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Making Learning Stick

As Talent Management professionals, it’s time once again to rethink how we deliver learning.Over the past 20 years, Talent & Development has moved from online and web-based to blended learning — and now it’s moving to machine learning that is immediate, abbreviated and continual.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is supporting some of the best learning programs, and even that is moving to smart-machine learning. In just 20 years, technology has reshaped training several times — and there is no sign of slowing down. With these technological advantages, it's time to deliver learning that provides high value — learning that promotes critical thinking, not just knowledge transfer. And, with smarter technology, it’s time to use a full range of learning solutions that can be practiced and supported.


"... it’s time to deliver learning that provides high value — learning that promotes critical thinking, not just knowledge transfer."

- Dr. Patricia Sullivan


High-impact programs support organizational needs and focus the learner. Think diverse, mini-learning campaigns that offer several short activities tied together under one main topic. It’s helpful to provide a full range of micro activities: from readings and mini-lectures to podcasts and YouTube videos. Add in high-credible research articles and a chatbot (AI) or two, and you have the basics for providing learning that will stick! Then incorporate varied instructional design tools and activities that reinforce learning (e.g. on-the-job practice, real-world application, a dedicated coach/mentor, projects, etc.), and learning will increase VOI (value on investment), mitigating the training dilemma: that 45% of all training never being applied (Phillips, 2016).

To create mini-learning activities, Talent Management professionals may start with one organizational strategy that cultivates an agile learning environment, then create and deliver mini-learning activities that are available when needed (when things are new, when things change, when things go wrong). The goal of these individual topics is to support high-performing outcomes, both behaviors and results; and make them available when most needed. Adding activities once something has just been learned is another way instructional designers can enhance skills and competencies. This post-learning focus is the area where L&D professionals can bring highest value in transferring learning to the job.


Some post-learning activities to promote new skills include:

  1. Create new goals for the supervisor and the trainee to practice - to provide time each week to try out new skills.

  2. Design and prototype new processes and evaluate the impact of the improved process.

  3. Add the learner to a project team that will allow application of the skill.

  4. Connect the learner with a coach or mentor, connecting SME with trainee.

  5. Have the learner teach others about the skill and/or competency. There's nothing better to enhance a talent than being given the opportunity to teach others about it


Patricia Sullivan, PhD., SPHR, SHRM-SCP is the Founder and CEO of Profit by Design, HR Consulting (PDHR) and serves as an Adjunct Faculty member in the Graduate Programs in Human Resource Development at Villanova University. Connect with her here!

Phillips, K. (2016) How Much Is Scrap Learning Costing Your Organization?

Photo Credit: RawPixel LTD, Mike MacKenzie -

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