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5 Moments of Learning Need

June 23, 2020

Written by Dr. Sangeeth Ibrahim.

This question changed my life. I used to consider myself a wonderful trainer. And why not? My sessions are always engaging and the feedback that I receive is ever encouraging. I have over 10 relevant certifications and I always tried to improve my content and delivery style based on benchmarks and best practices. I religiously used the Learning cycle to structure all my sessions and ensured that my learners practiced and performed what they were supposed to learn. Man! Wasn’t I proud of my modus operandi?

But one question shook my convictions, nevertheless. The question in point was posed by Bob Mosher at an event. Let me borrow it from him. Choose any 2 from the following solutions, which have helped you effectively to learn, remember and apply to performance challenges in your own life -

1) eLearning

2) Virtual Learning

3) Coaching and mentoring

4) On the Job training

5) Instructor led classroom

6) Trial and error in the workflow

I am sure you answered with either 3, 4 or 6, right? And those are the answers that Bob got from us as well. Almost no one said 1, 2 or 5. And nearly 100% of our efforts in L&D are built around designing class room or eLearning experiences. And these were our the least preferred modes of learning, remembering and applying. Phew!

This got me very interested in the ‘5 moments of learning need’, proposed by Bob & Conrad Gottfredson. According to this model, there are particular moments, or situations, when a learner requires certain information in order to perform assigned tasks more efficiently and effectively.

1. Learning for the first time and 2. Learning more

Receiving instruction about a particular subject, skill or responsibility for the first time is the primary 'Moment of Need'.

1 and 2 are situations we are very familiar with. Both new hires and existing members of staff have this need. After employees have received instructions and applied the learning, there is a good chance they will want to acquire further knowledge and develop their learning. Regardless of whether this is from a personal growth perspective or to carry out tasks and duties more efficiently, this is part two of the 'Moments of Need'. Traditionally we have been quite good at designing to meet these needs.

3. Applying what you’ve learned

From my experience as a trainer and coach, I have realized that the greatest challenge lies in fulfilling need number 3.

Suppose you delivered a wonderful Leadership training course in which you have taught the attendees the steps in delegating effectively. During the course, you presented your content, got them to practice and even conducted role play exercises. You are a 100 percent sure that they have absorbed the lessons. So far so good.

But the most important aspect to remember of any training is that the skills that are imparted are never needed right at that point in time.

Trainees may need to use these skills at the workplace maybe after a few days or weeks, and at that point, they have no resources to support them other than an abandoned king-sized binder. This is the Moment of truth for a learner.

He or she would barely remember the training and have no way of getting support. Long story short, at the moment they need to apply what they learnt, the training and the trainer failed them.

4. When things go wrong (Problem Solving)

When trainees are unsure of the solution to a problem, they should know where to find the information they need.

Consequently, Need 4 is when problems arise, or things break or don’t work the way they were intended. Your trainees must be confident in their knowledge in order to solve unanticipated problems.

Following on from the same ‘delegating effectively’ scenario from above, the trained Manager tries to delegate work and the employee refuses to take it up. He/she complains that the Manager is overloading her with work and is very unfair when it comes to work distribution. What should the Manager do? We draw a blank here. Our entire focus was on the classroom and we didn’t consider challenging situations that could arise at the point of application.

5. When things change

The final 'Moment of Need' occurs when employees must change or adapt the way they carry out the tasks. A policy, product, system of process change could trigger this need.

While this might sound straightforward, it does throw up some challenges as individuals have to effectively unlearn an existing notion and then learn a new one, which could be dissimilar. This is another need that we simply fail to satisfy.

This helped me: Performance Support Tools.

Nowadays, if someone asks me to design a training to bridge a knowledge or skill gap, the first question I ask is "Where would the person be applying it?"

Once I get the answer to that, I will design a simple performance support tool that will help the learner apply what he has learnt at the point of application. It could be a checklist or a video or a job aide. I will also list the most common issues that could arise while applying the learning along with the strategies to handle them.

Having taken care of every individual’s preparedness for the real-world challenges that will follow, I don’t try to tackle the 5th moment of need preemptively, as I have no way to anticipate the nature of change.

And what do I do in my classroom sessions? I base my training and activities on these Performance support tools and help the trainees use them to carry out their tasks. By incorporating the issues and questions that arise from these activities, I enrich and develop my Performance support tools continuously.

How have these changes improved the effectiveness of what I do? Well, in a recent survey that was conducted on a full organizational scale, 89% of Managers strongly agreed that trainees are applying what they had learned, as well as influencing business results positively. And this correlated with the relevant KPIs as well. Isn’t that cool- a simple question that transformed me from a class-room tiger to a Capability Enabler.

I exhort you to learn more about the 5 moments and to embrace that model at work.

Dr. Sangeeth Ibrahim is a trainer and coach who expresses his purpose as #MissionInspire1Million. He is also a best-selling author and TEDx Speaker.

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