Are Your Learning Programs Transformational?

Written by Tracy King on January 3, 2019

Learning is transformational: that means change should happen as a result of it. Is the learning you are providing engaging brains to change, or is it learning by name only? Associations have so much power to strengthen the workforce pipelines of their industries and develop mastery for individuals by better leveraging their educational portfolio to offer transformation. Let’s look at two ways to jumpstart this into reality.

Listening with intention

The foundation of education strategy is knowing how to position our programs within our market. We need to understand how deep that market is, where the shifts are happening, and what futurists are saying. The other part is using existing channels to listen to what’s happening around us.

Fashion a listening campaign. Consider: How are we using evaluations? How are we using your forums? How are we using conversations at conferences and on social media? Can they become part of a listening campaign where we formally pick up the seeds of organic exchanges to inform our content priorities? We can listen for the pain points, the solutions members are seeking and the questions members are asking. This can lead to a formal research approach, alongside internally noticing trends and gathering intelligence, by listening to the channels of information that are already in place.

By listening with intention, we are poised to assess the needs of our association based on disruptions and shifts in play. If there’s anything surprising in these observations, we can revisit content priorities for the coming year.

Developing mastery: go deeper, not just broader

With that in mind, if we’re always looking for brand new topics in our listening tour, we are never going to get to the point where we’re able to build programming to develop mastery. We’re just going to be throwing information at members on a broad range of subject matter that doesn’t necessarily link up or lead to deepened understanding and practice. How much of our programming is information-based and topic-related, and how much of it is skill and knowledge development that strives for mastery?

When we think broader than what our “average” members need now, we can start to have deeper conversations around the workforce pipeline. How are we partnering with other organizations to ensure there are qualified candidates for employers to connect with? How are we helping to advance a professional through their career maturity? What does it look like to continue to funnel all of their learnings into moving this workforce forward? Shifting to a broader perspective opens up conversations that are critical to our our success in positioning ourselves powerfully as the source of ongoing continuing education throughout the life of a career.

Developing the pipeline does not necessarily mean we need to offer more events. Learning is not an event. Sure, you can learn at an event. But developing mastery requires developing skill, deepening knowledge, and advancing as part of an ongoing process. As organizations, we can build these pathways through our entire portfolio of learning in order to facilitate that growth. We have in person experiences that could be connected to webinar experiences, that could lead to e-learning experiences, that could lead to a mentoring experience. Learning pathways can achieve greater outcomes than just providing information about a topic. We can do this by leveraging what we already offer.

In my new book Competitive Advantage, I recommend an easy way to pilot learning pathways begins by discovering natural connections you can make between and among existing programs. First, take all of your programs for the upcoming year and plot them out on a calendar. Now consider where your content priorities for the coming year will be addressed in your programs already in development. For example, at a conference maybe you’re talking about ethics in a Forum. You then realize you have an article about ethics scheduled and a webinar in development also. Each of these touchpoints can be connected and coordinated to achieve a larger outcome driving the ethics conversation deeper and challenging improved practice. Often, powerful synchronicities between programs within the portfolio pop simply by whiteboarding. And once you see how powerful learning pathways are for your constituents, you’ll want to build them with intention and measure the incredible transformation they afford.

The new value proposition in the CE marketplace is transformation. Professionals invest in programs that result in a change they want to see - to do or be something new or better. But are we offering transformation or are we primarily offering information? If participants leave our conference sessions and nothing changes, we failed. To advance our workforces, we must embrace transformational learning.