By: Susan Murphy, Director of Education
If I were to ask you to name one of the most critical competencies for success in healthcare and healthcare IT, how would you answer? Technical aptitude? Deep clinical expertise? No doubt those are important, but the one I had in mind was actually lifelong learning. This skill is now recognized by educators, accreditation organizations, certification boards, and employers as one of the most important competencies that successful people can possess.
I’ve written previously about the dizzying pace of change we all face. Products change, software changes, processes and policies change, and so too do the needs of our businesses and the customers we serve. To keep up with all this change successfully, we must be able to adapt to it. And learning is a key component in developing that ability. Consider the importance of this attribute in recruitment. For healthcare leaders facing a multitude of changes on every front, it may be vital to choose lifelong learners when building teams that navigate major changes successfully.
Lifelong learning doesn’t require being permanently enrolled in classes or continually racking up qualifications. It’s more an attitude and set of behaviors that help us succeed. If you are choosing among several strong candidates to hire, how do you recognize a lifelong learner? Watch for these characteristics:
Do you recognize yourself and your team members in some of these? As you consider each of the characteristics, ask yourself how you and your team measure up, and commit to doing better. Set an example for others by following a blog or two on a topic of interest or strike up a conversation with someone whose knowledge or skills you admire, regardless of their position in the organization. It’s never too late to build a team of lifelong learners who face and conquer change with the success that all great organizations seek.
As a professional in the world of training and development, I find that people are constantly coming to me with training needs. “We need a class,” they tell me. Clearly, I love classes; however, I always try to remind people that a class is only one component of the learning process. What happens before and after the class should be every bit as important as what happens in it.
I believe that learning transfer—the process of taking the information learned in a class and applying it to the job—is an absolutely critical component of training. It’s also one of the biggest challenges for instructors: We can try to fill our learners’ heads with knowledge, but how much of that will reach the workplace, where they need to use it? After all, we don’t train people so that they know more, we train them so that they can do more, or better, or differently. The goal of training is to improve performance.
So how can we help make the transfer from the classroom to the workplace happen? One way to facilitate transfer is to make sure our learners are ready to learn. Adult learners need to be motivated. They need to believe that the new skills they will be learning are relevant and will be of benefit to them, and they need to feel confident they’ll be able to use those new skills on the job. Taking some time to make sure learners are motivated, enthusiastic, and understand how the training will help them is a great investment and one that research shows can increase learning transfer by up to 70 percent.
Make sure that the training classes you deliver or attend answer the question: “What’s in it for me?” Structuring training—whether live, online, or at a distance—to reinforce meaningful benefits, both explicitly and implicitly, will help make sure learners stay open to the class content and are ready to use it back on the job, where it matters most.
Organizations spend vast sums of money each year training their employees. How vast? According to the American Society of Training & Development's 2010 industry report, American businesses spent $125.9 billion – yes, billion – on employee learning and development in 2009.
If you work in a hospital, that figure may not surprise you. What’s interesting, however, is that for all the time and money that goes into training, much less goes into evaluating that training comprehensively.
Evaluating training fully can be complicated, and I’ll talk more about how to do it in future posts. However, in its simplest form, evaluation can be easy while still yielding valuable results. The good news is that if your survey questions are designed well, you can go beyond learning whether trainees liked the instructor and found the room comfortable to getting a good idea of trainee perceptions about the value of the training.
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of training surveys:
Of course, the most important thing to remember about surveys is to actually use the information you gather. Make sure you compile and analyze the data regularly so that you can see what each trainee thinks about his or her learning experience and how it can be improved.
Finally, keep in mind that the best survey in the world is worthless without user participation. So make it easy for trainees to fill out their surveys and send them reminders if necessary. And when you receive a survey invitation yourself – whether from an internal training provider, HMS or another vendor – please take a few moments to respond. Your thoughtful feedback can help ensure that the dollars spent by your organization on training are spent wisely.
A theme is emerging within the HMS blog: change. We face a dizzying array of changes in our daily lives and the degree of change seems to be especially magnified in the world of health care. Add to that the daily act of balancing life and work, and it’s a wonder that we manage to accomplish anything, let alone keep up with new features and functionality in the software we use to do our jobs. But keep up we must. So how do we learn about the changes that impact us in our work? How can we transfer new understanding and knowledge to the workplace in the face of competing priorities, challenges, interests and sources? For more and more professionals, online training resources are the answer.
Accessible 24/7, internet-based eLearning gives hospital staff a more flexible approach to learning to get the information they need when they need it. It can be a productive – and cost-effective – alternative or complement to classroom training and some of its attendant hassles, such as scheduling conflicts, travel costs and time taken away from critical job duties. Web-based classes allow learners to train when it suits them. eLearning is self-paced, so learners can move through the material as quickly as they like, or they can slow down and review lessons until they’re confident they get it. Thanks to features like bookmarking, learners who are interrupted can pause their learning and come back to it later – try doing that to an instructor! These days, many eLearning classes are broken down into units of 10-15 minutes, making them easy to squeeze into already busy working days.
Clearly, not every topic is suited for delivery online. You certainly wouldn’t want to complete a CPR certification without hands-on practice, for instance, and there are times when feedback and mentoring from an expert instructor are critical. Well-designed eLearning classes are packed with activities that help people engage with and learn the material, while automated testing helps prove competence. Underscoring the effectiveness of this approach, a number of recent studies have shown that eLearning not only requires 40-60 percent LESS time than instructor-led training, but also achieves equivalent or better gains in learning retention and transfer.
So when busy professionals wonder how to fit learning into a day that’s already jam-packed, more and more are giving eLearning a try. For many reasons, it’s just the change they are looking for.
Frank Newlands, M.D.