How to Increase the Impact of Professional Development | D2L
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  • 4 Min Read

How to Make Professional Development Sticky

Harnessing professional development to build a lifelong learning culture

To learning and development professionals, the concept of sticky learning is nothing new. It’s one of the things that’s always rolling around in the back of our minds. How do we make our learning content and approaches more impactful and help learners not only retain but also make use of the information? Learning psychologists have been studying this for years and have come up with some fantastic ways to help people form long-term recollections, develop new behaviors, and deepen their understanding.

How to Increase the Impact of Professional Development

One of those approaches is the handy LEARNS acronym created by Stella Collins, learning psychologist and author of Neuroscience for Learning and Development. Here’s the overview:

  • Linking: Link content back to what people already know, so they can build on it.
  • Emotions: When we like something, we get a hit of dopamine that makes us want to repeat it.
  • Anchor: Create a deliberate connection between two things. This could be a picture, sound, or word used to immediately trigger a memory.
  • Repetition: To overcome the forgetting curve, strengthen neuronal connections by using repetitive, spaced applications of information.
  • Novelty: The excitement of trying something new creates an urge to share it, causing us to engage in repetition.
  • Story: Rolling information into a great story uses all of the other letters from this acronym to make the learning truly stick.

It’s clear that using these concepts in content design will lead to highly impactful courses and experiences, but how can we apply this acronym to the entire learning culture of our organization?

One of the foundational challenges in workplace learning is getting employees to engage in and embrace lifelong learning. Employees are busy getting through their day-to-day work.

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How to Build a Lifelong Learning Culture

How can we motivate employees to consistently want to spend a portion of their limited time on continuous learning?

Solution: Make it immediately valuable to them! Here are some ideas:

1. Prioritize conversations about learning goals

Meet with team members one on one to discuss their current skills and knowledge and help them develop professional development goals. From that discussion, give them learning opportunities that bridge the gap, starting from where they are now and progressing to where they want to be. Help them develop a lifelong learning plan.

This is a real-world way to use linking.

2. Check in during skill building

While your team members are going through their courses/programs/training, ask them how it feels to be learning. Ask what they have learned that really excites them and what they have experienced that they want to avoid in the future. All emotions, good and bad, can elicit a memorable response.

This is a real-world way to use emotions.

3. Remember that words matter

Use conversations to intentionally create a connection between the words “lifelong” and “learning” and the positive feeling of achieving goals. When team members hear “lifelong learning,” this will help them immediately think of their goals and start planning approaches to achieve them.

This is a real-world way to use an anchor.

4. Stay focused on outcomes

Each time you meet with your team members to discuss their learning, ask them to expand on previous conversations and share anything new they have learned since you last spoke. This not only allows for repetition to happen but also encourages the practical application of learning in their personal and professional lives.

This is a real-world way to use repetition.

5. Be curious

To uncover the emotional reaction to learning, ask about the things that are totally new and exciting that have come from the learning experience. A great way to make novelty repetitious is to have the person teach and share with you the concept they have just learned.

This is a real-world way to use novelty.

6. Let the student be the teacher

Have your team members share their learning success stories with everyone! These success stories can include why they wanted to learn something new, how they accessed courses to support their desire to learn, what they learned, and how it has impacted their lives.

This is a real-world way to use story.

Success stories can help anchor the topic of lifelong learning into your organizational culture by eliciting positive emotions. It’s important to celebrate those who have taken on new challenges and encourage those who may still be thinking about making the leap back into education. When these success stories become things that are regularly, repetitively shared across the company, they encourage others to focus on developing new skills too.

Lifelong learning culture doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional effort and action to nurture.

The benefit of that upfront effort is not only in the development of skills and knowledge across your organization. It’s also in the excitement from your teams and an emotional connection that comes from working for a company that values their professional development and growth.

Interested in simplifying how employees access professional development activities that align to your departmental needs? Check out D2L Wave! As a free-to-use upskilling education platform, employers only pay for the courses their employees take. D2L Wave streamlines how employees search, request, register, and pay for professional development activities.

Check out D2L Wave

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