Putting Learning and Wellness Together

Posted by Joel Bennett on

Authored by: David Steed (OWLS)

The time has come for organizations to capitalize on the synergistic relationship between well-being and learning.

Well-Being and Learning are rarely mentioned in the same sentence. At least not in their respective fields of Workplace Wellness and Learning & Development (L&D). And yet, these two aspects are both essential to achieving a person’s full potential.  More importantly, they often work together and in concert to achieve a multiplier effect. Healthy people learn better. And cognitive growth leads to wiser health choices. (See Figure 1)

Companies expend enormous amounts of time, energy, and resources in these areas.  They are missing an opportunity to be much more efficient by integrating these two seemingly disparate disciplines.


Move to Learner-Centric Thriving

A new paradigm amongst L&D professionals is to think about training as a key driver of business goals. Learning isn’t just “demand-centric.” Employers don’t say: “Here are some courses; go out and find what you want. Learn something.”  Rather, training should be designed to be “learner-centric.” Courses are created specifically to (a) help individuals grow in a way that is planned and meaningful and (b) contribute to the organization’s ability to compete and thrive. Thriving depends on both competency and health.  So, why wouldn’t we want to ensure that the Learning function is synchronized with any Well-Being initiative coming from HR and Benefits?

Move Beyond “Check the Box” Wellness Thinking

Unfortunately, most current wellness approaches operate in isolation of any kind of culture or climate that promotes them.  Program after program is designed as “check the box”.  Do we have biometric screening? Check.  Do we have an incentive program to help people stop smoking? Check.  In and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with these efforts. But wouldn’t it be better to create a framework wherein the well-being strategy is rationalized, interrelated and tuned to the performance requirements of the organization?  A positive learning climate (think “transfer of training”) is integral to a healthy work culture, and vice versa. (See Figure 2)  

Move Beyond the Training Silo

To create truly innovative and effective programs we need look no further than how we can bring these two worlds together.  For years, L&D professionals have clamored for a way to reach Kirkpatrick Level 4 (results and measurable outcomes) or – more aggressively – Phillips Level 5 (return-on-investment).  These professionals ideally strive to measure, assess and report out the ROI. Unfortunately, this striving occurs in the absence of anything tangible other than how people feel about the training and itspotential for impact.

Move to Disruptive Collaboration

The research suggests that a positive transfer of training climate facilitates both learning and health. By focusing on the positive climate – gaining supervisor support, planning for positive transfer, etc. – we can improve both learning (moving across Kirkpatrick levels) and well-being (see Figure 3). Your staff in health promotion and in L&D can and should collaborate on this bigger picture. Doing so will open up new ways of designing programs – disruptive innovations – for the benefit of both professions, for their workplaces, and the workforce they serve.

The New Mental Model

What if you married learner-centric programs that drive the business bottom line with evidence-based well-being approaches that are scientifically proven to get results?  In one fell swoop, we will have changed the mental model that has pervaded both worlds since the beginning of time. And, because we gained efficiency, we would have greater ROI—on both sides.
David Steed joined the OWLS team as the VP of Business development in March of 2015. He has previously led business development efforts in the Corporate Learning space for companies such as General Dynamics, Pearson, Adobe and Oracle. David is responsible for creating go to market strategies, sales readiness, sales channel identification and direct sales. David is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in Economics. he is a Certified Training Managment Professional (CTMP) and also holds certifications in methodologies such as Strategic Selling, LAMP, Spin Selling, Karrass Negotiation and others. Email: dsteed(at)organizationalwellness.com

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