As business leaders, we know the value of employee training programs. But, have you ever considered why some of these training programs are more successful than others? Yes, some programs may have more interesting content, or may have more engaging activities, but there is another reason for the success of an employee training program. It centers on how the information is presented and internalized by the participants. I rely on a learning model that was developed by a psychologist named Lev Vygotsky and his simple formula is easy to implement with any training program, once it is understood.
Lev Vygotsky, was an early 20th century Russian psychologist who developed a learning theory that when used in training can produce transformational results. To him learning is a social experience, and cannot be accomplished in a vacuum.
According to Vygotsky each individual masters new skills and information with the assistance from a more capable peer. This can be from a teacher, instruction book, video series, or any other instruction tool. As we learn, we become able to perform the tasks or utilize information without the help of others. But to acquire a higher level, we need the assistance of others. Vygotsky clarified this perspective by using the concept of “assisted” and “unassisted” performance. Unassisted performance refers to what a person is able to do without the help of others. Assisted performance is what a person can do with assistance from others.
This is critical when designing effective employee training programs. We all like to motivate our workers, but motivation only goes so far. Motivation energizes you to do the best work you can, using the skills and knowledge you currently own. But what happens when you need the workforce to move outside that level of comfort and acquire new skills and knowledge? How do you help them comfortably and effectively move to the next level? Here is where Vygotsky’s model can be easily applied.
This description of learning sounds very academic, so let me explain the sequential stages and provide a real-life example. Vygotsky delineates stages through which individuals pass as they master new knowledge and abilities. It is impossible to reach the next stage until completing the current stage. In other words, individuals expand their abilities by building onto their current level of competency. Here’s how it works.
We begin a new learning process using outside assistance. Have you tried to learn a new skill by referencing a YouTube video to show the step-by-step instructions? Maybe it’s learning how to use a new app on your phone, for example. The second stage is to remind yourself of the step-by step instruction that you have remembered in your head. The third stage is achieved when you can use the app without having to reference any instructions, but can maneuver without thinking.
The usefulness of building a learning system based on the Vygotsky’s approach, is that the focus is always on helping the individual expand present ability levels, always starting from where they currently can easily perform without assistance and allowing the individual to completely master a task before moving on to a more advanced task. People learn at different levels and allowing individuals to feel comfortable in the process brings about the best results.
In this business climate where having a competitive advantage is essential, leaders are continually looking for ways to expand the skill levels of the workforce. Knowing how to build on the skills, knowledge and abilities that workers bring to the company in a way that ensures sustained results makes the ROI for employee training more worthwhile. Learn more about how to build effective training programs by contacting us at strategicpeoplesolutions.com.
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