Welcome to the latest edition of the HSA e-Xpress. We feel it's important to keep you up-to-date on what's going on in our field as well as within HSA. This issue features articles on key adult learning principles, transitioning from training to performance as well as much more.

By Harold D. Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps
hstolovitch@hsa-lps.com & ekeeps@hsa-lps.com

Considerable research has been done on adult learning. For our purposes, however, we focus on four key findings from all that research. These findings were generated by Malcolm Knowles, a leader in the field of adult education (also called "androgogy"), as well as others, and we believe they are the most applicable and meaningful principles for adult learning in the work setting. These four key principles are: readiness, experience, autonomy and action.


Imagine the following scene. In one hand I have a pitcher filled with water. In the other I have a glass with its bottom facing upward. What happens when I try to pour water into the glass? Obviously, it spills over the glass and my hand because the inside of the glass is closed off to what is being poured.

This physical example of wasted effort is analogous to a trainer trying to pour content into a closed adult learner's mind. Not much enters. So what to do? How can we open the mind? The answer is simple and straightforward. Adults come to a learning situation with their own priorities and attitudes. They are ready to learn when they decide to open their minds and spirits to it. How can you get them to do this, especially if they are determined not to do so? There is one truly effective way: Show them in a believable manner that what you have to offer:

  • Solves a problem or avoids one for them.
  • Provides an opportunity or increased status.
  • Includes professional or personal growth.

It must be clear that it is for them, not for you or the organization. You can't fill a glass with water if the glass is upside down. You can't fill a learner with skills, knowledge, or new values and attitudes if his or her mind is blocked.

The readiness principle is a simple one: Always focus your training on your learners' needs. Make your training session respond to the learner's question: "What's in it for me?" When you can structure your training - live, online, or at a distance - so that meaningful benefits are being reinforced constantly, both explicitly and implictly, your learners will open themselves to what you are sharing with them.


Here's a question for you: Combien font cinq fois soixante-douze? The answer isn't difficult. It's trois cent soixante (360). Of course, you have to know some French to respond.

This leads us to the effect of prior knowledge on learning. Adult learners come to each learning event with their unique former knowledge. This is what we may term as their experience. Adult learners possess a great deal more experience than do children. Some of it facilitates learning, but it also may act as an inhibitor. Adult learners learn if the training is pitched at their level and type of experience. If the training goes over their heads or is outside of their experience base (as in the case of our French math question above, which really asked, "How much is 5 X 72?"), then you lose them. Once lost, they are very difficult to find again.

Treat adult learners as if they have little or no experience when they do, and you insult and lose them. It is critical to effective training that you acknowledge the rich store of experience your learners possess - perhaps different from what you are training them on, but no less valuable - and exploit it. Help them to contribute to their own and other people's learning. And be aware that some of their previous experience can create resistance to new knowledge.

The experience principle suggests that the more you factor the experience of your learners into the design and delivery of your training, the more effective the learning outcome. Here are some basic rules for doing so:

  • Check the backgrounds of your learners (aptitudes, prior knowledge, attitudes, learning and language preferences, prerequisite skills, culture, and relevant strengths or deficiencies). Don't lose them by aiming your training session too high or too low or by presenting it in a personally or organizationally unacceptable manner.
  • Use vocabulary, language style, examples, and references that are familiar without being patronizing.
  • Draw examples and experiences from the group to enrich the session and build bridges from the familiar to the new.
  • "Inoculate" your learners. When there have been bad experiences, warn them that you are moving into negative territory. Diffuse resistance by demonstrating sympathetic awareness of past problems.

By drawing from and speaking to our learners' experience, we can increase the impact and effectiveness of learning.


How much freedom of choice (that is, autonomy) does a young child have? Does she or he decide what to wear, what to eat, how to get to school, how to organize his or her day, or where to have dinner? The answer is typically "no." Adults largely manage children's activities - especially at school where administrators generate class schedules. Subject matter and content flow are the realms of the department of education and the teachers. Homework is meted out by the teacher-authority. None of that is necessarily bad, but it does contrast very strongly with most modern workplace environments. Although people still must work within guidelines, increasingly more autonomy is being handed to workers in setting goals, making work and resource priority decisions, handling customers, cutting deals, and creating organizational strategic plans.

When we enter the learning arena, particularly in formal classes, we often see a return to traditional, school-based, teacher-centered models of instruction. Training, in its broadest sense, requires a dynamic climate for adult learners to grow and develop. Adult learners understand best if they take charge of their learning. After all, their value in the organization and the marketplace is dependent on what they know and are able to do. They own their personal human capital, which they invest in their jobs. It is in their best interest to build their human capital accounts. The more they take charge, the greater the value they - and their organizations - acquire.

Adult learners like to participate actively and contribute toward their learning. The more the learner does and contributes, the more the learner learns.

Adult learners want to make their own decisions. Decision making is a major characteristic of adulthood. There are two values in this for learning. The first value is that decision making requires the gathering of information, an analysis of that information, a generating of alternative decisions, and a weighing of the consequences of each optimal decision. All this mental engagement strongly contributes to learning and retention, as well as to increasing the future application to the job of what has been decided. The second value to decision making is that the more the learner participates in the decision, the higher the probability that the participant will consider the decision credible and therefore will commit to it. This contribution has a powerful impact on comprehension, retention, and application posttraining.

Adult learners want to be treated as independent, capable people. They require respect, even when they make mistakes. Respect is an essential aspect of autonomy, especially in a learning context. It enables the learner to try and to err without feeling threatened or put down. In many ways, adult learners are more fragile and vulnerable than children. The fear of failure and accompanying loss of face can be high. The balance between being challenging - "Go ahead and take charge" - but supportive - "Don't worry if you don't succeed; it's all right" - is a delicate one for the trainer, instructor, educator, or instructional designer.

To operationalize the autonomy principle, we suggest you take the following actions:

  • Create lots of opportunities for learners to participate in your training sessions. Build in exercises, hands-on practice, cases, simulations, games, and discussion opportunities. Testing, but not necessarily with exams, offers a great opportunity for learners to participate.
  • Build in numerous opportunities for learners to contribute their unique ideas, suggestions, solutions, information, and examples. The more they contribute, the more they feel they own the learning and commit to making it useful.
  • Reinforce independent and innovative ideas. By rewarding such ideas, you encourage learners to adapt the learning in ways that enhance their own performance potential.


If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, then the proof of the training is in its successful on-the-job application. Have you ever gone to some form of training or instruction, found it wonderful, rated it highly, and then never used it?

Adult learners in the work setting participate in training to learn how to improve or alter their performance on the job. To ensure buy-in from the learners, their attention must be focused on immediate application of what they are supposed to learn. If they can't see how they can put it into action as soon as they return to the job, their interest and learning decrease. And if they don't perceive any form of posttraining support to help them sustain application of what they are learning, they may find the training entertaining and enlightening, but they won't be motivated to apply it on the job. As with weight loss programs, dramatic change can occur during the learning period. But off the program and back in one's normal environment or with no food and exercise plan or support systems, old habits soon reassert themselves. Without an action orientation back to the job, learning dissipates quickly. This is an enormous challenge for trainers and training managers.

To develop an action mindset in our learners, we must design training that will do the following things:

  • Point out how learners can apply their learning immediately and provide them with on-the-job support mechanisms.
  • Provide opportunities within the training sessions to practice new learning in an environment that is as close to the learners' work setting as possible. Practice increases competence and confidence, both highly correlated with motivation to transfer learning to the job.
  • Ensure that the new learning can be applied on the job. Work with the operational environment to align policies, procedures, feedback systems, incentives, resources, and rewards with the new learning. That requires the trainer to assist learners' supervisors in encouraging and supporting application of the new learning.
  • If the learning is used only occasionally (for example, in emergencies, or twice a year when the auditors arrive), create job aids and refresher opportunties that keep the learning accessible.

The key thing to remember about the action principle is "If you don't use it, you lose it." Adult learners have to be action driven because they face so many competing priorities in the workplace. Successful adult training must factor in the action orientation.

The Bottom Line on Adult Learning Principles

Training is a waste of time - yours, your participants' and your organization's - if it doesn't work. By focusing on your adult learners and their needs and characteristics, your (and their) probability of success skyrockets. You, we, and our learners are so much alike. What works for us, by and large, also works for them. The golden rule in all of this is, "Train others as you would have them train you."

This article is an excerpt from Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps' award-winning,
best-selling book, Telling Ain't Training. To learn more about the adult learning principles
and to work through concrete applications, click here to order a copy of the book.

By Erica J. Keeps & Harold D. Stolovitch
ekeeps@hsa-lps.com & hstolovitch@hsa-lps.com

When you are focused on training, your roles generally involve curriculum design, training design, training delivery, training administration (scheduling, enrollment, tracking) and evaluation of learning. As you transform from training order taker to Performance Consultant, you confront a new set of roles. Some require a minimal shift in the way you currently act. Others require you to stretch very far. That's okay.

What are these roles? The essential ones are: consultant, analyst, selector-designer-developer-implementer, project manager, facilitator and monitor. In this article, we will examine each role in turn.

Consultant. Your consulting role encompasses two sets of responsibilities. One involves the whole range of activities to build a partnership relationship with your client organizations. This includes building personal and professional credibility that has them believing you can truly help them solve their problems. The role requires you to listen, provide wise counsel and process expertise, and generally pave the way for project success. This is a highly collaborative role.

The main weapon you possess is your ability to influence your organizational partners to analyze, think and make decisions systematically and support them when the going gets tough.

You become the person most familiar with the performance improvement requirements, provide information and guidance to all who are involved in the project, review analysis and development work, and recommend next steps, changes or directions to take. Your key role as a consultant is to act as a project mentor and memory.

Consultant responsibilities include:

  • Supervising the analysis steps.
  • Guiding and managing the client in the initial steps.
  • Assisting development teams with activities.
  • Organizing and arranging progress and decision-making meetings.
  • Communicating project vision.
  • Identifying resources.
  • Providing guidance and counsel as required.
  • Reviewing draft ideas and materials.
  • Interpreting client needs to designers and developers and vice-versa.

Analyst. Often you play the role of analyst and consultant simultaneously. Specifically, the analyst role requires that you probe to identify the true business need, determine desired and current performance states, define the performance gap and the relevant factors, and identify suitable interventions. You report these in a data-based manner to the client.

Analyst responsibilities include:

  • Defining business needs.
  • Defining desired human performance in specific terms.
  • Analyzing to characterize the gap, gap factors and to identify the most cost-effective and efficient performance improvement interventions.
  • Developing suitable information gathering tools.
  • Writing analysis reports that clearly communicate to stakeholders.

Selector-designer-developer-implementer. In this role, you select, create and help implement the interventions. You have the client's confidence and authority to carry out all of these tasks. On small-scale projects, you may do all or most of this yourself. In larger ones, you work with internal and perhaps external resources. This is a heavy "doer" role.

Selector-designer-developer responsibilities include:

  • Select interventions along with rationales for each selection.
  • Establish time and action calendars for design, development and implementation.
  • Design/develop interventions.
  • Partner with clients to implement interventions.
  • Act as a main "general contractor" resource, drawing from support services, technical specialists and outside vendors as appropriate.
  • Manage the complete project.

Project manager. In this role, you assume primary responsibility for every phase. You not only partner with your client, you also represent him or her. You are charged with gathering resources, managing all project activities, verifying and monitoring progress and in general, acting as the client's agent.

Project manager responsibilities include:

  • Setting target dates and managing timelines and responsibilities.
  • Managing budgets for the project.
  • Establishing resource selection criteria.
  • Identifying and selecting resources.
  • Managing all aspects of the project.
  • Obtaining client approvals and support.
  • Mediating.
  • Facilitating.
  • Consulting.
  • Verifying and approving.
  • Negotiating changes in scope, with development teams and clients to adjust timelines and budgets.
  • Ensuring successful implementation.

Facilitator. In this role, you are available to make things easier. This assumes that the client or his/her agent is running the show. Yours is a backseat role, stepping in when requested to help the project proceed smoothly.

Facilitator responsibilities include:

  • Finding resources on request.
  • Explaining to client or development/implementation team member requirements of each that are not clear.
  • Facilitate meetings.
  • Mediating.
  • Monitoring and assisting as appropriate.

Monitor. In this role, you still have some project accountability even though the client or others are now doing all of the work. You act as an interested account manager, verifying activities and maintaining contact with client and work teams to ensure all is going as planned.

Monitor responsibilities include:

  • Periodically contacting the client to verify degree of satisfaction.
  • Periodically contacting work teams to verify progress and quality of output.
  • Provide information, support and expertise as appropriate.
  • Keeping the performance consulting group within the organization informed of project status.

Putting it All Together

As you can see there are a variety of roles and responsibilities bound up in performance consulting, whose main purpose is to bring about valued performance from people - performance valued by all stakeholders. The first step is to determine in which roles you are proficient and in which development it is required.

This article is based on Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps' new book, Training Ain't Performance. This publication provides valuable skill development and includes a rich set of resources for future study. To learn more about performance consulting and
Training Ain't Performance, click here.

Two new publications by Harold Stolovtich and Erica Keeps will be released this spring. In April 2004, Pfeiffer launches the latest product in its Learning & Performance Toolkit Series. The Front-End Analysis and Return on Investment Toolkit provides systematic methods and tools that guide you through a complete FEA and both worth and ROI calculations. The FEA & ROI Toolkit has been created to meet your needs by accomplishing two goals: using the toolkit will allow you to systematically analyze a performance need or gap in order to select the appropriate interventions for closing the gap and to ensure that the investment in energy and costs in closing the gap is worth it. Its overall objective is for you, with the help and guidance that the toolkit provides, to be able to analyze and document a request for training or performance support from a performance perspective and prescribe suitable interventions. You will also be able to calculate the worth and ROI of your selected interventions.

Telling Ain't Training has become a best-selling classic since its release in June 2002. Now, this wildly popular book has an equally whimsical, entertaining, and solidly written companion book, Training Ain't Performance, that takes on the subject of human performance. From its first chapter, Show me the Money, to its concluding chapter, Hit or Myth: Separating Fact from Workplace Performance Fiction, readers are gently guided toward an understanding of human performance improvement and how to use it for real organizational value. Readers are not only introduced to key performance concepts including why training is often not the only answer, but also how to realistically transition from "training order taker to a performance consultant.” In addition to this practical advice, this book contains a cornucopia of performance interventions along with help on the day-to-day work of a performance consultant plus demonstrating ROI for performance interventions. Training Ain't Performance will be released by ASTD in May 2004.

For more information on either of these publications, click here.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently selected Telling Ain't Training as their book of the week in their weekly electronic newsletter, HR Week.

The best-selling, award-winning Telling Ain't Training tackles the three universal and persistent questions of the profession of performance improvement - how do learners learn, why do learners learn and how do you make sure that learning sticks. It uses an interactive approach which models the basic message of the book - humans learn best through active mental engagement. The ultimate goal of the book is to allow the reader an opportunity to break through learning barriers, to separate learning myth from research-based facts and to dispel counter productive beliefs and practices that harm the instruction process. For more information or to purchase a copy, click here.

During a recent professional retreat, three performance consultant couples took to the streets. Pictured are Jane and Darryl Sink, Dana and Jim Robinson, and Erica Keeps and Harold Stolovitch.

All six had to work hard to move the surrey (with no fringe on top) through Santa Barbara, CA. How did they do it? By working together!

From time to time, we come across interesting articles that we feel are important to share with others. Our Guest Author Series will feature these articles by various professional colleagues. The first in our series is by Beverly Kaye, one of our Call Center Consortium partners (www.callcenterconsortium.com) and CEO of Career Systems International, and Sharon Jordan Evans, president of the Jordan Evans Group. They are the authors of the best selling book Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay and the newly released Love It Don't Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work.

Staying Longer? Make it Better! The Job You Have Could Be the Job You Want
By Beverly Kaye & Sharon Jordan-Eva

If you’ve ever thought the grass must be greener in another workplace, you’re not alone. We’ve all felt that way at some point in our work lives. In the workplace, these feelings can cause you to head for the door (leave physically), or cause you to stay put but shut down (leave psychologically—turn down your energy, your oomph.) Some of us give it a lot of time before we get to the point of departure (sometimes too much).

Some of us give it too little time and move on too quickly. What if there were another option? What if it were possible to achieve or regain satisfaction at work? What if your work were something you looked forward to each day? What if it tapped your enthusiasm? Used your creativity? Made you feel appreciated? What if work could truly deliver the goods?

Work takes the better part of our waking lives. When it is good, we unleash energy, creativity, and commitment. We look forward to the day, to our teammates, the environment, the boss—the whole package. We don’t want to press the snooze button. We feel productive. We feel a sense of accomplishment. We learn. And we feel satisfied.

Is it really possible to shift your satisfaction meter? The answer is YES, if you accept that workplace satisfaction is a two-way street. It demands effort from your manager and from the leaders of your organization. But it also demands initiative and effort from you. Positive change is not only possible, but also well worth the effort.

There are three critical mindsets that are essential to making your current workplace one where you could stay longer.

  • You’re in charge: You are ultimately responsible for your own workplace satisfaction. Don’t expect your manager to be a mind reader or your organization to be solely responsible for your happiness. Others do have a role to play. But the bottom line is you’re in control, and it’s up to you to fix what’s wrong or find what’s missing.
  • What you want could be found right where you are: Perhaps all you need to do is get clear about what’s missing and go after it. Look inside before you jump outside. Master the art and science of asking for what you want.
  • Don’t Wait: That “lovin’ feeling” may not find you. You may have to find it! Instead of “settling” for work that doesn’t work for you, take steps now to improve it. Don’t wait for someone else to take the first step.

Too often we leave for greener pastures elsewhere only to find Astroturf. The new workplace may have the same, or different (sometimes even worse) challenges, frustrations, and disappointments. In today’s tight economy, too many people “wait it out” and miss the opportunity to change their own status quo. If you are staying longer, why not make your current workplace work better for you.

This is an excerpt from Love It, Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work
(Berrett-Koehler, 2003) by Beverly Kaye & Sharon Jordan-Evans. For more information, visit www.LoveItDontLeaveIt.com.

Harold Stolovitch will be presenting at a number of events over the next couple of months including ISPI International in April in Tampa, the PDA Conference in May in Puerto Rico, ASTD Conference in May in Washington, the Symposium Formation in May in Montreal, and Training Director's Forum in June in Phoenix. Click here to view HSA's Events Calendar to learn where and when he'll be as well as read session descriptions.

Do you have any burning human performance technology questions? Visit the Ask Harold section of HSA's Website and ask your questions for Harold Stolovitch to answer. Here is a recent submission that might intrigue you:

There is increasing interest from the training, consulting, and HR communities in HPT but there is also worry whether this interest is going to translate into increased practice and opportunities. Please comment.

To read the response, visit Ask Harold. To ask your own question, just click on the crystal ball above, fill out the form and click submit.


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© Copyright 2004 Harold D. Stolovitch & Erica J. Keeps