5 Tips for Designing Great Job Aids

As the 70:20:10 theory implies, a lot of learning in organisations happens outside the boundaries of formal training. While we often cater to the formal side, there’s a lot of other important use cases for learning. With the current speed of change in business, being able to up-skill people ahead of time becomes more unrealistic. Often, we just have to start doing faster, and hope that it goes well. But the inability to train people beforehand doesn’t mean we have to forgo training altogether. Job aids, for instance, are a great way of providing learning resources on the job. Here’s what you should take into account when designing them.

1. Simplify radically

One of the key characteristics of job aids is that employees engage with them within the workflow. To minimise disruptions to that workflow, we need to minimise the time spent querying information. Therefore, similar to the logic of good storytelling, job aids should be as simple as possible. Don’t circle around the topic, but dive right in. This is not a medium to display every single bit of knowledge either, but rather to provide concise information to help the employee with a highly specific task. Everything that goes beyond that or doesn’t support that goal is excess clutter, and should be removed.

While simplifying radically enables employees to find the information faster, it also eliminates the need to spend time on making judgement calls on what information is relevant. Therefore, they’re able to get back to peak performance faster.

2. Avoid excessive use of interactivity

In the general realm of digital learning, we often talk about the importance of interactivity. While interactivity is vital in creating engagement around the learning content, with job aids, it rarely serves a purpose. As the goal is to consume nuggets of information as rapidly as possible, any interactive elements, such as questions sets, exercises and the like just get in the way.

Instead, simplify the content also in this regard. Often the simpler the better. We should always choose content types based on their fit for purpose and ability to convey the information. Videos might be the best options for some material, whereas simple text and images might work for some.

3. Make it searchable

In most cases, these type of performance support resources are accessed via some kind of system. Accessibility is a big consideration in designing effective job aids. You can design great resources, but if we bury them inside a complex, layered LMS system, finding them might become too much of a burden. If we don’t provide employees with a seamless way of making queries and finding the right material from the library, they’ll quickly default back to Google and Youtube.

Therefore, it’s important to first of all make the content searchable. The nature of job aids entails that there’s going to be quite a lot of them. To enable employees to find the relevant stuff fast, you do need a search function. While identifying the right content is important, it might also be beneficial to be able to search for e.g. keywords within a piece of content, to locate the relevant information faster. If you’re doing videos, providing navigation buttons inside the video might make sense.

4. Make the user experience simple

As mentioned, employees often access job aids via a platform, tool or a system of some sorts. Whatever the system is, it’s important that the user experience is fluid, natural and easy to use. The experience must be intuitive, meaning that employees don’t have to spend time on learning how to use the system. The less clutter there is, the better.

Generally, performance support tools or job aid portals contain a much more limited set of features compared to conventional learning tools. If you’re implementing one, it’s a good idea to review out-of-the-box or “popular” features, and consider whether they’re actually necessary for this particular use case.

5. Understand the users’ context

Finally, it’s incredibly important to understand how the employees actually engage with tools like these. Often, but not always, these types of job aids tend to be consumed on the mobile. If that’s the case, you’ll want to focus on that as your primary medium, and employe best practices for mobile learning design. If the use case is more corporate office, you might see more desktop use, and thus have more “real estate” to play with.

Going beyond devices, it’s also important to understand the use situations, i.e. the learning opportunities in the workflow, in more detail. E.g. if employees are using job aid videos on a noisy factory floor, they might not be able to hear the sounds of videos. Thus, it may be necessary to provide subtitles and ensure that the information is conveyed even without narration.

Final words

Across industries, we are seeing a trend of looking beyond the conventional formal training when considering the corporate “learning mix”. Well-designed job aids are a great way of providing performance support and rapid learning within the workflow and on-the-job. Not only does this enable people to maintain better productivity, it may also make sense for learning too, as all learning gets put into practice right away, which tends to increase retention. If you’re looking into job aids, and think you may need help in designing them or implementing proper tools for them, we might be able to help. Just drop us a note here.

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Storytelling in Corporate Learning – 3 Impactful Uses

In a world full of noise, you won’t get yourself heard without a story. Telling stories has become incredibly important. Whereas the world is full of information, facts and data, we can only process a very limited quantity of it. To get ourselves heard, we need to connect emotionally to our audience and present compelling narratives. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to win people over and evoke change with facts. In the realm of workplace learning, we first need to get people to listen, then to remember, and finally to act. Therefore, we need stories too. Here are three impactful uses for storytelling in corporate learning.

1. Increase the retention of learning content

People don’t really remember facts, but they do remember stories. To understand this, look no further than the award-winning advertisements and campaigns of recent years. Companies have stopped talking about their products and services, or even themselves. Rather, they tell stories about their values and people. And people do end up buying, because they remember those stories.

Storytelling in corporate learning works in a similar fashion. Learning retention is one of the common problems with learning initiatives. We tend to pack our learning content with data and facts, but end up doing a disservice to our learners. Instead, we should focus on telling stories. Stories that portray e.g. our customers, or the people in the organisation. This puts a humanising touch to the learning experience, whether it’s online or offline.

Furthermore, good storytelling practices also force us to focus on what matters. Good stories cannot be packed with information. Every point that is less than 100% relevant to the story dilutes its impact. Therefore, when building stories, the aim is to go as bare-bones as possible, to only include the most relevant facts. From a learning point of view, this helps the learners to get the necessary information quickly and avoid the excess clutter. Often, less is more when it comes to corporate learning.

2. Communicate the ‘why’ of new learning initiatives

The practice of workplace learning is undergoing big shifts. Most companies are looking for ways to digitalise learning and implement new learning technologies in the workplace. With shifts like these, we are often introducing new ways of working and doing things. Yet, we don’t always communicate it very well.

When undergoing digital transformation, most companies tend to focus on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the change. What is going the be the new way? How are going to do it? The problem is, that is not interesting, and people won’t listen. Instead, we should put a heavy emphasis on the ‘why’. People may not even agree with the ‘what’ or the ‘how’, but if you’re good in communicating the ‘why’, they are much more likely to rally behind your cause. Connect with the audience, and communicate shared values, and you’ll get them on board. Good storytelling in corporate learning focuses on and starts from the ‘why’.

3. Get people to put knowledge into action

Retention is not the only challenge in corporate learning, perhaps not even the biggest one. In fact, the biggest challenge is often behavioural change. Once we get the knowledge installed in the learners’ minds, the question becomes whether they’ll actually put it into practice. Without adequate support, they statistically won’t, and learning transfer will remain low. Yet, telling stories could help in this regard too.

Good storytelling in corporate learning gets people to put the learnt into practice, to do it. By featuring stories of people who have implemented particular knowledge or skills at their work, we create a path for others to follow. Good stories can be testimonials, but they can also be more concrete, practical how-to examples. Once learners see other people in similar jobs and contexts telling their stories of success, or even failure, they are much more likely to take the leap and do it themselves.

Final words

Telling stories is more and more important, even in corporate learning. It enables us to get people on board, have them listen and remember, as well as put the learnt into practice. A storytelling mindset also helps learning professionals focus on what’s important: communicating ‘why’ and cutting out unnecessary information that would only overload the learners. If you need help in building better storytelling in your corporate learning, we may be able to help. Just drop us a note here.

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Gamified Instructor-led Training – 4 Simple ideas

We often see gamification as a tool to enhance online learning, but the potential doesn’t end there. In fact, we can use a lot of the same techniques and methods to engage learners in the classroom too. Whereas very basic gamification elements may be a bit dull, deeper and more advanced things can really take the face-to-face experience to the next level. To enable that, here are 4 simple ideas for gamified instructor-led training. Take a look!

Challenge your learners

Challenges are a great way of gamifying the learning experience. Instead of keeping the session one-sided, have the learners participate actively by prompting them with different tasks. This gets them to apply the things they’ve just learned, increasing learning retention. Challenges can also utilise elements of friendly competition, whether completed in teams or individually. This provides an added level of engagement and excitement.

The advantage of using this type of gamification in instructor-led training comes from the ease of use. Challenges can be set beforehand, reducing the time spent on administering them in the classroom. Similarly, the trainer will receive real time information of the participants’ performance.

Get out of the classroom for more activity

But gamified instructor-led training doesn’t have to stick to the boundaries of the classroom. Getting out of the classroom probably makes things even more active. One good example of that is activities in the form of scavenger hunts. The trainer can create a gameboard for the players to play on, which can be e.g. a live map or a static image of the office premises. Players can hunt down on clues on this map, while completing tasks and challenges as a team or individually. Furthermore, the trainer in charge can monitor each participant’s progress and provide real-time direction and feedback if necessary.

While methods like this tend to be more effective in getting subject matter across, thanks to their active nature, there are other benefits too. For instance, these activities tend to also be great team-building moments, if played as a team.

Real-time exercises

While we discussed different types of challenges, more simpler exercises are also a meaningful way of gamified instructor-led training. And doing that in real-time can be a lot of fun. For instance, trainers can use different tools to ask questions and push exercises, and display people’s answers in real time. This again helps to spark some friendly competition, especially if you’re keeping score.

However, real-time exercises are also helpful to the learners. Learners get instant feedback, and a sense of achievement and progress as they complete exercises correctly. Furthermore, they can monitor their own learning, also in comparison to other people. Thus, they’ll be able to notice early on if they are not keeping up.

Accelerated feedback cycles and instant rewards

Finally, while not a specific technique, it’s important to talk about the importance of rapid feedback. Like mentioned above, the accelerated feedback cycles that gamified instructor-led training tends to bring along benefit all parties involved. This can also improve the quality of feedback. As trainers push exercises through the participants’ mobile devices, they get all the information in real-time. Thus, the trainers are able to provide more to-the-point and personalised feedback.

While not monetary, this acts as instant rewards to the learners. Often the fact that one notices progress and keeps is able to overcome challenges is a good source of learning motivation on its own.

Final words

Overall, there’s a lot that you can do when it comes to gamifying the classroom experience. Gamified instructor-led training can ease the cognitive overload, activate the learners, increase engagement and motivate people to continue. While these are just a few methods that one can accomplish with several tools, they do provide a much needed toolbox update for trainers and learning designers. If you’re looking to gamify offline or online learning experiences, drop us a note. We are happy to share some experiences and insights in that space.

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How to Humanise Online Learning?

One of the common pain points of digital learning is its passivity. One of the reasons learners often cite for unwillingness to engage is the lack of the human factor. Learning by oneself in an online environment is not necessarily very fun. While techniques like gamification can help to spark interest and keep motivation high, it might not be enough. However, you could tackle a lot of this problematic passivity already at the design phase. By focusing on making learning more active and human, one can go long way. Therefore, here are a few different tips for humanising online learning.

Humanise online learning with peer interactivity

One of the first contributors to the human factor is peer interaction. When digitalising learning, it’s easy to forget to utilise all three levels of interactivity. While peer-to-peer interaction occurs naturally in conventional classroom learning, it doesn’t online unless you create the infrastructure for it. So, when humanising online learning, it’s critical to enable learners to interact with each other.

The interactions can take many formats. Online discussions or internal social media channels are a good way of getting started. Chats and video rooms can also help to connect remote teams and individuals to each other. Whatever the social framework, usually a common rule applies: it’s not easy to get people to interact without any kind of guidance. Therefore, it’s a good idea to prompt and facilitate the discussions, and design them to be a part of the material.

Make it about the people, share stories

Humans are wired to retain, respond and relate to stories. However, training content often tends to stick to the facts and figures. The content moves on an abstract level, often with little explicit relation to the jobs or people in question. This doesn’t do wonders for learning results, nor is it particularly human.

One way of humanising online learning is to shift focus away from the content to stories. Less is more is a good approach when it comes to data and factual information. When you go less on that front, you’ll create room for more storytelling. Now, you can plan the stories meticulously like your marketing department might do. But it could work to also let your people share their stories. A personal testimonial or a story of a use case of the things that is being learnt is likely much more valuable than some facts that end up forgotten anyway.

Experiment with adaptive or personalised learning

Another way of making online learning a more human experience is to personalise it. Personalised learning is about finding out the learner’s interests, needs, requirements and ways to add value, and providing resources catering to them. A one-size fits all passive online learning course is about the least human experience there can be. Personalising the experience, tailoring it to the learner, can take some of that feeling away.

Adaptive learning could also accomplish similar goals. The fundamental idea of adaptive learning is slightly similar to personalisation. The learning content and its sequence doesn’t resemble a linear path, but rather a spider’s web. Based on performance on previous parts and the learners perceived knowledge and skill levels, you direct them to different bits of the material. Similar to before, learners feel that you’ve designed the learning for them, instead of a profile of averages.

Provide comprehensive and rapid support

Finally, there’s often a lot of human touch missing from getting help with one’s learning. In a lot of cases, learners tend to get left alone with the courses and programs they are completing. If they encounter a problem, they are supposed to solve it on their own. If they have questions, they might be able to ask somewhere, but getting a response might take a long time. All of this causes interruptions to the learning process.

Therefore, when humanising online learning, it’s important not to forget the learning support either. Give your learners ways of reaching out to the trainers or admins. Whether it’s usability issues or questions about the content, make it easy to contact the relevant people and ask for help. Having access to a safety network of this kind can help to alleviate a lot of the stigma when it comes to online learning.

Final words

Overall, as organisations make the transition towards online learning, it’s important not to forget the human factor. Passive consumption of online content gets too tedious fast, and learners disengage. Humanising the learning experience can keep them engaged, and feeling that they’re not just the victims of a cost-cutting exercise. Hopefully these tips prove helpful. In case you need help in making online learning more human, feel free to reach out to us. We’d be happy to help.

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Asynchronous Learning at the Workplace – Pros & Cons

As many organisations digitalise their training, they often take the asynchronous route, lifting away the constraints on time and place. In asynchronous learning, learners can progress at their own time and pace. While the approach is efficient, there are still certain limiting factors and problems to solve. Therefore, we put together the pros and cons related to the method.

Asynchronous learning: the pros

Naturally, there’s a lot of upside to the method. If there wasn’t, it wouldn’t probably be as popular. Here are some of the advantages we see in using the time-independent learning method.

Flexibility. The method is highly flexible, enabling learners to engage anytime, anywhere, as long as they have a network connection. This helps tremendously in finding time for learning, as you don’t have to coordinate multiple schedules.

Learner-centred. The method puts the learner at the centre and gives him/her the control. It’s about one’s individual progress and people can go through the content as many times as they feel needed. This may help to balance out differences in learner skill levels as well as learning speeds.

Efficient. Asynchronous learning tends to require significantly less resources than its counterpart. As learners are engaging through digital mediums, they don’t need to travel to come together for a training session. This is especially helpful for organisations with a dispersed workforce.

Potential for personalisation. The method leaves room for a lot of personalisation. While it’s hard to personalise in a classroom, with this method learners can be assigned materials tailored to them. Even adaptive learning is possible, enabling learners to craft their learning journey as they progress through.

Asynchronous learning: the cons

However, there are downsides to this method of learning as well, just like to any other method. Here are a few considerations you should keep in mind when doing asynchronous learning. We’ll also list a few suggestions to tackle them.

Lack of social interaction. Conventionally, one of the big challenges has been the lack of social interaction. Fundamentally, learning is a social process, and eliminating peer-to-peer and instructor interaction may get some learners feeling isolated. However, nowadays more and more social learning platforms are emerging, which may solve some of the problems.

Absence of instant feedback. Another aspect where the asynchronous model may be lacking is feedback. Whereas in classroom a learner would get constant feedback, both direct and indirect, from the instructor and peers, this doesn’t always materialise in digital learning environments. However, the aforementioned social learning tools may help. Also, feedback is question of learning design. It takes a bit of time to design comprehensive flows of instant feedback throughout the material, but it’s well worth the effort!

Requires self-regulated learning skills. One of the primary challenges in asynchronous learning is getting people to commit to learning. Self-paced learning requires motivation and engagement, both of which you will likely need to carefully facilitate. However, a portion of people may not have the capabilities to manage their own learning. Therefore, we should always clearly communicate things like workload required, and offer tips and support to the learners in case they face challenges.

Final thoughts

Overall, asynchronous learning provides great possibilities thanks to its flexibility and efficiency. However, to ensure that everyone has ample opportunities for learning, we should build adequate support frameworks to make sure no-one falls off the bandwagon. Furthermore, if we can find meaningful ways of adding more social interaction, personal touchpoints and incorporate feedback on the programs, we’ll be able to significantly improve the offering. If you need help in improving your own asynchronous learning programs, feel free to drop us a note. We’d be happy to share some experiences.

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4 Active Learning Methods for Corporate Training

Research shows that learning methods in which learners participate and engage with the instruction are more effective. While the learners might think they’re learning more via conventional “lectures”, further research indicates that’s a false assumption. Thus, if you want people to retain the knowledge better, you should utilise active learning methods. While self-paced learning is on the rise, there’s no reason you can’t design more active experiences even in online learning. Here are four proven methods to consider.

Flipped learning

The idea of flipped learning is to ‘flip’ the conventional use of time in training. In short, you do knowledge delivery online, and focus the classroom time on active learning, such as workshops, discussions, group tasks etc. This approach enables the learners to get more hands-on, involved and engaged. Consequently, this helps them to retain the knowledge better. Furthermore, the added practice may lower the barriers to implementing the things on the job.

Learning by teaching others

Another common active learning methods is learning by teaching others. In a corporate environment, you could replicate the idea in multiple ways. For instance, you could use user-generated content as part of your online learning programs, effectively letting the employees provide resources for each other. Additionally, you could let employees produce entire courses on their own. If you don’t want to give up control over content, you could also explore different approaches to peer-to-peer learning or digital coaching, pairing learners with willing “teachers” from within the organisation.

Social learning

One of the most meaningful ways of participation is social. There’s a lot of value in letting learners interact with each other. By enabling social learning elements, you can create powerful experience sharing platforms. It’s often highly beneficial to understand not only the content, but how others view it, and how they have perhaps implemented it in their own work. In fact, some of the best online social learning programs are centred around these types of interactions, not the content. Active learning can take many forms!

Learning simulations

Finally, simulations can be a powerful tool of active learning. Instead of just passively going through the content, learners need to interact with situations representing real-life scenarios. This also goes beyond acquiring conceptual knowledge, as it pushes the learner to apply what he/she has learnt. And more importantly, simulations require the learner to activate. You cannot browse through without really looking into it, you must interact!

Final thoughts

Overall, you should prefer active learning methods over passive ones. Naturally, everything cannot be active, but the notion acts as a good reminder to avoid online learning becoming too stagnant. Even if you don’t have the capabilities to work on any of the methods above, just simple interactive exercises can do the trick. If you need help in designing your online corporate learning to be more active, we are happy to look into it. Just drop us a note here.

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Virtual Classrooms in Workplace Learning – Do They Add Value?

As organisations have been digitalising learning and training, we’ve seen many opting for largely asynchronous methods. While self-paced learning can be a great value-add, it requires a certain degree of learning culture in the organisation. However, it’s unlikely that any organisation is able to cover all its training needs via these methods. Some topics do need active facilitation or down-right training. In such cases, organisations again face the challenge of scalability. Initially, companies employed webinars to solve this challenge, but conventional webinars have been challenging as a medium. However, as the technologies have matured and we’ve refined the methods, the concept of the virtual classroom has come about.

What’s a virtual classroom?

While the actual technical tools between corporate virtual classrooms and webinars or video conferences are rather similar, the difference comes from the methodological side. Conventionally, webinars for instance have been quite a passive and one-way medium, resembling a lecture delivered to a large audience. However, virtual classrooms are more collaborative in nature. They are designed to facilitate all the different levels of interactivity and are more learner-centric in nature. The instructor is not there just to go through content and provide a live voice track to a powerpoint, but rather to facilitate discussions and prompt the learners to engage in different ways.

In addition to just displaying content and video, these virtual sessions may be structured around different kinds of activities like user polling, discussion boards, group chats, sharing of user-generated content or smaller, private breakout sessions.

Different corporate use cases for the virtual classroom

Now, there are a lot of different use cases for these kinds of tools. Here are a few that we picked that might provide further value-add in corporate use.

Collaborative learning experiences

Often the real value of getting people together is in the possibility to collaborate. Thus, once you have that, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to use the virtual face-to-face time for lecturing or going through content. Rather, a virtual classroom session is a good opportunity to do more collaborative learning activities. For instance, you can use the time for discussions and reflections to develop shared understanding of the topic in question. Hearing your peers’ reflections on a topic or the way they’ve executed it in practice can be very valuable. Furthermore, you could also extend such collaborative approach to solve real business issues through problem-based learning.

Expert-led sessions

It’s hard to get people in the same place at the same time, especially when the people are busy and sought after experts of their own field. However, a virtual classroom approach may give more opportunities for that. For instance, an expert panel discussion or a fireside chat would be quite convenient to organise in such format. On the other hand, the approach might be useful for e.g. senior leaders in a global organisation to communicate vision and strategy and open themselves for discussion and elaboration on such topics. While we don’t think that these can ever totally replace e.g. company town halls, for some uses they might be the conscious, smart option.

Virtual coaching

Coaching is arguably one of the most powerful modalities of learning. It’s intimate, it’s personal, it’s supportive. However, conventional coaching can be expensive and faces the same challenge as other face-to-face formats when it comes to scheduling. Again, virtual classroom could help to solve some of that. Coaches could engage both groups and individuals remotely and interchangeably. For instance, a coaching session could consist of the coach delivering general level advice to a group. Then, the session could break into 1-on-1 sessions to provide personalised advice and support. Digital tools can also help coaches in managing their students and their progress.

Final words

Overall, there’s probably still a lot of value in synchronous learning methods such as the virtual classroom. However, smart organisations should try to use that face-to-face time in meaningful manner, leveraging on the opportunities to collaborate rather than lecture. In global organisations, this can not only provide major cost savings, but also help to connect people and develop shared understanding across different cultures. If you’re looking to leverage virtual classrooms, or struggling to get your trainers to shift away from lectures, we may be able to help. Just contact us here.

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Corporate Learning Apps – Native or Web-based?

Many companies are shifting more and more attention to mobile learning. As a result, we’ve seen the number of mobile applications (or just apps) skyrocket. Commonly, an app tends to refer to one of those that you download to your phone from an app store. However, there are also web applications in addition to these “native” apps. When choosing a deployment method for the mobile, the type becomes important. Hence, we compiled this quick guide on native vs. web-based corporate learning apps, and the pros and cons of each.

Native vs. Web app – what’s the difference?

The main difference between the two is that native apps are downloaded to one’s device and accessed locally, whereas web apps are deployed on remote servers and accessed via the browser of the mobile device. While responsive web apps can be quite powerful in features, people often don’t see them as apps, but rather websites, which doesn’t necessarily do them justice.

Besides this main difference, there are a lot of smaller things that differ between the two. Also, when talking about corporate learning apps in particular, there are a few other things that L&D professionals may need to consider.

Pros and cons – native apps

Let’s start by looking at native corporate learning apps and the functionality and capabilities they offer.

ProsCons
Fast, not as much dependent on internet speeds, as content is often saved locally (may also be offline accessible)Locally saved content may be an information security consideration.
Ability to use full functionality of the operating system and device (e.g. camera, microphone)Different operating systems require their own apps, which increases development and upkeep resources needed.
You may be able to build more intuitive user experiences specific to mobileSomeone needs to install the app, either the employee or your IT team

Overall, native corporate learning apps probably come down to costs. Are you able to use the specific benefits of native apps in a way that warrants the costs?

Pros and cons: web apps

Now that we’ve looked over web apps, here are some pros and cons for web-based learning applications.

ProsCons
Need to develop only one version, which essentially works on any device with a browser. Access to mobile devices internal capabilities is slightly limited.
Easy to update content, everything can be done remotely and instantlyPerformance is dependent on network speeds
Easy to deploy, users don’t need to download anything on their devicesNeed to ensure all functionality is equal on different browsers.

As an option, web-based corporate learning apps tend to be the cheaper one. With current mobile browser performance, they are well able to cater to most general mobile learning needs in organisations.

Which one should you use for your corporate learning app?

In general, we can’t say that one type of app is better than the other. Rather, both have their advantages and weaknesses. Also, it’s perhaps worth to note that apps are as good as the developers who build them. We’ve seen web apps that wiped the floor with native ones in all aspects, but also ones that don’t do very basic stuff all that well (and vice versa of course!). Hence, when it comes to corporate learning apps, take your time to familiarise yourself with them. Just the fact that someone has developed an app doesn’t necessarily mean that the app is of high quality and contributes meaningfully to the learning.

Ultimately, it comes down to what you need the app for, i.e. suitability. As organisations, we also operate with different types of constraints, e.g. budgets, resources available and company mobile device policies just to name a few. Therefore, it’s important that you spend time carefully considering what you need, before starting to develop on any platform. And if you need help designing or prototyping solutions, we are happy to help. Feel free to drop us a note here.

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3 Ideas for Knowledge Sharing at the Workplace

Most successful learning organisations are great at sharing knowledge, both formally and informally. As more and more organisations comprise of knowledge workers, we should no longer undermine information exchanges as a tool for keeping the expertise up-to-date. At the same time, even companies with more practical jobs face a challenge of getting employees up to speed through onboarding as well as staying on top of the constant change in the business. These are all areas where fluid workplace knowledge sharing can make a big impact. Naturally, social media and collaboration platforms are a relatively easy way to get things started. However, here are three ideas that go slightly beyond that.

Letting employees train employees

In the conventional corporate setting, L&D is usually quite a top-down effort. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be. An interesting experiment could be to provide employees with tools to train their peers in the organisation. For instance, small group webinars could be a low entry point way of easily sharing knowledge. But you could also go a step further, and let employees start creating training content. This could take the form of micro-programs, short lessons and topical updates. Nearly all of us nowadays carry a smartphone – a powerful content production tool in its own right. Should you want to shoot practical how-to videos or capture work processes, you don’t have to look any further than that.

As many digital learning platforms nowadays come with rather easy-to-use content authoring tools, this kind of an approach doesn’t necessarily require much training. If you think about this as simple knowledge sharing rather than rigid learning design, the content should be valuable as long as the topics are relevant!

Sourcing tacit knowledge from employees

Now, if you’re still hesitant to give away the keys to the L&D kingdom, there’s another approach you may try too. No matter the job, people and teams always develop some specific, tacit knowledge about the tasks at hand. This may be e.g. improved workflows, better practices, systems knowledge or stakeholder insights. This is the kind of expert knowledge that you don’t learn “in the book”. However, it can be extremely valuable for the job in question.

Similar to employees training each other, we could surely extract this knowledge and formalise it into a learning experience. For instance, if you’re looking to train retail staff on store operations, you could ask the people at different locations to document and submit pieces of information to the L&D team. The L&D team could then use this “raw material” to build a more structured learning experience, or curate a pool of resources. In terms of knowledge sharing value and relevance, this is likely much higher than conventional content.

Employee or team challenges to unlock new ideas

While the previous parts have dealt with employees sharing existing knowledge, that’s not to say there’s no value in tapping into them for new ideas. On the contrary, the “front line” of any given job usually knows the workflows, routines, challenges and problems so well that they can be a major source of incremental process innovation. Most likely, there are a lot of ideas out there. It’s just that people don’t voice them for a variety of reasons. And often these are things that the company would be better off listening to as well!

So, instead of losing out on all those possibilities, how about trying to extract some of these new ideas? Now, this could take many forms. In the digital realm, the process could be similar to the few outlined above. Employees can submit their ideas, review others’ and suggest improvements. Alternatively, this could also take the form of a design sprint or a hackathon. With these facilitation mediums, it might also be convenient to prototype the ideas further. You could also turn this into a problem-based learning challenge. Regardless of which medium you choose, the relevant decision makers could then tap into this flow of ideas, and see which ones could be successfully implemented.

Final thoughts

Overall, effective knowledge sharing can be a huge tool of competitive advantage. It helps you to constantly improve, stay on top of change and even lead it. However, when implementing these kinds of initiatives, don’t forget to incentivise. If you wanna create a sharing culture, you need to establish a safe environment for it and then reward the behaviour accordingly. And if you think you may need help in figuring out how to implement these kind of things in your own organisation, don’t hesitate to drop us a note. We’d be happy to embark on an exploration with you.

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Getting Started With Data-driven Learning Design

As a whole, the L&D industry hasn’t always been doing a terribly good job when it comes to designing learning. However, we have started to recognise that one-size-fits-all activities are probably not the way to go, and that we should design learning for the people doing the actual jobs, not for the company HR department. Fundamentally, designing better learning is about knowing your learners. In that aspect, the overall capabilities of the industry have developed tremendously over the past few years (with things like xAPI etc). However, as we start to accumulate more data and information, it’s important to know how to use it well. Thus, we decided to look at data-driven learning design, how to get started and the different types of data you can use in design decisions. We’ll divide this article into two, resembling an initial- and a subsequent round of design.

Understanding who you are designing for

At the start of any design process, you should always spend time understanding the problem and the “customers”. In corporate learning, this discovery is equally important, yet something that many organisations skip almost entirely. Here’s where data-driven learning design approaches already come in handy, albeit not perhaps in the way you expect.

Since it’s your people and employees you are designing for, you have an abundance of data available to you. However, this data is not necessarily siloed within the L&D’s systems or records. Rather, you might have to look for it in other places. For instance, demographic data might sit in an HR system. Assignment and task related data might sit in a performance management system. These kinds of data can help you create rough archetypes, or “personas” of your learners, i.e. who they are, what they do etc.

However, if we leave it there, we might still miss the mark. At the initial design stage, we should also explore how our learners can engage with the learning content at the workplace. As we don’t want to inconvenience them, it’s important to get to know the workflows and they ways we could instil learning into them. Now this a part of data-driven learning design that you don’t have an easy tool or a dashboard for. Rather, you have to get out there, start observing and exploring, and collect qualitative data. Different service design methods prove quite effective in this regard.

Understanding how learners engage with the content

Unfortunately, once you’ve put a learning activity together, your job doesn’t end there. Although the initial time spent on learning design does pay off, it’s still unlikely that everything works perfectly. Maybe there are pieces of content that the learners don’t engage with. Maybe they engage in ways different to what you initially thought. Whatever the actual usage and engagement behaviour is, it’s our job to find out.

To start out, tools like web analytics can provide handy insights into e.g. engagement times, devices used and geographical locations. Then, more specific tools for learning content analytics can tell us stories about how the content is being consumed. Finally, it’s tools like xAPI that enable us to practically follow the learners’ journeys through the material, tracking and seeing every interaction along the way.

Once we know what’s not working, we can fix it. Maybe we need to cater to different device sets than initially thought. Maybe the video we produced doesn’t actually engage the learners. Or perhaps the sequencing of learning activities seems to be wrong, as the data might show they jump between sections rather than following a linear path. Regardless of what it is, smart data-driven learning design enables us to get information, understand its magnitude, and make design decisions accordingly. Remarkable results are not produced in one iteration.

Final thoughts

If we want to improve as an industry, L&D has to start working with data to be able to produce better outcomes. It’s easy to view data-driven learning design as something daunting and terrifying, but it’s really not. Sure, we need to adjust our mentality a bit. We need to become more comfortable with “betas” and iterations, and the fact that we may not always get it right the first time. But once we get past that, once we learn that, there should be a great future ahead. And if you’re not entirely comfortable with all this just yet, we are happy to hold your hand. Just contact us here.

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