No One is Doing the Pre-work!

February 10, 2014

Engaged training classInvesting in learning is not just about people…it is the key to organizational sustainability. Although top-of-mind for organizations poised for growth, many have not yet figured out how to create an optimal learning experience to get the most from their learning investment.

While there is much talk about trying to harness informal learning and collaboration, there is still a big role for highly interactive learning workshops. But there is a catch – ideally the core learning should be happening before participants even get to the workshop so that they can get the most out of being together in a facilitated session.

That's where pre-work comes in. 

Pre-work gives participants some theory and context for the learning event. It helps bring participants to a common denominator. But here is the ‘kicker’: we craft brilliant learning solutions that blend nicely together, take into account unique learner needs, launch the program and then at least 30 per cent of the class arrives ill-informed or ill-prepared.

What went wrong? 

Knightsbridge has spent years developing a unique, integrated and powerful Before, During and After approach designed to engage participants and sustain the learning. We've learned a few things along the way about how to create and deliver classroom events that are high impact, interactive and authentic, including how to help participants see value in completing the pre-work: the work we want them to do before the real work begins. 

When designing an effective learning solution, here are a few suggestions to ensure pre-work gets done:

  • Keep it short! If the pre-work is an e-learning event, limit it to 45 minutes.
  • If the pre-work is an article, keep it under 500 words and consider including an executive summary paragraph up front.
  • If it is an ebook, consider providing a hard copy edition for long waits or commutes with no wireless access.
  • If pre-work includes an ‘ask,’ provide specific examples such as an overview of a difficult conversation, or a perspective on a challenging event. This allows people to model your framework.
  • Finally, set expectations and make participants accountable for meeting them. Link the pre-work to the learning, and spell out how their inability to complete the pre-work will impact the group.

Now that we know how to create effective pre-work, how do we handle it when it doesn't get done?

  • Always start the session by asking questions about the pre-work. This is not a name-and-shame exercise, but rather a way of gauging the crowd.
  • Have on a chart the key take-aways from the pre-work. This will reinforce concepts for those who need it and give information to those who don’t have it!
  • Have any pre-work content available for participants to take away, especially if you are facilitating a two-day program.

Pre-work should be just as relevant as any work that is to be done in the workshop.  It is a key component to learning that stays with you.

What are you doing to make sure your employees get the most out of a learning event? Do you do your pre-work? Why? Why not? What would inspire you to get it done?


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