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CEO’s Desk: L&D lessons from Australian rules football

Tackling training: Do your employees have match fitness?

IMatch Fitness in Learning and Development grew up in Melbourne Australia and like most of us who hail from Melbourne, I’m a diehard fan of the magnificent game of Australian rules football or AFL as it’s commonly called. This is a fast-moving, hard-charging game carried out over an area three time the surface of a soccer pitch with an oval ball that bounces very unpredictably. Only the fastest, fittest players survive.

And what does this have to do with how we enable people to perform on the job? Well, it has to do with the concept of match fitness.

When an AFL player has to take time away from the game because of an injury they rarely come straight back into the team as soon as their injury has healed. Even if they’ve been training hard, they’re generally considered to lack match fitness and are required to work their way back into the team by playing in a lower level until they have achieved the required level of match fitness. Putting players on the field without achieving match fitness is dangerous play and has proven to be detrimental to the team’s success. This is because while it is important to train, it is only when the skills trained for on the track are put into action in ‘match conditions’ that the real skill acquisition and fitness required for game success is achieved.

It is much the same in a work environment. Formal training is not sufficient to prepare anyone for the job – they need to be able to put the knowledge and skills from training into action in ‘match conditions’ before they can hope to achieve true competence. It follows then that the more quickly an employee can be given the chance to apply learning and skills on the job the sooner they achieve competence.

Process guidance provides a way to get people onto the playing field quickly and with a minimum of formal training, by giving them instant access to the information they need to be able to perform reliably under match conditions, without having to rely on memorizing what they learned in training. When he was Chief Learning Officer at Reuters, Charles Jennings used to call this ‘reducing time to desk’ and he implemented SupportPoint to achieve it.


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Ted Gannan

Ted Gannan co-founded Panviva after 20 years in a variety of senior management, sales, and editorial roles in the publishing industry, including Managing Director of Thomson Learning, Australia. Ted led the development of SupportPoint after identifying a need for an improved method of delivering ‘moment-of-need’ procedural and product knowledge to employees. He is responsible for overseeing the company’s growth worldwide.

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