I have a question for you: How do you and your colleagues deal with unfamiliar or unexpected challenges at work?

 It’s a pretty broad question I know, but I was interested to read about some fascinating research conducted by GoodPractice into 500 UK companies of 250-plus employees, The Secret Learning Life of UK Managers.

The report looked into how the participating companies and their staff used learning to help overcome unfamiliar situations or developments at work. And some surprising results were disclosed: when managers are faced with challenges almost 90% turn to colleagues for help, around 75% search the Internet, 70% use on the job support and just under 70% use an external website. Internal online resources are used by just short of 60%. Only 30% would actually use internal training. I will return to this last percentage shortly.

I think reports like this can really help L&D departments to take a long, hard look at the training methods they use in order that they can assess which ones are the most – and least – able to deal with one of the most common issues people face at work, managing complicated situations or activities. But the thing that struck me most was the fact that only 30% turn to internal training, which poses my next question: why is training so low on the list of tools that people turn to that they instead prefer to ask their colleagues?

My response is very simple: it’s just quicker to ask a friend, isn’t it?!  You just swivel around on your chair or have that ‘water-cooler’ moment in the corridor and ask your colleague a question, right? Or it is? Not necessarily! If training methods were also quicker, and as a result were able to equip participants with immediately useable techniques for handling frequent challenges faced in their position, they would surely be seen as more efficient and more valuable, surely? Sorry, but that just seems logical to me and many others, I’m sure. 

Why Bite-Size learning can be the “colleague” to whom you turn for help

Despite some resistance made by some companies to bite-size learning, studies continue to show time and time again that it is more beneficial than longer training programmes. Take a 1999 study conducted by the Journal of Applied Psychology, which actually discovered that bite size learning increased retention of information by 17%.

Scientifically-backed studies like this and others produced far more recently, which evaluate the impact of the bite-size approach to learning, give employers reason to better understand and so reconsider their previous assumptions regarding the ROI and impact made by bite-size training. The increased amount of information committed to long-term memory during bite-size training is obviously more beneficial to businesses than sending their employees on a day or even a week-long training course, which can all too easily be forgotten within a relatively short space of time. This is the most common thing I hear from prospective clients about their training challenges.

Bite-size training is so successful because can be delivered at the point of need, when an employee actually needs the information, or when they’re the most receptive to receiving it. It can be used as a performance aid or fast, problem-solving tool on-the-go and that’s the beauty of bite-size training, it delivers rapid results with immediately applicable tools. It is, quite literally, this ‘just in time’ training method, that will tick the boxes of those 90% of workers and serve to re-engage with the 30% group I highlighted at the start of this article. They should give it a go and see the results for themselves.