “What skills would help you excel even more at your current job?”

This is empowering as we are looking for ways to support them and help them to shine even brighter. This may allow you to uncover performance goals that aren’t on the standard list, m e.g. Productivity.  



Parting thoughts:

With these considerations, you will be able to cover both breadth and depth in your survey of learning needs. 

Most importantly, purposeful and thoughtfully crafted questions will offer you valuable insights to guide you in designing an L&D initiative that delivers results. 

After all, money spent on learning solutions that aren’t outcome-driven becomes an expense rather than an investment to the organisation. 

P.S: Yes, you might be doubling the length of your survey and having employees spend more time completing it. But if we look at the bigger picture, what’s 10 more minutes as compared to many hours of training that doesn’t work? 



Photo credits: @stories via