Workplace Learning: Helping Practitioners Work Wiser

Nancy Roget, Joyce Hartje & Terra Hamblin 
CASAT, University of Nevada Reno 

After 25 years of conducting training workshops, translating research into bite-size pieces for curricula or stand-alone products, and creating opportunities for performance feedback to enhance skill development, the Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs) are ‘upping their game’ to offer novel training/technical assistance (TA) options that include multiple learning components in new delivery formats focused on changing practices. 1, 2, 3 Leading these efforts in 2017-2018, the Pacific Southwest ATTC, which includes three partnering institutions: University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA); University of Nevada Reno (UNR); and Arizona State University (ASU), recently began implementing new training models for workforce development. Specifically, the Pacific Southwest ATTC based its new model on two of the principles derived from the work of Flexner4 and others 5:

  1. Learning is competency-based and embedded in the workplace
  2. All workers learn; all learners work
Typically, training for behavioral health professionals and recovery support specialists has been conducted offsite with staff traveling to the learning event (e.g., workshop or conference) rather than embedded within the workplace. While many behavioral health practitioners liked being out of the office to receive training, administrators frequently complained about loss of revenue (billable hours), which is a valid concern especially with many more complex EBPs requiring three- and four-day training events. Unfortunately, administrators used this rationale in some instances to decrease the amount of training practitioners could attend. However, limiting or eliminating training paid for by organizations in order to reduce costs and increase revenue is not a viable answer since training/TA can enhance the quality of service delivery and improve client-level outcomes. Workplace-embedded training is feasible and, like all ATTC-sponsored training, competency-based.

In 2018, the Pacific Southwest ATTC piloted several sequenced learning events delivered online during regular work hours over an extended period of time (4 to 8 weeks). Initial feedback showed that participants liked the format, although some still struggled with the technology. The Pacific Southwest ATTC is currently revising its sequenced workplace learning events to match lessons learned from the business and healthcare fields regarding increased team building and providing a context for the new skills.

Another significant contributor to this new method of delivering training/TA in the workplace is the work of Aaron and colleagues. 6, 7 These researchers found that administrators possessed significant influence (positive or negative) regarding the adoption of EBPs by their organizational staff. One concrete way administrators showed organizational support of workplace learning was by allowing employees to count the learning sessions as part of their work day schedule.

The Pacific Southwest ATTC is committed to making workplace learning a reality in the region by designing learning events that: are delivered online using easy and inexpensive or free learning platforms; include instruction/support on how to use the online learning platforms; are conducted during work hours; include team building exercises/assignments; use workplace-specific real life scenarios in case studies; include near-peer performance feedback; and ensure there is administrator support. Making workplace learning a routine practice for delivering competency-based training similar to other Fortune 500 businesses is the goal, culminating in the creation of innovative delivery of training events that increase access, decrease costs, and help practitioners and recovery support specialists work wiser.


  1. Edmunds, J.M. et al. (2013). Dissemination & implementation of evidence-based practices: Training & consultation as implementation strategies. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 20, 152–165.
  2. Powell, B.J. et al. (2014). A systematic review of strategies for implementing empirically supported mental health interventions. Research on Social Work Practice, 24, 192–212.
  3. Herschell, A. D. et al. (2010). The role of therapist training in the implementation of psychosocial treatments: A review & critique with recommendations. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 448–466.
  4. Flexner, A. (1910). Medical Education in the United States and Canada: A Report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Bulletin No. 4. Boston, MA: Ubdyke.
  5. Miller, B.M. et al. (2010). Beyond Flexner: A new model for continuous learning in the health professions. Academic Medicine, 85(2), 266-272.
  6. Aarons, G.A. et al. (2014). The Implementation Leadership Scale (ILS): Development of a brief measure of unit level implementation leadership. Implementation Science, 9(1), 45.
  7. Aarons, G.A. et al. (2016). The roles of system & organizational leadership in system-wide evidence-based intervention sustaniment: A mixed-method study. Administration and Policy in Mental Health, 43, 991-1008.

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