Understanding the Way Minds Work: Think Like a CLO

If you could reduce a good performance management system down to ONE element (hint: you can’t), it would be the ability to allow organizations and managers to train and develop their employees in a free learning environment while maintaining an understanding of where employees rest on the learning curve. An environment that cultivates a desire for more knowledge and experience clearly benefits the employees and the organization as it can improve employee performance by up to 14%.

But how do training and development dovetail into a vibrant learning culture? Both aspects of employee development go hand-in-hand; just because your organization has a learning atmosphere doesn’t necessarily mean the training and development are as robust as they should be. Cultivating employees through performance management inspired training begins to create a learning culture in a cyclic motion of development. While each needs the other to survive, one does not automatically imply the other. Here’s how to get them working in sync.


The inundation of technology has changed the way companies train their teams. Using games as a way to teach employees industry and organizational standards is now more commonplace than ever before. Gamification takes traditional workplace training and situates it in a virtual game. This increases the hard feedback for workers and allows employers to track and document employee progress in their performance management systems. 73.6% of the training provided to Fortune 500 employees is through online methods. While not technically gamification, many enterprises are heading in that direction.


Structural and serious game simulations are used to engage and motivate employees to learn better practices or change work behavior. Structural game characteristics are more popular than serious game simulations (25% and 19%, respectively), and help employees reinforce or practice skills to increase performance.


Training can’t all be fun and games…or can it? While there are one off skills that must be taught one-to-one, organizations like Evault are turning to exciting platforms to teach and engage and are trying to discuss what a real learning and gamification platform looks like:


The program is exactly what Dorothy Serdar had hoped it would be: consistent, comprehensive, efficient, interactive and, according to employees, highly engaging, if not downright fun. “The biggest positive statement is how much they learned in a short period of time,” she says. Read more about how Evault (and other companies) are using gamification both on and offline to teach and train new hires.



Informal learning is inextricably linked to training and formal learning. Informal learning provides a context for what employees glean from the company’s formal training programs. Saul Carliner (@saulcarliner), Research Director at Lakewood Media Group, said:


“One of the advantages of formal learning is its efficiency. With prescribed objectives, structured learning activities, and built-in feedback, workers can master one or more work-related responsibilities in a brief period of time. Formal learning lacks context, however.”


However linked they may be, training and informal learning are different. Training and formal learning spark instances for informal learning. Employees can take the information learned in the corporate classroom and put them into practice. The differences in formal and informal learning are based on:


  • Who is in control of the learning and assesses its effectiveness
  • Where the learning happens (i.e., in the classroom or outside the cubicle)
  • If the learning was the primary objective or a byproduct of an activity
  • How much of the learning material is conceptual or contextual


Part of the difficulty is dealing with learning initiatives is the inability of different business units to measure it consistently. Consider this insight from Jay Cross, an informal learning champion:


In 2001, training directors turned their attention to return on investment. Unfortunately, instead of learning cost-benefit analysis, people who wanted to speak the language of business studied accounting. Created long before knowledge work was invented, accounting values intangibles such as human capital at zero and counts training as an expense instead of an investment.



Employers are responsible, in part, for the cultivation of their employees’ skills and assets. They are not, however, solely responsible for developing the future of their entire team. Employees take the knowledge and experience they’ve gained from an organization and use it to build their careers. One of the biggest issue companies have in engaging their teams is creating an atmosphere that develops management and leadership when employees are overwhelmed with their workloads. Company leadership and the environment they promote within the office are two driving factors behind employee development. Josh Bersin (@Josh_Bersin), Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, said:


“‘Best places to work’ companies don’t just have ping pong tables and free lunch, they have a ‘soul’ which makes work exciting and energizing. They invest in great management and leadership. They train and develop people so they can grow. And they define their business in a way that brings meaning and purpose to the organization.”


Because training and informal learning are so connected, informal learning is a direct result of the complexity and effectiveness of the training program. Subsequently, employee development is a combination of the formal training, informal learning sessions, and how employees use this knowledge in their work to increase performance. Formal training programs have to be robust in order to see results in performance management and better outcomes in performance appraisals. It becomes cyclical: a learning culture is the culmination of the formal training, informal learning, and the development that happens when employees are able to apply their training to their jobs.

How are you implementing training within your workforce? If you had to classify your initiatives, would they be training, learning, development focused? Would they be formal or informal? Do you practice new fangled or old school gamification? Let us know in the comments.

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