Shouldn't professional development be sticky?

I think the "stickiness" term for good advertising and communication applies to training and development, too. When signing up for a development course, business people all want the same things. They want the content to be interesting. They'd like the instructor to be entertaining. But business learners most of all want takeaways -- learning that "sticks", not only in memory but in their jobs. Participants may be impressed with a course or instructor, but only stickiness gives the desired return-on-learning.

Steep investments are being made in professional development such as sales technique, supervisory skills, professional certifications. Then consider variety of basic training -- on software, new products, computer skills, etc. The workforce is off the job quite a bit for the sake of learning, plus the direct costs. Managers should be demanding evidence of stickiness and return.

One framework lending itself to finding evidence of stickiness of learning comes from Donald Kirkpatrick who has long been a thought leader in professional training. Donald crafted his four levels of learning as follows:

  1. Reaction of student - what they thought and felt about the training
  2. Learning - the resulting increase in knowledge or capability
  3. Behavior or transferred learning - extent of behavior and capability improvement and  implementation/application
  4. Results - the effects on the business or environment resulting from the trainee's performance
What I like best is how only one level -- the lowest one -- relies on participant experience ratings. So to really measure learning, you must address the other three levels -- follow up to find evidence that participants remember the key teachings, are applying them to their jobs and making a difference in performance. Only then would we have sticky learning.

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