Adult learners have different challenges to any other age of learner and so learning in the workplace cannot be considered lightly. The effects of real, live training in the workplace is far-reaching and advantageous. Changes in the modern workplace create challenges for all adult employees. The knowledge-based economy creates a dire need for continuous learning of new and renovating of old skills. As the requirement for workplace expertise intensifies, the need for organisations to establish an environment encouraging continuous professional growth becomes paramount to establishing competitive advantage.
The word “facilitator” has its roots in the French word “facile”, which means, “to make easy or less difficult” or “more easily achieved”. This definition begs the question: “What is it that the facilitator needs to make more easy and for whom?” The answer is that the facilitator needs to make the learning process easy for the learner to be competent in the outcomes for the particular training programme. Indeed, workplaces should be cautious about the medium of learning and most importantly the facilitator of learning because a facilitator will ensure that the four stages of learning actually take place.
For true skills transfer, the adult learner must first experience something directly, an actual experience. Then he requires time to reflect on this experience, to understand and compare it to what he already knows. The adult learner then develops new ideas about the skill concept or process. And the last stage follows and involves the learner acting on the new thought or observation. This action forms the basis of future learning. Complete learning happens when adult learners move through all four stages and the new-found knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes become the basis for changed behaviour. For real, live training to occur in the workplace and all four stages of learning to be achieved a real, live facilitator should be used.
For real, live training the facilitator should, without any doubt, be a subject matter expert (SME). No amount of “trimmings” will disguise a facilitator’s ignorance or lack of preparation. He should also know, and apply, the principles of assessment, whether facilitating a credit-based Programme or not. If there is no assessment how can progress be measured? Adult learners need a reason for engaging in learning and a motivation to learn. A real person can help to solve problems on the spot, in the correct context and progress the learners faster than any other medium. Workplaces should provide the appropriate motivation through real, live training via the facilitator who “knows his stuff.”
The ideal facilitator must also be teachable himself. No one is above training, and the facilitator who is teachable will invite interaction from his learners, ensuring active participation. Being teachable ensures that all learning in the workplace is relevant too, because a teachable facilitator listens to and engages in his environment. The common misconception is that good communication implies being a good speaker. Learning that takes its environment into the sessions through real, live training in the workplace, can only benefit.
No matter what the training is, to make the most of it: workplaces need to:
- Encourage workplace learning and honour the time spent on learning.
- Ensure that learning is available to all employees
- Ensure the medium of training is relevant. A real, live facilitator is key
- Encourage real, live learning by making it relevant. Challenging the learner to solve realistic workplace problems makes learning relevant to both the employee and the workplace
- Emphasise that continuous learning is most beneficial and requires life-long commitment
- Learning should be personal by being tied to performance, recognition and perhaps (taking all factors into account) even promotion
- Be wary of training that is not live, relevant and real.
The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free. ~ Baruch Spinoza