In a previous article ‘The Skills and Capabilities to thrive in a Digital World’ we discussed the required abilities, skills and capabilities that companies require to thrive. In a world where lengthy training sessions are outdated, and our attention spans are getting shorter, how can companies develop these abilities, skills and capabilities that our people need?
Components of an effective Digital Learning Strategy
As we discussed in the previous article ‘Why isn’t our Digital Transformation progressing faster?’ the key challenge to a successful digital transformation is about People and Organization, not Technology.
An effective digital learning strategy needs to address issues such as the ever-shorter shelf life of knowledge, keeping the workforce motivated to learn and balancing impact from time spent away from work. A digital learning strategy must also be able to accommodate a rapid pace of change and make the time spent learning business outcome focussed.
Learning is moving out of the class room, and this is a welcome change for many employees. Disney for example (Kane et al., 2018) implemented a platform to help them shift away from a classroom approach to learning. This allowed employees access to content as and when they required it. “Three or four years ago, learning at Disney happened in classrooms,” says Steve Milovich, senior vice president of global human resources and talent diversity, Disney/ABC Television Group and also senior vice president of employee digital media.
So, what are the key points companies need to consider when approaching a digital learning strategy?
In the digital age, knowledge is no longer equal to power. Access to information has become a commodity with a fast pace of change. The information and knowledge we access or learn can quickly become outdated or obsolete. At the same time, increasing complexity and abundance of data requires us to be more selective in what we decide to learn. It is therefore important that Leaders foster a culture of lifelong learning to avoid obsolescence in their workforce. ‘Across nearly all industries, the impact of technological and other changes is shortening the shelf-life of employees’ existing skill sets’ (World Economic Forum, 2016, p. 3). This illustrates the need for innovation, as well as a more holistic, flexible and open-minded way of thinking about learning.
The majority of your workforce is likely aware that they need to adopt a lifelong learning approach. Recent research by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte (Kane et al., 2018) reports that some 90% of executives and managers surveyed indicate that they need to update their skills at least yearly, with nearly half of them reporting the need to update skills continuously on an ongoing basis. Yet, only 34% of respondents say they are satisfied with the degree to which their organization supports ongoing skill development. Companies will need to look at the availability of learning to their workforce and support their efforts in taking time to learn.
Being able to offer just-in-time learning interventions, with a variety of ways to consume the content (desktop, mobile or virtual), is a powerful mechanism to pass on knowledge with minimum time investment by the learner.
The way in which your employees educate themselves has changed. When they need to fix something at home, they watch YouTube videos to instruct and guide themselves. When they install a new app on their smartphone, they expect it to be intuitive, with instructions available as and when needed. They do not complete a training course or read a manual. Your employees expect this same experience at work. With the vast quantities of information available, we can no longer train everyone on everything. But instead we need to provide the right information at the point of need.
If well implemented, context-sensitive learning solutions such as WalkMe or Whatfix can very effectively support this requirement for desktop applications.
The advances in Augmented Reality technology brings even more opportunities for Just-In-Time context sensitive learning beyond two dimensional applications. Potential benefits of AR in a workplace context are vast, including making dangerous work environments safer and learning how to use new equipment in context.
Scenario-based and Active Learning
Situating the learning experiences in the form of scenarios is more effective and will enhance the motivation of the participants as well as making the learning “stick” by making it relevant to real-life situations.
We learn more effectively by being action-orientated, rather than the arguably more passive modes of reading, listening or watching. Companies can leverage scenario-based and active learning techniques to achieve greater results from learning efforts.
Digital technologies can provide ideal delivery methods for engaging and realistic business focused learning activities. Virtual Reality provides next-level active learning and scenario-based experience in a way that requires constant learner engagement. Hence providing a more engaging learner experience.
In our everyday life, both personal and work, when we need answers we will instinctively ask our peer groups. Be this friends, family or work colleagues. This is of course a natural reaction. But with the more complex knowledge requirements in a work context, the required expertise or knowledge may not be readily available in the immediate vicinity. This is where social collaboration comes into play. Social collaboration tools allow employees to find expertise, communities of interest and practice within their entire organization. It allows for wider discourse outside of immediate vicinities, such as at the department or project level. The benefits of which are increased levels of collaboration, innovation and faster problem resolution. Tools to facilitate social collaboration are, for example, the well-established Yammer by Microsoft, and Workplace by Facebook. The latter is modelled on the Facebook interface in order to drive adoption, due to providing a familiar interface.
With information available in abundance, sometimes a motivator is required to get learners involved or to keep them involved in a topic. This is particularly important in subjects that are mandatory, but do not provide learners with an immediate reward, in the sense that it doesn’t solve an immediate problem for the learner. Such subjects are for example compliance training, safety or even new behaviors that are being instilled. A well thought out gamification approach can provide this immediate reward, make learning more fun and build upon extrinsic as well as intrinsic motivators. The result is a higher completion and retention rate and ongoing participation by learners.
Fit for the target audience
Achieving lifelong learning presents some significant challenges to companies.
As with many things, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, instead successful learning strategies cater to the needs of different audiences; their learning needs, their digital literacy and their different learning styles. After all lifelong learning is as much about motivation as anything else.
But how to do this?
- Involve your audiences in defining the learning approach that works for them using Design Thinking techniques.
- Evaluate the digital literacy of the audience and cater to what most are comfortable with. For example, associates in a fashion retail store will have a different level to a team of software developers – so we should cater to these differences.
- Develop content that is available for different learning styles. Some people learn better by listening, others by reading or watching something. Digital technology has made it easy to provide the same content in multiple formats, so we should use that opportunity.
- Make learning available that helps the target audience perform their job better. When a sales associate sees a direct correlation between accessing learning and their sales commission increasing, they will be much more likely to take part.
Measuring cost and effectiveness
All too often we evaluate costs of a learning approach by the cost to design, develop and deploy it. Companies must change this measure and focus more on the real cost – in particular the cost of time spent on training that is ineffective, and impact on productivity from ineffective learning methods.
Effective learning analytics and a ruthless evaluation the effectiveness of learning interventions considering all types of costs is required. Learning after all, is here to stay and is only becoming more important.
Companies understand that successful Digital Transformation requires a shift in their workforce, including its skills and capabilities. Whilst some of these capabilities can be hired or borrowed in the short-term, the entire workforce needs to be enabled with a Digital literacy, the right soft skills and supported by the required specialized digital capabilities.
This needs a learning approach that enables lifelong learning, supported by an effective digital learning strategy. A well-thought out Learning strategy combines all of these factors. It also caters for different learning preferences amongst a diverse workforce, as well as creating a culture of ongoing learning, all of this is supported by the effective use of technology.
To find out how you can accelerate your organization’s Digital Transformation,
contact us for a free consultation with nepf.
Kane G.C., Palmer, D., Phillips, A.N, Kiron, D., and Buckley, N. (2018) COMING OF AGE DIGITALLY Available at: https://sloanreview.mit.edu/projects/coming-of-age-digitally/ (Accessed: 13 July 2018)
World Economic Forum, (2016) The Future of Jobs. Employment, Skills andWorkforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Available at: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_FOJ_Executive_Summary_Jobs.pdf (Accessed: 13 July 2018)