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Power to the People – 5 Reasons to Embrace a Pull Learning Strategy

April 17, 2013

by Tess Robinson, Director, LearningAge SolutionsPull Door

We’re so used to self-directed learning these days that we forget we’re even doing it. I’m a trainee silversmith in my spare time. If I want to know the best way to solder a joint or set a stone, I’ll Google it, find a video on YouTube or ask my social network of fellow jewellers. I don’t need to wait for my class day to have a tutor instruct me in the technique, although undeniably it’s useful to have an expert on hand to help if I get stuck. We have come to expect this kind of on-demand learner-led learning in our everyday lives, why should learning in the workplace be any different?

Learning at work should not just be about someone telling you a bunch of facts and then expecting you to go away and remember it all. Learning should also be continuous, self-directed and personalised – ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’.

Not convinced? Here are five compelling benefits of a pull learning approach:

  1. Giving people power over their own learning allows them to personalise their learning journey and focus on improving their own specific weaknesses. This makes learning more efficient and effective and prevents organisational resources being spent on teaching people things they already know.
  1. Adopting a pull learning strategy shows that the organisation has trust in their people. This inspires confidence in learners and is very motivating; not only in terms of their learning itself but also in terms of how positively they view the organisation and their place in it as a whole.
  1. Learners can access information and resources at the point of need, increasing business agility and giving people the ability to confront challenges and draw out the resources needed to find solutions. The ubiquity of smart phones and other small internet-enabled devices make this ever more possible, even in environments where learners don’t traditionally have access to a PC during the course of their working day.
  1. Information can be easily updated. Learners don’t have to wait until the next training course to find out new things that can help them with their job role or personal development. Resources can be updated as they change, increasing accuracy and again improving the ability of the business to respond to challenges as they arise. User-generated content, moderated by the learners themselves can be a very effective way of keeping information current.
  1. A pull learning approach focuses much more on ‘performance’ than ‘training’. Charles Jennings of the Internet Time Alliance suggested that developing a ‘performance mind-set’ requires the acceptance of multi-channel formal and informal learning, based on limited push and maximum pull. Performance improvement is the Holy Grail. Why else would you invest in training your people if it wasn’t to improve their performance?

Does this approach work for everything? Well as a stand-alone strategy, the short answer is no.  There will be times when a formal training course makes sense; for introducing complete newbies to a subject for instance. Where this approach can really add value, however, is in providing additional support and resources to ensure that training is actually implemented and understood in the workplace itself. It’s simply a question of getting the balance right and not being afraid to rescind a little control.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2013 1:12 pm

    You’re right, we need a mixture of pull and push to meet all business learning needs. But you are also right that learning departments need to give up some control. Agree with Charles Jennings’ suggestion is right on the money: developing a successful performance mind-set is based on limited push and maximum pull.

  2. November 14, 2013 3:09 am

    Great read Tess. Funnily enough I just read it after publishing a similar blog – and like you, was thinking of Charles Jennings and the 70:20:10 in relation to ‘the Pull’.

    One thing I think of in the Push – the Push (the formal) being an area that a lot of learning professionals are familiar with – is the power of the Pull actually comes from a well orchestrated, designed and deliberate Push i.e. Push Learning is the catalyst for learners to then Pull. If interested, more here:

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