All too often, workforce development in the healthcare setting is equated to education around a specific task or series of goals, and is tied to job requirements. It can be indistinguishable and one-size-fits-all, which runs counter to a workplace that should be attempting to value every employee, celebrate and capitalize on his or her strengths, and offer support in areas that need strengthening.
The problem is on-the-job learning is often not tied to an employee’s performance in a meaningful way. To change that, providers and systems need to start reorienting their educational and development programs to align with employees’ areas of expertise as well as improvement. This allows employees to become leaders in their areas of expertise, as well as learn from others in situations where they might struggle. That alignment of skill sets and education takes talent development to a new level and creates a collaborative environment that is the foundation of personalized performance-based learning.
It’s a fairly simple concept—performance and learning going hand in hand. Each can inform the other, building a stronger workplace where every employee can become a subject matter expert in his or her field while also identifying areas where an employee may need additional development. This builds confidence and job satisfaction, which translates into lower turnover. And it aligns nicely with the rise of more visible employee engagement applications and adaptable educational offerings.
But for any of this to happen, the mindset has to be in place to support such an approach.
Connecting Everyday Functions to Meaningful Learning
For instance, initial and continuing education should have a strong grounding in an employee’s daily activities. If someone excels in hand-washing protocols, for instance, he or she can—and should—be seen as an influencer not just in mandated hygiene requirements, but also in patient-centered care. With a performance-guided learning approach, the facility would have in place a program to recognize that employee for his or her strengths in this area, and also utilize that staff member as an educator and influencer.
Performance-guided learning works by expanding a recognition/reward program into learning and goal setting. If the employee referenced above is obviously knocking it out of the park with hand-washing protocols, he or she shouldn’t have to sit through mandated classroom training on the subject. Rather, he or she should be mentoring coworkers daily, showing proper procedure. Additionally, if they have an area of improvement that is visible to the manager, they can be served additional coursework to see that the area of concern is addressed through development.
Now broaden that approach to other required training, even annual certifications. Frequent performance evaluations, or continuous/ongoing feedback, have taken off because they provide a much more accurate snapshot of how an employee is performing in the moment rather than the dreaded annual review. If someone is continually and clearly demonstrating awareness and expertise in an area every day, why make them sit through a full set of courses or exams that will be remedial in nature? It’s far better to steer them toward other areas of learning that line up with their talents and provide new knowledge and opportunities for advancement and development. And conversely, if an employee is struggling, these same employees can be tapped as mentors, providing support and coaching that’s seen as assistive rather than punitive.
Performance-guided learning takes employee education that is essentially a must-do workplace task and turns it into a more meaningful and personalized experience. By observing an employee’s actual performance, it’s possible to create an environment where continuing education isn’t just a catchphrase, but an actuality.
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