Learning ultimately comes down to personal growth. In a VUCA world (characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity), personal growth is steeped in resilience: the ability to harness chaos for creative output. But we think about learning at work all wrong. We see them as separate things. We force people into having split identities. What we should be doing is integrating them. We should see work as an avenue for authentic self-expression.
In this article, you’ll learn how people really learn at work. Equipped with that knowledge, you’ll learn how to apply this to revenue teams with a step-by-step guide and frameworks to help you implement the ideas.
How Do People Grow at Work?
Personal growth requires connecting with present reality, acknowledging dissatisfaction with that reality, envisioning a preferred future, and understanding the initial steps toward that future. This combined force must outweigh the resistance to change.
You Can’t Start This Process Without Stopping First
You can’t connect properly to your present reality without pausing to reflect. Numerous distractions prevent us from doing this, some of which we willingly invite into our lives.
We must teach people about distractions and emphasize the importance of presence and focus, even if only during brief moments of reflection on a video, podcast, or client conversation, to write down what we can learn from it. Without time to reflect, connect with our thoughts and body, and process what’s going on, there is no growth.
You Have To Let Go
Next, we must empower our teams by relinquishing control. They are responsible for their own growth, and learning cannot be forced. Focus on boosting motivation instead.
The best way to do this is to:
- Establish a validated and shared vision of a more desirable future
- Outline a clear, measurable path to achieve that future
- Make the first step clear
- Reduce resistance by eliminating the fear of taking action
- Showcase noteworthy early wins (make good first impressions)
You Can’t Stop There
This is not enough for successful learning as a team, let alone an entire organization. Learning is part of an ecosystem. You must address organizational learning as a system, or no independent learning intervention will ever realize its desired effect.
The best way to do this is to look at the following:
- The people in the system and how they are treated.
- The org design to understand the implicit rules of the game.
- The vision to understand if people feel committed to it and if it provides clear direction.
- The values to understand what governs interactions between people.
- The leaders to understand what kind of behavior is modeled.
- Each individual’s approach to personal mastery to understand the collective attitude toward curiosity and personal development.
- The team approach to learning to understand how knowledge is shared and how people mentor and coach each other.
- The approach to knowledge management to understand how the fruits of team learning are captured, stored and made easily accessible for others to benefit from.
Finally, we must incorporate a culture of coaching as the reinforcing mechanism in our system. A lack of effective coaching to help with implementation is the number one reason why teams fail to become learning machines.
Let’s get specific now.
We specialize in working with revenue teams to help them optimize human performance to harness chaos in their market. Here then, is a step-by-step guide showing how we go about this.
Step-by-Step Guide for Revenue Teams
Sales enablement, at its core, is the art and science of providing the right tools, training, and support to salespeople so they can perform their jobs with excellence. But in practice, the best sales enablement programs go far beyond that, creating a culture of learning and growth that permeates the entire organization.
The Problem of Learning as an Event
One of the biggest issues with traditional sales enablement is that it’s often viewed as a one-time event. Sales reps attend a training session or complete an online course, and then they’re expected to go forth and apply what they learned on their own.
The problem with this model is that it doesn’t account for the fact that learning is an ongoing process. Sales reps may need reinforcement, additional coaching, or new information as they encounter new situations or challenges.
Thinking of Learning as an Ongoing Holistic System
To truly enable sales reps to perform their jobs with excellence, we need to think of learning as an ongoing, holistic system. That means building an ecosystem that supports continuous learning and growth, rather than just one-off training sessions.
This approach requires a mindset shift, both for sales leaders and reps. Instead of viewing learning as something that happens only when a new product is released or a process changes, we need to see learning as an integral part of the sales process itself.
The Role of Events in a Total Sales Enablement System
Of course, this doesn’t mean that events or formal training sessions are irrelevant. They still play a crucial role in the learning process, especially when combined with ongoing support and reinforcement.
The key is to view events as part of a larger system, rather than as the be-all and end-all of learning. Events should be designed to reinforce and build upon the everyday learning that happens on the job, rather than viewed as a standalone solution.
Breaking the Seller Journey into Workflows
To build an ecosystem of enablement that supports ongoing learning, it’s helpful to break the seller journey into stages or workflows. This allows for a more targeted approach to enablement, as well as greater clarity on what skills or knowledge reps need at each stage of the process.
Some durable or transferable workflows to consider include:
- Territory planning
- Account planning
- Pipeline generation
- Opportunity management
- Account management
Breaking each workflow down into specific behaviors, abilities, skills, and knowledge points provides clarity on what reps need to do and what knowledge they need to have. This, in turn, can help determine the best way to provide them with the necessary information or support.
Creating Detailed Competency Maps
Next, it’s essential to create detailed competency maps. These maps should break down each workflow into the specific behaviors, abilities, skills, and knowledge points that reps need to excel.
Competency maps can help sales leaders pinpoint where reps are excelling and where they need more support. They also provide clarity on what reps need to know and do to succeed in their roles.
The Importance of Behavior Change
Competency maps are only useful if they lead to behavior change. And to drive behavior change, enablement initiatives need to focus on providing the means for learners to carry out new behaviors in their environment.
This principle is backed up by Robert Brinkerhoff’s research in his book Telling Training’s Story. He found that when the majority of resources go towards the design, development, and delivery of a training event, only 15% of participants sustain any new behaviors. But when the majority of resources go towards the application environment of the learners’ jobs, 85% of learners sustain new behaviors.
This highlights the importance of focusing on application and providing the means for learners to carry out new behaviors in their environment.
The CCAF Model for E-Learning
E-learning is one way to provide ongoing support and reinforcement for learning. But to be effective, it needs to be designed in a way that allows learners to apply knowledge and skills in a realistic challenge with feedback provided.
The CCAF model is an effective framework for designing e-learning courses. CCAF stands for Context, Challenge, Activity, and Feedback. This model emphasizes contextualizing learning, providing a challenge that’s relevant to the learner, and providing feedback that allows for reflection and improvement.
E-learning is resource-intensive to build, but it should be an active learning experience for learners. It should allow for applied learning and be built around the actual outcomes that the sales team is trying to accomplish.
The Role of Formal Coaching
As we’ve discussed, formal training with a coach is also valuable for skill development, but the environment should be built first to provide ongoing support. This makes training more relevant and effective in the long term.
The Importance of Autonomy
Autonomy is a key motivator for individuals, allowing them to work on what they want and how they want to work on it. Experienced individuals possess tacit knowledge that is difficult to transfer to others but valuable in improving processes. Giving individuals autonomy and trusting them to apply their experience effectively can lead to success and retaining employees.
Harnessing the Power of Social Learning
Social learning is an underutilized way to harness and maximize tacit knowledge. It can have a big impact with few resources. Social learning involves learning from peers, mentors, or other experienced individuals, often through exposure to numerous examples and experiences that build mental models.
Microsoft has a social learning program for recent college grads with user experience objectives that provide sparks and engage learners. One participant commented, “you taught me nothing, but I learned a lot.” Learning can happen without formal instruction, and sharing among peers can be the most effective way to learn.
Career Development for Sales Reps
Job satisfaction rates are often tied to learning, developing, and being optimistic about the future. Sales career development can be tricky due to limited responsibilities and tiers, which can affect retention rates for sales reps.
The average tenure for a sales rep is only around 18-24 months, and enterprise sellers take a long time to ramp up fully. Lack of clarity about the future can cause salespeople to leave, so it’s important to provide clear career paths and opportunities for growth.
Why Learning Culture Matters
Building a learning culture within your sales organization isn’t just about providing the means for reps to learn and grow. It’s also about creating a sense of community and camaraderie that makes reps feel supported and invested in the company’s success.
By emphasizing ongoing learning and development, you can create an ecosystem of enablement that not only drives sales success but also strengthens your team and helps you retain top talent.
Integrating learning and work requires a shift in mindset and organizational culture. It involves creating a shared vision of a more desirable future, outlining a clear path to achieve that future, and empowering individuals to take ownership of their own growth. It also requires addressing the larger ecosystem of organizational learning by examining the people, org design, vision, values, leaders, personal mastery, team approach to learning, and knowledge management.
By thinking of learning as an ongoing, holistic system and providing the means for reps to carry out new behaviors in their environment, you can drive sales success, retain top talent, and build a strong team culture.