Learning & Development

What Are Learning Pathways?

One of the reasons many training efforts fail to have a lasting impact is that they are often isolated, one-off efforts. For example, a warehouse that has a forklift accident might do a one-off training on forklift safety, or a company responding to a publicly embarassing discrimination accusation might have a one-off diversity or cultural sensitivity training.

Far more successful are training efforts that are coordinated and planned in conjunction with one another.

Learning Pathways Lead to Better Learning Impacts

A learning pathway is perhaps the most obvious example of such an approach. A learning pathway, as described by Marc Zao-Sanders and Georgina Peake in an article for the Harvard Business Review, is “a designated sequence of activities, often from different sources and in different formats, devised to develop the skills and behaviors of colleagues.”

Zao-Sanders and Peake go further and explain, “At their best, learning pathways stitch together disparate educational resources into rich, diverse, cohesive and enlightening learning journeys which can have a transformative impact on both our professional and personal lives.”

Unfortunately, they point out that if they’re not used effectively, which they say is more common than not, “they add detritus to an already saturated sea of corporate content, and end up confusing and disillusioning learners.”

Consider the K12 Learning Pathway

The K–12 education most readers received growing up is a classic example of a learning pathway. Consider the progression of mathematics education from basic number identification and counting through arithmetic and then higher forms of mathematics like geometry, algebra, and calculus.

A learning pathway offers many benefits for both employees and employers. Employers benefit from increased employee engagement and retention, the ability to fill open positions with internal candidates, and the ability to close skills gaps in a dynamic economy and workplace. Employees benefit through opportunities for advancement; greater fulfillment at work; and, of course, the mastering of an area of knowledge and experience.

As noted above, most readers have experienced some type of learning pathway in their lives, but the concept is relatively unfamiliar.

In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss some best practices for leveraging learning pathways within an organization’s learning and development program.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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