Making day-to-day use of knowledge gained through your best practice qualifications

Making day-to-day use of knowledge gained through your best practice qualifications

Jane NicholsYou’ve done it! You studied hard, you took the exam, and you passed it! You are now a fully-accredited practitioner.

But what often happens next is that on your return to work you fail to apply what you’ve learned. There are several possible reasons for this: maybe you took the course because it was available and the timing was right for your diary; maybe it was appealing because your next assignment would greatly benefit from the learning, but then the assignment evaporated, and there seems to be no opportunity to immediately apply what’s been learned; or perhaps necessary changes in practice are not in place to make the new way easy to apply.

Another issue arises if you attend a number of courses within a short time period. It takes time for new knowledge to impact your behaviours and attitudes, and when there is an avalanche of new ideas and techniques there is a very real risk of not making best use of the knowledge you’ve gleaned. This isn’t good for your career progression, or for any return on investment from the funding of training and qualifications. It’s a wasted opportunity if the performances of both the learner and the organization aren’t enhanced.

To prevent this, you need – as a start – to agree with your manager the expected learning outcomes before your course. And, if funding yourself, start a dialogue with someone you trust about what outcomes you want, and how you will apply them.

Gaining qualifications is an essential part of demonstrating you’re serious about being professional: if your organization has set career paths you may find a criterion for ‘moving up’ is having an appropriate external qualification. However, you know that attending a course and passing the exam is not enough by itself to create better personal performance – you need to use and apply the ideas in the context of your own work situation. So how do you make that happen? Well, there is an approach, and it’s one that you can control many aspects of yourself - it’s called the 70:20:10 approach.

The 70:20:10 approach explained

The 70:20:10 approach – designed and developed at the Centre for Creative Leadership – is a learning and development model which promotes:

  • 70% of learning comes from job-related experiences (where you are in the driving seat)
  • 20% of learning is learning through others (for example; coaching and mentoring)
  • 10% is formal ‘structured’ learning (formal courses and online learning).

The research that underpins this model demonstrated that the vast majority of learning by professionals is by way of experiences they personally undergo. In the 70:20:10 model, 90% of the learning you undergo is ’experiential’. There is a place for structured or formal learning, but it is by taking advantage of an array of opportunities to practise your learning in collaboration with others that the changes in performance become real. Whether it is shadowing a colleague, working on a project that tests new work practices, or mentoring a new recruit, these learning events all provide opportunities to deepen and make relevant your understanding.

Provided you have personal goals in mind and there is the desire to become more ‘professional’, this will result in a short, medium and long-term personal development plan. The use of the 70:20:10 approach provides you with a toolkit of potential learning events which both supports and dovetails well with AXELOS’ Professional Development Programme.

Of course the 70:20:10 approach is not limited for use only with qualification based courses! It’s a way of developing and enhancing personal, as well as, organizational capability. With the rapid advances in knowledge in many fields, technical, sociological and others, it just isn’t possible to know everything yourself, but with networking with colleagues you can share experiences and significantly extend what is known, with everyone gaining.

How to make 70:20:10 work for you and your organization

I’ve supported several organizations that introduced an experiential learning approach, and they have had very positive results in operational excellence and employee engagement; for example:

  • An increase in retention rates with the consequent reduction in recruitment costs; high calibre professionals are strongly interested in their professional development, and are more likely to stay with organizations that support personal targeted development
  • A demonstrable increase in employee satisfaction with the organization
  • A reduction in overall capability development costs as communities tend to become more ‘self-sustaining’ through a focus on targeted development.

A return on training investment is usually measurable from such an approach within months. With individuals actively sharing knowledge there are clear improvements in terms of reduced effort and time in the achievement of planned changes initiatives and the delivery of projects.

As always there is some form of price to pay – there are no ‘free lunches’.  In the case of the 70:20:10 approach, you do need to be prepared to accept some responsibility for your own development. If you are the manager of a team, your team members will need to agree and accept that too - although, as manager, you will still need to ensure they do have and can make use of the all opportunities available for learning.

What should you do to apply learning?

  • Reflect on your previous learning; consider your strengths, your weaknesses and areas for development
  • Genuinely seek and encourage feedback from others
  • Be prepared to share current issues/concerns with colleagues to seek solutions and new techniques
  • Look for appropriate experiences (with the help of your manager where necessary)

And most importantly,

  • Have a plan!

Remember the successful application of your learning will significantly increase your effectiveness and value to your organization.

Read Jane Nichols' previous blog for AXELOS, Which PPM qualification is right for you? A guide for practitioners and employers.

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