How WeDiscover Approaches Training & Development
How WeDiscover Approaches Training & Development
WeDiscover is growing fast. We’re quickly accumulating some of the brightest minds in the industry and the value these individuals bring is more than the sum of their workload output.
The advantage of having these team members is that we can utilise some core training and development principles to help share their knowledge with the wider team.
In this article we want to discuss the importance of training and development at WeDiscover and some basic principles we follow to maximise the results.
Why Focus on Training & Development?
Training & Development is widely listed as a benefit in the workplace but what does this actually mean and why?
We believe that training must go beyond out of the box online training or company wide lectures.
It also needs to go beyond an initial graduate & early careers scheme by fostering an atmosphere of constant development.
There are 3 core benefits of fostering this culture as a business, as it:
- Improves our collective output
- Addresses individual weaknesses
- Improves job satisfaction & people retention
Improving our collective output
We have team members who bring a range of experiences and skills to the agency and are experts in the industry in certain areas. However, as a company it just doesn’t make sense to keep this knowledge to one person.
For example – if we only have one data visualisation expert, if every time we need to visualise a trend or results to share with a client we take our data to this individual, a bottleneck of work would quickly arise. This is not an efficient process for any business to run.
By upskilling other team members in data visualisation we improve the quality of service we can provide for our clients. We also improve the standard of the work we produce and avoid delays by avoiding a bottleneck of requests.
This is not to dismiss the importance of specialists or to suggest that everyone in the team will become a master of every aspect of the job. This would, frankly, be an impossible and fruitless task.
Nevertheless, by upskilling the wider team in key skills you relieve your specialists of repetitive work and allow them to focus on innovation and truly specialist tasks.
Addressing individual weaknesses
The nature of agency work means that there will always be a requirement for generalist skills. An individual will need to deliver across a range of clients and projects.
Therefore, as well as prioritising specialisms, there needs to be a focus on improving all round skills.
By developing the skills of an individual we can address any specific areas of development alongside improving the volume and quality of our collective output.
Improving job satisfaction and people retention
PWC reported that learning & development opportunities are among the most important workplace benefits for millennials, with 35% seeing it as the top benefit they wanted from an employer.
Taking a performance marketing agency as our example, the basic training of how to run accounts and the sharing of the core skills needed to fulfill the role is a requirement.
However, we fundamentally see learning & development as much more than that. At WeDiscover, ongoing training and development that will help our team advance their careers in the long run is something we are focussing on obsessively.
As well as creating an industry leading entry level training course, we see ongoing learning & development as a core deliverable of WeDiscover, alongside our typical client work.
This in turn should result in higher job satisfaction and people retention. We give back to our team by helping them achieve their career goals above and beyond their current remit.
Creating a training programme & developing a culture of learning
Establishing training & development as a key focus is straightforward. Actually delivering a robust programme is a significant workload but one we have been committed to getting right.
A key focus is an early careers programme to train newcomers to the industry. Earlier this year we ran a session to align the team on our approach to training & currently have over 50 modules planned ranging from Paid Search 101 to Core Business Skills.
We are also developing a culture of constant learning with monthly ‘Share and Learn’ sessions and a benefit package focused on giving agency to the team to pursue training opportunities outside of the internal programmes.
Our Approach to Training: 7 Core Principles of Andragogy
Now we have the initial planning of our training programmes outlined, it is important to align on how we train the basis of these plans.
Adults learn differently from children and this needs to be addressed in how workplace training is implemented.
At WeDiscover, we are basing our training approach on Malcolm Knowles’ work on andragogy & the 7 principles of adult learning that derive from this work:
- Adults must want to learn
- Adults will learn only what they feel they need to learn
- Adults learn by doing
- Adult learning focuses on problem solving
- Experience affects adult learning
- Adults learn best in an informal situation
- Adults want guidance and consideration as equal partners in the process
Below, we break down each principle and how it aligns with how we run our training.
1. Adults must want to learn
Gone are the days of being dragged to school in the morning. In adulthood, learning (or at least attending school) is no longer a government-mandated requirement. Adults only learn when they want to.
Though we are lucky in that our WeDiscover colleagues typically have an intrinsic motivation to learn, we still employ some basic principles to encourage learning across the business:
Self-selection – training should be opt-in for the most part. Though some exclusions apply, mainly in aspects such as regulatory compliance training that is essential to one’s job role, it is important for attendees to choose to be there. To encourage attendance, it is important to give context to why a session is being conducted.
Time allocation – typically a lack of available time can be a primary driver for people not wanting to attend a session. Someone sitting in a training session thinking about some client work they know they need to do before the end of the day is going to struggle to commit to a training session. At WeDiscover we account for learning time when thinking about capacity, so delivery of other work will not impact the ability to attend training.
2. Adults will learn only what they feel they need to learn
Similarly adults will only learn what they need to learn and therefore we need to ensure clarity around why a training session is being delivered.
Qualifying why the session is being run & why the specific attendees are in attendance is important to bring everyone together.
Note that it should be clear that the session is needed specifically by those in the session. If the reasons for those attending differ greatly then the content is not going to match what is required for those individuals. In this case, we would look to split the cohort into smaller groups who share learning requirements.
Example: WeDiscover recently ran a training session on how we approach and build training internally for current employees. Everyone who attended will be helping build training content for our first entry level training program in 2022 and this target was made clear at the session.
3. Adults learn by doing
Adults need to be active in the learning process. A training session in the workplace should avoid lecturing techniques as much as possible. Actively using discussion to develop ideas is a more effective way to learn.
The lecture format does still hold value in certain situations, specifically when the cohort is extremely large. Promoting an open discussion & active learning situation with hundreds of participants is not going to create an atmosphere of learning for all participants. However, in the workplace we should be able to break down larger groups into smaller cohorts to run active learning sessions.
Active learning tools, including breakout rooms, presentations, flipped classrooms, and quizzes can all help to increase the active participation of a training session.
4. Adult learning focuses on problem solving
Building on a focus on active learning, training sessions for adults should focus on problem solving.
Children learn through a curriculum, working on skills sequentially to build up an overall understanding of a topic. This layering up technique means that sometimes knowledge appears to be learnt for the sake of it (think back to school and someone asking “why do we need to learn this for the real world?”). Often the true value of the knowledge is not clear until a later aspect is built on top of it.
For adults, we should begin with the problem and frame the session against this goal. If some basic knowledge needs to be instilled, framing this removes the abstract quality that could make the session feel pointless. This also helps us with the second directive of ensuring the need for them to learn the content is clear.
5. Experience affects adult learning
This tends to be one of the biggest differences between pedagogy (child learning) & andragogy.
Especially in the workplace, most attendees to a session would have some previous experience.
Though in an ideal world, formalised training beyond an early careers program would precede any active work on a topic, in industries as fast changing as digital marketing this isn’t always possible. A new product can be released by publishers and be in use before a best practice can be formalised. Similarly, with a test and learn approach, new perspectives will constantly develop. Therefore, often training will follow a period of active usage of a product/strategy. In this case the attendees will bring a degree of existing knowledge on the subject.
Similarly, attendees may have had a form of training before, for example at a previous company. Furthermore, many topics covered in the workplace, such as business or soft skills, will build on common sense and general life experience.
This can be a real asset to a training session. Frequently a training session should only be facilitated rather than taught. A good training session will often just give agency to a participant’s existing knowledge and reframe this to be accessed throughout their career.
However, there are times where existing knowledge can be a limiting factor. If existing knowledge is incomplete or inaccurate it can impact the reception of training.
Either way, experience will always impact learning and this needs to be reflected in the delivery and creation of any training.
6. Adults learn best in an informal situation
Adults are not necessarily taught, instead the role of the teacher is that of a facilitator. Rather than standing at the front of a room and lecturing a group, the facilitator should create an informal and comfortable environment where participants feel comfortable sharing and discussing learning objectives.
Using tools such as icebreakers can help introduce an informal situation with a new group.
7. Adults want guidance and consideration as equal partners in the process
What should hopefully be clear is that the student/teacher dynamic of pedagogy is no longer relevant with andragogy.
Instead of being told what to learn and what is correct, adults should use training to discuss and evaluate information, deciding for themselves what is relevant to implement to their role.
Our Approach to Training: Implementing These Principles
In order to ensure our training reflects the principles we have covered above, we make sure we follow some key approaches when building and running a training session. The training is structured around participation. Attending training at WeDiscover will always be an active experience.
Everything we do is encouraging discussion and the creation of new ideas and approaches.
Our training is no exception, we expect new approaches to how we deliver work for our clients to be built directly out of the discussions we have had in our training sessions.