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Developing people and organisations through learning

Go1 convened a roundtable session, co-mediated by Lauren Waldman, founder of Learning Pirate, and Go1 Head of Content Partnerships, David Hastings. Together, they led attendees in a spirited, interactive discussion centered on how we learn inside organisations. 
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Go1 Content & Editorial Team
2021-11-30

Go1 invited senior HR leaders from across Europe to participate in a series of virtual workshops and panel discussions focused on humanising the workplace. As part of the day-long event, Go1 convened a roundtable session, co-mediated by Lauren Waldman, founder of Learning Pirate, and Go1 Head of Content Partnerships, David Hastings. Together, they led attendees in a spirited, interactive discussion centered on how we learn inside organisations. 

Sharing learnings & recapping earlier sessions 

As a Scientific Learning Designer, Lauren Waldman’s expertise is focused on the brain, looking specifically at operational models of cognitive and emotional function in the world of learning and learning design. To begin the roundtable, Lauren asked attendees to share broadly about any experiences, feelings or discoveries that came out of their day of workshop sessions.  

“What came up in those sessions? What did you guys learn?” - Lauren Waldman, Learning Pirate 

Attendees contributed in different ways - some offering summaries of sessions they attended, others zeroing in on specific insights, and a few relating personal anecdotes from inside their organisations.  

In one lively exchange, attendees discussed how employee experience impacts customers, and the important role HR can play in helping bridge the emotional experience between employees and customers at critical touchpoints. 

“[HR professionals] can't just be focused on employees; they need to understand how the employee experience impacts customers.” - Contributor 

Attendees generally agreed that HR delivers value to all stakeholders, not only to employees and managers. One contributor wondered if there might be a related mindset emerging within HR to view employees as customers, and if so, how such a view might impact HR’s approach to talent and learning.  

Another attendee spoke at length about the different ways HR could inspire and support employees inside organisations to deliver value that extends beyond an individual’s formal position or training. Co-mediator, David Hastings, agreed, noting that in the aftermath of Covid employees need a dedicated space to foster creativity, build skills, and make relationships from wherever they are working. 

“It's not just the yoga class, the remote coaching thing, or the wellness days. Some people would just really like to understand themselves better.” - David Hastings, Go1 

An experiment to illustrate the foundational model of memory 

Moving the session along, Lauren Waldman returned to the conversation to explain how this 10-15 minute recap discussion was actually a demonstration of the encoding process that’s fundamental to making long-term memories and learning. 

The foundational model of memory teaches that in order to remember something you need to encode it, you need to store it, and you need to retrieve. During the encoding process, as Lauren explains, your brain is working hard, expending quite a bit of energy. Reaching a memory, or retrieving it, requires moving it from a working or short term memory to a long term memory.  

Time is critical to this process, which means after a day of workshop sessions, organisations should think about giving their teams the time and space required to properly reflect, revisit (and ultimately store) what was covered. 

Learning constraints and challenges 

Some organisations may be rushing through learning, not realising that creating a space for conversation and reflection is essential to the process. When it comes to digital learning, therefore, organisations shouldn’t only consider the utility of the information being shared, but also whether it’s being delivered in a way that adds value and supports learning. 

“How do we deliver training to people so they can find it, explore it, access it and get themselves on a pathway?”  - David Hastings, Go1 

One attendee wondered if pandemic constraints may be contributing to a more rushed approach to learning. Another shared that within their own organisation, external challenges actually became a unique opportunity for fostering community. In their experience, team members saw special value in connecting with their colleagues during a crisis, giving HR trainings and webinars renewed appeal as an avenue for bringing team members together. 

“It was more about making sure they knew we were around and there was something happening within the HR community - a safe place to actually talk about topics or just to listen.” - Contributor 

Upskilling, reskilling and decision fatigue 

As self-directed learning becomes more prominent inside the workplace, employees may find themselves with increasing autonomy when it comes to when, where, and how they take in new information. At the same time, many organisations are moving away from role-based learning to skill-based approaches, which means rather than limiting learning opportunities within a single career pathway, there’s been a growing effort to expand into areas that fall outside of an employee’s traditional work silo. In order to help support and guide employees, coaching and mentoring can play a key role in upskilling and reskilling efforts.   

Lauren rejoined the conversation to talk about decision fatigue, especially in the wake of the tremendous emotional and cognitive stress brought on by the global pandemic. The human brain, she explained, is a kind of “prediction making machine,” so when individuals can’t predict what’s going to happen next, many enter a hyperactive mode where emotional processing centers are highly activated. As we consider the functionality of learning in our current landscape (still very much influenced by the uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis i.e. “pandemic brain”), we should remember to be gentle with ourselves and with our expectations of those around us.  

As a continuation of the discussion around upskilling and reskilling, Lauren asked the group if anyone ever taught them how to learn. The model of rote memorisation many of us grew up with, she explained, though outdated, is one that unfortunately persists in our workspaces.  

To illustrate just how differently we learn as individuals, and how each of us maintain our own learning preferences, Lauren facilitated another neuropsychological exercise with the group. Through a series of images shared with the attendees, this classic Stroop experiment ultimately revealed that cognitive function slows when one’s brain is asked to process too many inputs or tasks at the same time. 

“Our brains are incredibly expensive and their currency is energy.” - Lauren Waldman, Learning Pirate 

Stress is a gateway to burnout 

Stressful episodes are generally characterised by emotional reactivity, hyperactivity, obsessiveness, and over-engagement - all of which deplete an individual’s energy stores. When an employee is burned out, it means they have already pushed themselves past their reasonable limit of stress.  

“If stress is about having too much, then burnout is about not having enough.” - Lauren Waldman, Learning Pirate 

In addition to getting adequate sleep, to recharge an exhausted brain, Lauren suggests conserving energy by eliminating unnecessary stimuli. “Don’t work against your operational system,” she cautions. Instead, consider what a person needs to optimally perform - frequent breaks, adequate hydration, and moderate physical activity. Doing breathwork (like meditation) can also help calm the central nervous system.  

Learning is a continual journey 

As a curator of the world’s learning content, the conversation around how individuals learn inside organisations will continue at Go1. Customer feedback, expert insight and other research combine to help us iterate and improve upon both the quality of learning inside organisations and the way it's being delivered to our providers, customers, and partners. 

“All of the feedback, all of the information you share with us, all of that gets fed back into how we do this better.” - David Hastings, Go1 

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
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