Training Industry Magazine - July/August 2018 - 11

SCIENCE OF LEARNING
SRINI PILLAY, M.D.

TOOLS AND APPROACHES
TO DELIVER LEARNING:

THE LEARNING CRISIS REVISITED

Learning professionals are facing a crisis
that is not being addressed sufficiently.
Workplaces are all too frequently toxic,
and as a result, the learner is not prepared
to learn much of anything. No matter
how fancy the delivery, how interesting
the material, or how essential the new
skills are, you can't learn if you are not
engaged. And engagement at work
is only 13 percent worldwide. That is,
more than eight out of 10 people are not
involved, enthusiastic, or committed to
their work or workplace. In this context,
how can you learn? How can the brain
hold onto anything?
In order to learn, we have to fix the
engagement problem. And it is going to
take more than entertaining tricks to do
this. At the core, the workforce is facing
immense challenges: stress, burnout, and
depression are rife. This puts the brain
in "low-engagement mode." Unless we
step out of our denial and do something
about these variables first, learning will go
nowhere, fast.

YOU CAN'T LEARN IF
YOU'RE NOT ENGAGED.

If you are in charge of learning in your
organization, approach the CEO with
this suggestion. Ask how learning can
become part of your engagement
strategy. Explain that the brain that
executes best on strategy, is one that is
engaged by new learning.

program through your employee
assistance program. Form a partnership
with a local hospital for telephone
support if necessary. Providing support
will enhance employee commitment and
engagement and through that route, also
impact learning.

2. UNDERSTAND BURNOUT

4. TARGET LEARNING

Rather than denying burnout by
talking about resilience to disengaged
employees, try to understand if burnout is
affecting your organization. Nobody likes
to admit to being burned out, and it can
impact the morale of the organization.
However, since engagement is tied
to burnout, it is likely impacting the
company's productivity and learning.
A burned-out brain is one that has
metaphorically blown its learning fuses.
That's why you need to attend to this.

Learning should be targeted according
to a learner's needs where possible. To
be motivated to learn, learners must
find the learning material to be relevant
and congruent with who they are.
Learning management systems should
strive to make this a dynamic part of the
learning effort.

Use a tool to measure burnout and
implement interventions continuously.
Maslach and Leiter have a burnout
inventory, and there are various companies
that offer burnout tools. When you have a
sense of what is causing your burnout, you
can target this with specific interventions.
3. ADDRESS DEPRESSION

1. LEARNING NEEDS TO BE A
DEDICATED FUNCTION
The chief learning officer should work
closely with the CEO to align the learning
and business goals. Too often, learning is
sheltered under some irrelevant umbrella
as an "expense" item. It is ignored. But
when you ignore mental stimulation,
you're not doing much for engagement
or productivity.

Depression is a largely unaddressed
problem within organizations but is one
of the top three workplace problems
and impact learning. When people are
depressed, their brains are impacted so
that they can't sleep or concentrate, and
they have no energy. Learning will flail in
this context.
Offer mental health screening and
support, and have a de-stigmatization

Work with program designers to elicit
who might want to learn about a topic,
as well as why they should learn about
this. By using technology that ties
workplace engagement with learning,
learners can also feel like their learning
needs are being met.
New tools and approaches will fail if we
do not prepare learners' brains to absorb
and remember information. In lieu of the
current crisis in workplace engagement,
learning professionals should not deliver
learning in a vacuum. It matters where
your learning lands. Caring about that, will
ensure that investments in learning are
more worthwhile.
Dr. Srini Pillay is the CEO of NeuroBusiness
Group. He is also assistant professor (parttime) at Harvard Medical School and
teaches in the executive education programs
at Harvard Business School and Duke CE.
Email Srini.

T R A I N I N G I N DUSTR Y MA GAZ INE - TRAINING TOOLBOX 20 18 I WWW. T RAI NINGINDU S T RY . C OM/ MAGAZ I NE

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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Magazine - July/August 2018

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