Scrabble letters spelling out I am still learning.

Training at Work is Not Like School

I found this post recently and it resonated with me, not least because I’m currently in Week 2 of a new job and I’m feeling the pull to learn what I need to know now, versus all of the things I might need to know.

The Gap Between Education and Work That Kills Performance

Much of our education system is built on the ‘just in case’ model, and it kinda makes sense if you have no idea what students will go on to do.

They need a foundation of some sort.

However, this conflicts with the world of work, where we flip to a ‘just in time’ model. It’s compounded by the fact that we don’t recognise this and address it when people make the transition from education to work.

Do we approach training from a “just in case” mindset, where we teach employees everything they might need to know before we get them started doing any productive work, or should we be approaching it from a “just in time” mindset, where they continuously learn new skills as they are needed?

It matters when we think about performance. As I mentioned, I am on work day 7 in my new role. There is a ton I do not know. Not so much about the specific work I was hired for, but about the myriad things and people I’m tasked with working with. The question is, how much of that do I need to know right now? What knowledge do I need to get started using the skills I brought with me to start contributing? Obviously, there’s some base level of onboarding that needs to be done, but what do we include as part of that process versus what should be available on-demand for me to access when I need it?

It’s a difficult question to answer. Creating on-demand content and keeping it up to date is more work for training and development staff than forcing everyone to spend more time learning things they might need to know during a live training session. But, we all know that the amount of information we retain from those initial “throw everything at you at once” sessions is not a lot. There is a limit to how much we can take in at one time. There is a lot of benefit to using a “just in time” approach, even if it is more difficult.

The other thing is, even if someone sat me down and told me all of the things I needed to know “just in case”, there would still be stuff missing. That would be all the things we don’t even know that we will need to know in the future. Look at how much the technology we use at work has changed in the last couple of years. The world of work is an environment that requires us to never stop learning new things just when we need them. Our training and development models should be built for that.

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