A New Year’s Learning Resolution


My New Year usually begins with commitments to joining a gym, losing weight, and giving up bad habits. Typically, by the last week of January, at least one of them is already in the bin – most probably because I didn’t have an execution plan for it. If you’re someone who breaks New Year’s Resolutions as quickly as you make them, try a different kind of resolution – one for which you have an execution plan and which you can and want to keep!

A good resolution is to learn something new. It could be something you find interesting and fun, something you never learnt to do as a child, or something to close a gap in your career-related knowledge or experience. Suppose your business goals for 2014 are to increase sales, improve production efficiency, use your ERP software better, or improve your problem-solving skills. To achieve these goals, learning is often the right solution – which makes it an ideal New Year’s Resolution. Remember, the key is to plan your learning to achieve the best return on your learning investment. Let’s have a look at how you can do this.

Identify your learning needs

To reap the quickest, biggest, and easiest learning rewards, first identify your current and desired states. You can use a needs analysis in which you answer questions to help you identify these states. Next, determine your skills gaps (the differences between the current and desired states), and then prioritize the elements of the gaps. These prioritized elements become your learning needs. The following step is to set objectives that are SMART (specific, measurable, agreed, realistic, and time-specific) based on the prioritized learning needs – this keeps the learning relevant and needs focused.

Consider benefits and learning preferences

After setting your learning objectives, consider which of these would improve your personal productivity, while at the same time benefiting the business. Focus on these objectives first. Also take your learning preferences into account by answering the following questions:

  • Are you a group or individual learner?
  • Do you prefer to learn by listening, watching, getting hands-on experience, or a combination of these?
  • Do you prefer online learning or classroom-based learning?

By focusing on the objectives that will benefit you and the business, and narrowing down your learning preferences, you are more likely to buy into and complete the learning.

Develop your learning plan

The next step is to match your selected objectives and learning preferences with a learning programme that fits them, rather than the reverse. The learning programme may be an off-the-shelf course, an online course, in-house learning, job shadowing, mentoring, or a conference, seminar, or workshop. This process ensures that your learning plan is needs focused, relevant, and targeted; not just a tick in the learning box for 2014.

Execute your learning plan

Once you have developed your targeted learning plan, the logical next step is to attend and participate in the learning programme. You will find that, because it is based on meaningful objectives and tailored to your learning style, you will be motivated to complete the programme and, ultimately, remain committed to your New Year’s Resolution of learning something new.

Evaluate your learning

After completing your learning programme, it is a good idea to assess whether it met your learning needs and was appropriate for your level of expertise and learning preferences. You should also take steps to put your learning into action. Finally, monitor the resultant performance improvements through quantitative and qualitative measures. Through this type of evaluation, you are able to continually improve your learning experiences. This will go a long way in encouraging you to make learning your New Year’s Resolution every year!

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