Seelou training, or, the way of the world

Michele Martin looks at what the voice of the learner tells us. She’s drawing conclusions from a Masie Center survey on how people learn at work. Michele’s conclusions:

  • More people are learning independently in ad hoc, asynchronous fashion.
  • As options for learning have expanded, employees feel they have less time to learn.
  • People want job rotation and stretch assignments, but rarely get them.

Michele sees great potential for addressing the high-tech / high-touch desires of employees. For instance, she believes that employers could use much more virtual mentoring.

I agree, though mentoring is not one of those make-it-so solutions that senior managers are so fond of.

The Masie Center probably didn’t explore the topic of seelou training, though I believe this is the single most common approach to learning on the job.

“See Lou?”
“Yeah?”
“Do what Lou does.”

People can learn on the job, of course — that happens all the time. The question is whether it makes sense, organizationally, to look for factors that increase the likelihood of learning. If you’re going to have mentoring, for example, how do you choose the mentors? What’s in it for them?

Allison Rossett tells of a mentoring program for a real estate brokerage. Experienced, successful agents seemed like the ideal mentors for new hires. But not every senior agent wanted to be a mentor, and not everyone who wanted to worked out well. The firm discovered it needed to provide training and support for the mentors, as well as for the new hires.

(There’s a difference between a war story and a real-life example; that difference isn’t always obvious.)

One organization change that this company implemented: compensating the mentors not only for time taken from their own selling activities, but also as a way of sharing in the success of the people they mentored.

I might be a skeptic, but I think it’d take quite some time for individual mentors to make that happen.

4 thoughts on “Seelou training, or, the way of the world

  1. Dave…

    The challenges with seelou training are what caused one organization to hire me to create a training department. Everyone didn’t get the same quality of training, for example. The day shift, being more visible to senior management and more vulnerable to management-by-walking-around, had more ad hoc OJT, while people on the night shift were handed the latest updates on a piece of paper and told to figure it out. Then, some folks are better at explanations with clarity, and in altering their explanations/demonstrations if a colleague doesn’t get it. And, there’s the matter of competition. When organizations encourage individual performers to compete with each other to be the best, it may ultimately benefit the organization, but it encourages individual and group knowledge hoarding, reluctance to share or help train each other, sharing false information to stay ahead of others, and a work atmosphere that increases employee turnover. This can be detrimental to lesser performers who could use the assistance or those who are more uncomfortable asking someone to “show me.” Today’s asynchronous ad hoc learning feels to me like a pendulum swing away from formal training.

  2. Ann, the main benefit to seelou training is: it looks like it’s cheap. That’s also been the main driver behind much distance learning, too, with endless amounts of content crammed into a suboptimal delivery vehicle.

    In some ways, it’s the knowledge equivalent of Gresham’s Law (“bad money drives out good”): make delivery cheap enough, and you get page-turners, repurposed PowerPoint, lectures transformed to podcasts, and videotaped lectures turned into webcasts.

    In the same way that “digitized” doesn’t mean “video worth watching,” “informal” doesn’t necessarily mean “valuable and relevant.”

    (At the same time, you and I both know there are many training departments that act like the Little Corporate Schoolhouse, or maybe like the Acme Sausage Factory: they just grind the stuff out.)

    The real question centers on identifying worthy performance on the job, determining obstacles to that performance, and figuring out how to address them. My hunch has always been there’s more to that than asking who moved your cheese.

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