Organizations are not just functional
workplaces but also social environ-
ments. For people to learn effectively
and then put their learning into prac-
tice, the involvement of colleagues is
usually required. The BBC’s research
found that learners whose colleagues
took an active interest in what was
learned and who supported the learn-
ers in their use of their new knowl-
edge, skills, and behavior had the
most meaningful learning experiences.
Furthermore, when colleagues
help people put learning into practice,
the learning is shared—which
enhances the knowledge pool and the
potential for developing the entire
organization. This phenomenon could
be termed the socialization of learn-
ing. Once shared, learning spreads
and is used elsewhere.
Here are some important questions
for leaders at all levels of an organi-
zation—including department heads,
line managers, and team leaders—to
consider when determining whether
the social climate of the organization
is conducive to putting learning into
Are people interested in what
their colleagues have gained through
Are managers rewarded for
helping people integrate their learning
into the business operations and for
the subsequent improvements?
How much support is provided
to people when they return from off-
the-job learning experiences?
Are people encouraged to
openly solicit the support and oppor-
tunities they need to use what they
have learned? Or does the culture
force people to seek such support and
opportunities secretively or not at all?
Do team leaders make sure that
everyone on the team knows who is
learning what and for what reasons?
How do managers evaluate the
quality of their own and their direct
reports’ off-the-job and on-the-job
learning experiences? How do they
evaluate the outcomes of those expe-
riences as they relate to business
Here are some simple best prac-
tices that managers and colleagues
can employ to ensure that learners
receive the interactive support and
feedback they need to put learning
into practice and provide positive out-
comes for themselves, their teams,
and their organizations:
Managers should work with
learners to put a plan in place that
enables the learners to use what they
have learned immediately after a
When learners return from a
course, managers and colleagues
should talk with them to get them
fired up about using their learning,
and later should provide feedback on
how successfully the learners have
used their learning.
Managers and colleagues
should provide practical coaching
support to help learners use their
learning on actual tasks and activities.
As stated earlier, the gap between
learning and using is most pro-
nounced when formal, off-the-job
training methods are used. For off-
the-job learning programs to have
the maximum impact on individual
and business performance, they
should be
Tied to real opportunities to
apply the learning to real work.
Timed to minimize the inter-
lude between training and applica-
Highly tailored, practical, and
up to date, with relevant examples
drawn from the learners’ workplace.
Delivered by inspirational,
credible trainers who are highly
familiar with the learners’ industry
and specific line of work.
Putting learning into practice is a
serious business issue for organiza-
tions. Yet many people who are pro-
vided with learning experiences find
it difficult to share and reflect on their
learning and their implementation
plans with managers and colleagues.
The evidence is that for learning to be
put to use effectively, managers and
their team members need to believe in
the value of reflective dialogue and
practical support as an aid to busi-
ness, have active and nonjudgmental
listening skills so learners can openly
share their learning experiences and
implementation plans, and be com-
mitted to helping learners generate
opportunities to put their learning to
use and advance the organization.
These attitudes and skill sets
remain all too rare in organizations,
despite the vast investments they
make in learning initiatives and the
values espoused on corporate Web
sites and in annual reports. Some
organizations are beginning to
address the issue of putting learning
into practice by installing processes
to follow up on employees’ learning
experiences. But the responsibility for
this is often seen as belonging not to
organizational or departmental leader-
ship but to training departments—in
whose interest it is to keep the learn-
ing train going. It may be time for
some organizations to review the
roles and functions of their training
departments to see if changes could
be made to keep all that learning from
going to waste.
Once shared, learning
spreads and is used

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