How to Enable Self-directed Learning in the Workplace?

Self-directed learning in the workplace

How to Enable Self-directed Learning in the Workplace?

Imagine an organisation where employees would proactively learn the things they need to perform and take charge of upskilling themselves for the future. Sounds like every L&D professional’s dream, doesn’t it? In fact, more and more organisations are exploring for ways to achieve some of that, even if with limited scope. On one hand, we’ve realised that the traditional organisation of L&D activities is not agile enough to respond to the rapidly transforming business environment. On the other hand, there’s also a lot of of talk about 21st century employees having to take charge of their own learning and development. This type of self-directed learning is certainly not a new thing for individuals. However, organisations still have a fair bit to learn in facilitating it.

So, let’s explore self-directed workplace learning in a bit more detail. Here are a few key pieces we think need to be in place for this individual-led approach to be successful.

Organisations need to allow time for learning

This may sound overly self-evident, but in fact is a fundamental consideration. While an added benefit of self-directed learning is the flexibility it provides, organisations can’t expect their employees to learn on their own time. Some employees of course likely will do that, but a large part of them won’t. Thus, it’s important to make it clear that learning is part of the work of every employee, and to allow time within the “office hours” for it. If the whole organisation doesn’t support the approach and promote a self-learning culture, the impact will be very limited.

Managers’ commitment is crucial in facilitating self-directed learning

One of the key stakeholders in enabling a self-directed workplace learning culture are the managers. As previously mentioned, the managers need to firstly commit to the fact that their employees will be spending some of their time learning. But that’s not quite enough. The managers need to also take an active approach in following up with the learners who are having difficulties or are not engaging. They should also take an active role in identifying challenges and guiding people towards the right resources. Some employees will likely require more elaborate coaching on what self-directed learning is, and how they should be going about it. After all, the approach doesn’t necessarily come naturally for everyone.

Organisations should offer employees resources and tools

One key part of a feasible self-directer learning strategy is the resources and tools that employees can use. Sure, Google, YouTube and similar platforms exist. However, expecting employees to search for information, assess its value and relevance is likely too much to ask. Especially if you’re only beginning the journey and people are not used to self-directed learning. Thus, it’s important to offer employees resources and tools to take charge of their own learning. These can be a variety of things. Many organisations nowadays choose to curate learning resources, rather than designing everything from scratch. With this, employees get access to material that has been already vetted, and they no longer need to spend time evaluating it.

Increasingly many organisations also offer their employees collaborative and social platforms, where employees can interact with each other. These can provide a valuable informal learning resource. Often, it might make more sense to just ask someone, rather than find videos or other material on how to complete a particular task.

Never try to force people to learn, but encourage them

Finally, this one is a major issue we regularly notice with organisations who attempt to execute self-directed learning. For some reason, organisations expect that they can become self-directed, while they still “direct” people by forcing learning. For instance, this can be requiring employees to complete learning activities, set deadlines or impose other kinds of rules. This is what many L&D departments are used to, but it simply doesn’t work if you want to develop a self-directed learning culture. We cannot force people to learn.

However, that doesn’t remove the importance of encouraging employees to learn. In fact, some studies indicate considerable performance improvements pertaining to self-directed learning. But only in cases where the learning is voluntary. As we’ve mentioned before, organisations should make their absolute best efforts in promoting that culture and committing to it. People won’t take up on it unless they see their superiors and the people around them showing commitment to it.

Final words

All in all, building a self-directed workplace learning culture is by no means easy. It requires L&D to relinquish some control and accept the fact that everything cannot be strictly administered. For many organisations, this sort of change likely represents total cultural transformation. However, if you want to become a truly agile and effective organisation, we see this as a necessary step along the way. If you’d like to explore ways of facilitating self-directed learning in your organisation, don’t hesitate to drop us a note. We can’t promise quick wins or guaranteed success, but we can certainly help you learn about what might work and what might not.

More Learning Ideas

Kaufman’s Learning Evaluation Model – Quick Overview

Kaufman's Learning Evaluation Model

Kaufman’s Learning Evaluation Model – Quick Overview

The field of corporate learning has a lot of different frameworks for evaluation. While not all of them are good or even necessary, some frameworks still provide good points of consideration and models for organising information. For instance, last week, we took a look at the Success Case Method which works best on capturing qualitative insights. This week, we decided to take a quick look at Kaufman’s learning evaluation model, and see if it still provides valid contributions.

Kaufman’s Learning Evaluation Model briefly explained

Instead of providing an entirely new framework, Kaufman’s model aims to improve the commonly used Kirkpatrick’s 4 levels. The allegedly improved version introduces some additional consideration by seemingly dividing Kirkpatrick level 1 into two and adding a fifth level. The levels and the respective questions and considerations for modern L&D professionals go as following:

  1. Input – what kind of resources and learning materials do we have at our disposal that we can use to support the learning experience?
  2. Process – how’s the delivery of the learning experience? Is it accepted? How are people responding to it?
  3. Micro level results – Did the learner or the learning group acquire the knowledge? Did they apply it on their jobs?
  4. Macro level results – Did performance improve due to this learning and application of new in the workplace? What kind of benefits arose from the learning on an organisational level?
  5. Mega level impact – What kind of impact did the learning have on society or larger external stakeholder groups?

Reflection on the Kaufman model

As the original author proposed the model as an improvement over Kirkpatrick’s, we’ll make the comparison accordingly. The separation of input and process might be a good one to make. Nowadays, we have access to vast pools of digital resources both in the public domain and sitting in corporate information systems. There are a lot of situations where organisations could leverage on a lot of this information and resources. For instance, curation-based learning content strategies might make more sense for some organisations. Hence, the introduction of inputs as a separate consideration might be a helpful change to some on the framework level.

Reversely, Kaufman also groups Kirkpatrick’s levels 2 and 3 together. While these are just semantic changes, it’s within this section that organisations have their L&D challenges. Often, learning is not the problem, and people may retain the newly learnt quite well. But the problem often comes in application, or learning transfer, as people fail to use these new skills or practices back at their daily jobs. Consequently, that’s something that modern L&D professionals should also focus more on.

Finally, Kaufman’s learning evaluation model introduces the “mega level”, or societal impact. While it may be a valid consideration for a select few, presumably this impact would go hand-in-hand with the business results analysed at the “macro level”. Or if not, we nevertheless encounter the immense difficulty of evaluating impact to external entities.

What’s in it for the L&D professional?

Like with any of the prevalent frameworks or models of evaluating learning at the workplace, it’s important not to take things too seriously. These models do provide a good basis for structuring one’s approach to evaluation, but L&D professionals should still adjust them to fit the context of their particular organisation. It’s also noteworthy that all these models were built on the conception of formal learning. Hence they may fail to address some more informal workplace learning. Regardless, the key takeaway from Kaufman’s learning evaluation model could be the notion of existing resources that can contribute to learning experiences. It’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel after all!

If you’re looking for new ways of evaluating learning, especially learning transfer or business impact, drop us a note. We’d be happy to help you co-engineer evaluation methods that can actually demonstrate L&D’s value to the business.

More Learning Ideas

Quick Guide: Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method in Workplace Learning

How to use Brinkerhoff's Success Case Method in workplace learning?

How to Use Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method in Workplace Learning

There are a lot of different frameworks that organisations use to evaluate the impact of their workplace learning initiatives. The Kirkpatrick model and the Philips ROI model may be the most common ones. While the Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method is perhaps a less known one, it can too provide value when used correctly. In this post, we’ve compiled a quick overview of the method and how to use it to support L&D decisions in your organisations.

What’s the Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method?

The method is the brainchild of Dr. Robert Brinkerhoff. While many of its original applications relate to organisational learning and human resources development, the method is applicable to a variety of business situations. The aim is to understand impact by answering the following four questions:

  • What’s really happening?
  • What results, if any, is the program helping to produce?
  • What is the value of the results?
  • How could the initiative be improved?

As you may guess from the questions, the Success Case Method’s focus is on qualitative analysis and learning from both successes and failures on a program level to improve for the future. On one hand, you’ll be answering what enabled the successful to succeed and on the other hand, what barred the worst performers from being successful.

How to use the Brinkerhoff Method in L&D?

As mentioned, the focus of the method is on qualitative analysis. Therefore, instead of using large scale analytics, the process involves surveys and individual learner interviews. By design, the method is not concerned with measuring “averages” either. Rather the aim is to learn from the most resound successes and the worst performances and then either replicate or redesign based on that information.

So ideally, you’ll want to find just a handful of individuals from both ends of the spectrum. Well-designed assessment or learning analytics can naturally help you in identifying those individuals. When interviewing people, you’ll want to make sure that their view on what’s really happening can be backed with evidence. It’s important to keep in mind that not every interview will produce a “success case”, one reason being the lack of evidence. After all, you are going to be using the information derived with this method to support your decision making, so you’ll want to get good information.

Once you’ve established the evidence, you can start looking at results. How are people applying the newly learnt? What kind of results are they seeing? This phase requires great openness. Every kind of outcome and result is a valuable one for the sake of analysis, and they are not always the outcomes that you expected when creating the program. Often training activities may have unintended application opportunities that only the people on the job can see.

When should you consider using Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method?

It’s important to acknowledge that while the method doesn’t work on everything, there are still probably more potential use cases than we can list. But these few situations are ones that in our experience benefit from such qualitative analysis.

  • When introducing a new learning initiative or a pilot. It’s always good to understand early on where a particular learning activity might be successful and where not. This lets you make changes, improvements and even pivots early on.
  • When time is of the essence. More quantitative data and insights takes time to compile (assuming you have the necessary infrastructure already in place). Sometimes we need to prove impact fast. In such cases, using the Brinkerhoff method to extract stories from real learners helps to communicate impact.
  • Whenever you want to understand the impact of existing programs on a deeper level. You may already be collecting a lot of data. Perhaps you’re already using statistical methods and tools to illustrate impact on a larger scale. However, for the simple fact that correlation doesn’t mean causation, it’s sometimes important to engage in qualitative analysis.

Final thoughts

Overall, Brinkerhoff’s Success Case Method is a good addition to any L&D professional’s toolbox. It’s a great tool for extracting stories of impact, telling them forward and learning from past successes and failures. But naturally, there should be other things in the toolbox should too. Quantitative analysis is equally important, and should be “played” in unison with the qualitative. Especially nowadays, when the L&D function is getting increased access to powerful analytics, it’s important to keep on exploring beyond the surface level to make the as informed decisions as possible to support the business.

If you are struggling to capture or demonstrate the impact of your learning initiatives, or if you’d like start doing L&D in a bit more agile manner, let us know. We can help you in implementing agile learning design methods as well as analytical tools and processes to support the business.

More Learning Ideas

Micro vs. Macrolearning – What to Use and When?

Microlearning vs macrolearning what to use and when

Micro vs. Macrolearning – What to Use and When?

Microlearning has been all the rage in recent years. While we shouldn’t undermine its effectiveness when designed and used properly, it isn’t a solution to all learning problems. Concise and contextual bursts of learning are good for certain uses, but not all. Sometimes, we still need more long-form education, macrolearning.

While the traditional training approaches of organisations perhaps rely more on macrolearning than they should, we do need to make sense of when to go micro and when, on the other hand, we are better off with macro. So, let’s explore what to use, when and how.

We need macrolearning to build new skills…

Generally, we can distinguish between the need of macro vs micro by analysing the existing skill level of the learner. If the topic is entirely new, or the learner has had very limited exposure, macrolearning is the more suitable approach. Novices tend to benefit from structured and guided instruction, as well as learning about the topic with a wide perspective. This helps to develop an understanding of the topic to the level that the learner can start self regulating his/her own learning.

Conversely, attempting to use microlearning on such new topics wouldn’t work very well. As the learners are not familiar with the topic beforehand, they are less likely to be able to form the links between concepts (i.e. relate the microlearning activities to the bigger picture).

Hence, if we consider some practical use cases, macrolearning is likely to be at its best in:

  • Transformational programs. E.g. training people on contemporary topics such as principles of data science, design thinking, machine learning etc. In many organisations, these are skills not readily available in the skill pool.
  • Learning to use the organisation’s tools. E.g. training on how to use various software and information systems of the organisation.

… But microlearning enables us to build on existing skills

Whereas macrolearning focuses on complete skill areas and “the bigger picture”, microlearning is better suited for more specific needs. Pedagogically, we should use microlearning to build on existing knowledge. Once the learners already have a baseline of knowledge to work with, they can contextually apply and relate the newly learnt things to the existing. For instance, once you know enough of a language, learning new words brings immediate benefits. But learning vocabulary without knowing the grammar or how to use the language won’t give you good results.

Additionally, microlearning has the characteristics of being able to help people to learn something small in a convenient, rapid manner. Convenience and speed are key factors when considering learning in the flow of work. Smaller “chunks” are simply more convenient to offer and use than large “chunks”.

So, taking this into account, we could establish that microlearning is potentially better suited for uses such as:

  • Updating” knowledge and skills. E.g. new SOPs, new workplace practices, product updates and best practices. All of these are topics that employees would already have experience on. Hence, micro rather than long-form learning should be better off.
  • Performance support. Practical knowledge and information on how to perform specific tasks, delivered just-in-time.
  • Increasing retention. Refreshers, knowledge checks and other spaced learning elements help to increase retention, even within a wider “macrolearning” activity.

Final thoughts

We should never assume that there are any one-size-fits-all approaches to learning. Ultimately, executing an effective workplace learning strategy is about combining different methods, formats and approaches in a way that makes sense – for both the organisation and the employees. Perhaps a key thing to remember for the future is that neither micro- or macrolearning has to be just “formal” learning activities. Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget the clear link between the two. Micro will always be a part of the macro, and macro will always include the micro.

Hence, you should take the time to analyse your own organisational needs, and see what where you might best utilise either of the approaches, and even better, how to play them together. And if you think you might need help in developing this kind of a learning strategy, we can probably help. Just shoot us a message here and we’ll get back to you.

More Learning Ideas

How to Move Towards a Resource-based Learning Strategy?

Moving towards resource-based learning strategy in the workplace

How to Move Towards a Resource-based Learning Strategy?

In modern workplace learning, speed and flexibility are more important than ever. Meanwhile, employees expect learning to be more personalised and happen at their terms rather than the corporate’s. Conventional approaches to training, such as lengthy classroom sessions or elearning courses are often ill-suited for the real learning needs of the modern worker. Overall, the highly structured, one-size-fits-all formal training is coming to the end its road. So what does the future hold then? Well, many things, that’s for sure. But one major paradigm shift in the way we view corporate learning is the shift towards resource-based learning strategies. Let’s look at that shift in a bit more detail.

What’s a resource-based learning strategy all about?

So, let’s first tackle what’s changing and the factors driving the change. First of all, workplaces are increasingly performance-focused, and that’s affecting learning as well. The need to prove the benefits for performance has been partly fuelled by L&D’s inability to use data and prove the impact of different learning activities. Secondly, skills and knowledge are changing and expiring faster than ever. The employees naturally need to keep up, but don’t have the luxury of time on their side. Thirdly, we’ve realised that one size doesn’t fit all, we can’t force people to learn and a whole lot of learning is not being applied by the employees. A resource-based learning strategy can help to address all these issues.

Here are a few key shifts in thinking and considerations when moving towards resource-oriented learning.

Focusing on helping the employees to do their jobs better

The ironic thing about conventional corporate learning is that it sometimes actually hinders our employees’ ability to do their jobs. We take them away from their jobs. We have them spend their time on learning things that we think benefit the company. Furthermore, we often get carried away with competencies, curricula and courses. But actually, all that matters is that we help the employees do their jobs better. Hence, instead of inconveniencing them with learning, we should build and curate learning that helps them to carry out specific tasks. These kinds of resources have to naturally be quick to access and consume. Time is money. From a learning standpoint, conveying information that the learner can apply immediately is also of much higher learning value than going through abstract concepts that are quite remote from the job at hand.

Allowing people to direct their own learning

Traditionally, companies manage their training in quite a top-down manner. However, more learner-centric approaches to people development may garner better results. One of the key aspects of a successful resource-based learning strategy is the learners’ ability to influence their own development paths and activities they uptake. Allowing people to choose which learning resources to consume and when (often at the point of need) ensures that the material is always relevant and can often be applied into practice immediately. Moreover, learners have a much higher share of intrinsic motivation, compared to L&D team having to lure them over with “artificial” techniques like gamification.

Arguably, modern employees are quite well aware of the fact that they need to take a proactive stance in their own development. This is evident from the statistics on the free time spent on learning various things. A resource-based learning strategy empowers the employees to take (to an extent) charge of their own development. The responsibility of the organisation is to provide the resource base for it. Well-curated resources help cut through the clutter, and find the “right” content.

Final thoughts

Corporate learning has for a long time over-emphasised formal training. However, as traditional approaches start to fall short, we need to refine our strategies. The general need to shift from courses and curricula to resources seems evident. In fact, leading organisations are already implementing learning initiatives to empower their employees unlike ever before. All in all, the shift in philosophy is a fundamental one. Hopefully, this post provides a baseline of concepts to explore further from. And should you need help in future proofing your organisational learning strategy, we are happy to help. Just contact us here.

More Learning Ideas

3 Reasons Your eLearning Should Never Be Mandatory

3 Reasons to Avoid Mandatory eLearning

3 Reasons Your eLearning Should Never Be Mandatory

When designing corporate elearning experiences, it might often seem compelling to make them mandatory. For some reason, we’ve grown to believe that forcing the learners to “take up on courses” or “participate” will guarantee learning. But the unfortunately reality is that it doesn’t. Far from it actually. Making a learning activity mandatory is a great way to kill motivation and effectiveness as well as introduce an inherently wrong culture of learning in the organisation. Thus, we should find alternatives. Here are three reasons to avoid mandatory elearning.

1. Mandatory eLearning kills motivation

Learners like choice, freedom and personalisation. Furthermore, adult learners tend to be relatively more self-directed than kids at school. Finally, learning is something that is inherently fun and rewarding, thanks to the element of discovery. Whenever you make learning activities compulsory, you’ll take away from all that. As soon as something is made mandatory, you’ll evoke a psychological defensive reaction: “why do I have to do this”. And if your training materials are not relevant, the employees will soon feel like you’re wasting their time. Continue that for long enough, and you’ll find it very hard to introduce meaningful learning initiatives within the organisation.

2. Having to go through everything doesn’t constitute effective workplace learning

On a practical level, once someone has decided to make elearning mandatory, a common technique to enforce that in practice is to use a technique of “locked progress”. Essentially, this means that the learner has to go through every piece of material, most often in a pre-defined sequence, to complete the learning. Unfortunately, this type of approach doesn’t serve the modern workplace learning at all.

Workplace learning is inherently informal and sudden. To really affect and enable performance, learning has to be much more just-in-time. In fact, most of the traditional corporate elearning today would probably be better off served as performance support resources than highly structured activities. If you’re wish to support your people at their jobs, limiting their access to information and having them jump through the hoops of locked progress might not be a good idea, as it kills all this natural inquiry -type of behaviour. And it’s not that they won’t learn, no. Your employees will probably find the resources via other channels. It’s just not going to be your learning materials, hence you cannot control the validity of the information.

3. Mandatory eLearning reinforces tick-box culture

Finally, the perhaps highest level challenge in trying to force your employees to learn is that it reinforces a tick-box culture. As there’s a good chance that the employees don’t feel that your mandatory elearning is all that relevant or beneficial to them, they are likely to try to minimise their effort to go through it. Yes, they will probably click through the slides or loop through the videos if you force them to, but that’s where it ends. You see a learning culture where it’s enough that something has merely been completed. We sure hope no-one still believes that having someone complete something is a good indicator of learning (hint: it’s not). Rather, learning requires active thinking, reflection and application and is a much more complex process.

Final words

All in all, we don’t think making your elearning or any kind of training mandatory is ever a good idea. Instead of trying to force people to learn, it’s our job as learning professionals to design workplace learning experiences that actually help them to perform better and motivate them to learn on their own. Some will undoubtedly argue that some learning needs to be mandatory for compliance reasons, and that may be true in some cases. However, even if you have to have your employees go through training doesn’t mean that you have to use the same old “mandatory” playbook. Rather, find ways of using things such as gamification, social or experiential learning to make it a bit more interesting. Or, use proper analytics to prove that the required effort has been put in, instead of forced tests or completions. And if you need help, just contact us.

More Learning Ideas

How to Facilitate Community-based Learning?

How to facilitate community-based learning cover

How to Facilitate Community-based Learning?

The general job of L&D could be defined as transferring knowledge from those who have learned to those who need to learn. However, a challenge is that no matter the resources available, an L&D team is never able to accommodate all the learning needs in an organisation. The business needs and skills required at work are simply too complex – and changing rapidly. But could we do more without adding traditional resources? Community-based learning is a strategy that aims to connect organisational experts to learners and cut away the clutter in between. So, let’s look at how leveraging learning communities could benefit your organisation.

What is community-based learning?

Like mentioned, a community-based learning approach aims to connect organisational experts to the learners directly. On one hand, this allows willing experts to share their knowledge in a convenient manner. On the other hand, it enables the L&D to “crowdsource” a large part of its traditional work. A practical application of this could be employees sharing their own expertise to colleagues through a medium of their choosing.

How does this benefit the L&D team?

The benefits of community-driven learning can be manifold. Generally, effective strategies follow a particular division of labour. The L&D function tends to handle high-intensity, high-cost initiatives, whereas the community contributions tend to be more “long tail”. Regardless, organisations employing community-based learning strategies may see the benefits such as:

  • Much broader offerings of learning, without huge increases in direct cost
  • Better visibility to changing learning needs in the organisation
  • Increased collaboration opportunities, as people become aware of each other’s work and projects
  • The ability for the L&D team to focus on high-impact activities

How can we facilitate community-based learning in an organisation?

While there are many solutions to a problem, and you should always take your organisational culture into account, we’ve seen two distinct enablers for community-driven learning.

Firstly, since the idea is to match subject matter experts (SMEs) with interested learners, you need a some sort of marketplace. Within that marketplace, SMEs can share their knowledge and offer their expertise to others. The actual “delivery” of learning can take many forms (workshops, short talks, digital content etc.), but the important thing is to make it available. If the employees don’t know that the opportunity exists, they can’t take up on it.

Secondly, you need to embrace user-generated content. Combining the above marketplace method with easy tools for content development can really enable a great offering with good efficiency. From a resource constraint perspective, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for the L&D team to intervene even in the instructional design phase, if you can guarantee an acceptable base level of quality. By enabling the SMEs to freely generate and publish digital learning content, you unlock significant scalability. There are a lot of platforms out there enabling the users to seamlessly and quickly generate content. Then, naturally, if such community-generated learning program becomes a resound success, the L&D team might step in to optimise and add to the learning experience.

Final thoughts

Overall, community-based learning as a strategy has a lot to offer. However, implementing it successfully requires the L&D team to relinquish some of its control. Fundamentally, it’s about enabling learning by connecting people. And the funny thing is, that these more informal and collaborative learning activities might even be much more effective than conventional classroom training or eLearning courses. If you’d like to give community-based learning a try, or find ways of leveraging user-generated content in your learning strategy, we can help. Just contact us here.

More Learning Ideas

How to Move from Face-to-face to Blended Learning? 3 Tips

From face-to-face to blended learning

How to Move from Face-to-face to Blended Learning?

The rapidly changing business environment requires companies to learn more rapidly and flexibly than ever. Hence, no-one has time to sit their employees in classrooms. However, 100% digital approaches might not be the best solution either and many organisations have realised that. Thus, organisations are looking to move from face-to-face to blended learning programs.

Blended learning programs require careful design. Simply digitalising some parts of the content while keeping others in the traditional format is unlikely to yield meaningful results. Rather, we should focus on using technology in meaningful manner, to enable us to make the most out of our face-to-face time and support learning throughout. To help on this journey, here are 3 tips to consider when moving from face-to-face to blended learning.

1. Figure out what is scalable and can be digitalised

We cannot digitalise every learning activity and it’s hard to make generalisations. However, a general rule of thumb that we use on figuring out what to digitalise relies on the foundational research behind “flipped learning”. In summary, the research tells us that knowledge delivery is not necessarily particularly efficient in a social setting (i.e. it’s likely that someone retains more information by studying alone rather than in a group).

Additionally, in this information era, information and knowledge alone are constantly diminishing in value. Our employees have also realised that their time is not efficiently spent attending a “death by powerpoint” session when they could study the same information via a much more convenient medium. Thus, when moving from face-to-face to blended learning, you should try to distinguish the learning activities that consists of simple knowledge delivery and look at digitalising that. This is where the greatest initial value-add usually lies.

2. Start using face-to-face time in meaningful way

Once you take away the knowledge delivery, what’s left? Hopefully still a lot of things, or your learning programs might have been not very well designed in the beginning! Regardless, in most cases, what is not knowledge delivery, tends to be more practical activities, like workshops, discussions, projects, collaboration, role play, etc.

Consequently, these are also likely the type of activities that you should be focusing your expensive face-to-face resources on. The reason being that knowledge delivery or acquiring information hasn’t been a particular challenge for L&D. Rather, the challenge is facilitating behavioural change and getting that learning applied on the job. Thus, it makes to focus your most expensive resource (face-to-face) on the most important task (behavioural change), by creating safe environments for employees to practice and make mistakes. And now that you’ve digitalised knowledge delivery, you even have more available resources to commit to that.

3. Try to embed the “digital” in the workflow

An ever-lasting problem with corporate learning has been that it often happens in isolation, in a silo of its own. When moving from face-to-face to blended learning, the two steps above provide a good start. In fact, the new type of face-to-face activities are likely to automatically become more aligned with the business, since they focus solely on the application of the learning. However, there’s a risk that the newly digitalised element becomes another silo of its own.

The reality is, that we rarely want to create new processes. If we digitalise learning in a way that simply moves the employees from the classroom to their desktops, we are pretty close to a zero-sum game. So, rather than creating new processes, we should focus on embedding learning in the existing workflows. You could use mobile learning to enable employees take up on learning resources wherever they are. Furthermore, microlearning can enable them to use their micro pockets of time for the activities, rather than schedule “learning time”. The means are plentiful, but in the end it’s all about discovering what works for your people and organisation.

Final thoughts

Meaningful digitalisation of learning is incredibly important, if we wish to create value through the L&D function in the future as well. However, many organisations struggle in putting it together. Some learning activities may be better off face-to-face. Some you might even be able to deliver 100% digitally. But unless you go through the considerations from a learning design point of view, you easily end up creating siloed activities with no linkage to each other or the business. We know, we constantly help organisations in making these transitions from face-to-face to blended learning (you can contact us here to find out more). But even if you’re going at it alone, take these tips into consideration. In our experience, time spent on this level of design shells out great returns!

More Learning Ideas

Why Less Is More in Corporate Learning

Why less is more in corporate learning featured image

Why Less Is More in Corporate Learning

In a lot of things, quality often trumps quantity – and learning is not different. While corporate L&D departments often aspire to run large amounts of good programs stocked to the brim with quality content and offer online resources for every need imaginable, that might not always work out as intended. Indeed, it’s so that the beauty is often in simplicity. Even if you have excellent quality content, having too much of it might have adverse effects. Let us explain. Here are three reasons why less is more in corporate learning.

1. Have you encountered the “Netflix problem”?

In today’s information age, content is abundant. For a long time, we believed that the more choice, the better. However, we are slowly starting our mistakes in that logic. Many corporate learning platforms and portals nowadays represent a ‘library’ or a ‘resource pool’ model. Whatever the employees may want to learn, there’s likely to be something for them. Sounds good, no?

Well there’s a problem. Similar to how you spend 45 minutes selecting a movie on Netflix on a Sunday evening, the learners may be struggling to find what they need. When employees search for resources at the workplace, it’s usually not for the sake of learning something completely new. Rather, it’s to quickly help them with whatever they are doing after which they move on. So what if less is more there? Abundance of options causes ambiguity, as the users spend too much time searching for the specific bit of information they need. And that doesn’t really work in anyone’s favour.

So, what could be an alternative approach, keeping in mind the less is more mantra? In our view, wherever there’s abundance of content or options, the L&D team should work to curate content, rather than put it all out there. Personalising the learning experience might also help to eliminate some of the unwanted effects.

2. Less is more also in cognitive loading

Most people are familiar with the concept of cognitive loading: the human brain is only able to handle a limited amount of information. Once that “quota” gets filled up, there’s no room for more and processing of information also slows down. In learning, this means that there’s only a limited amount of information that people can intake before requiring a break (hence sleeping is incredibly important for learning – to offload this loading!).

Yet, we often see organisations trying to achieve the impossible – cramming hundreds of slides into a day of training, or designing online learning to be completely exhaustive. The result: people get overloaded cognitively and retain even less than they otherwise would have. You might be thinking that you’re doing the learners a favour by delivering all the information, but in fact it’s the polar opposite. So what could we do to reduce cognitive loading?

Once again, less is more. Instead of trying to decipher all the information available into an activity, focus on the things that matter the most. Key topics, reinforces with practical activities. All the rest the employees can look up later when and if they need it. If you’re dealing with subject matter experts, this might be a challenge. But the job of the learning professional is to curate and strategically limit the amount of information, no matter what kind of expert you have to convey it.

3. Corporate learning is not about learning, but performance

Perhaps the most compelling reason why less is more in corporate learning is a practical one. Fundamentally, workplace learning is not about learning itself. Rather, it’s about whether the learning gets transferred to the workplace in the form of new behaviours and practices, which then hopefully result in positive performance. This learning transfer, in fact, seems to be one of the biggest problems in itself. Evidently, not much is being transferred.

What we’ve found that often happens, is that organisations are too busy shoving content down the learners throats to focus on creating opportunities to practice, discuss and reflect in a safe environment. Your employees may be “aware” of the new way you want them to do a particular thing, but if they haven’t practiced to the extent that they are comfortable with the new way, they are going to revert to the old way. Thus, you would be much better off going with the less is more mentality. Less content, more practice opportunities, workshops, collaboration, discussion and other hands-on activities. The flipped learning model that we advocate for may be a good framework for structuring activities.

Final words

Overall, workplace learning should focus on quality rather than quantity. Learning is not the goal, but just the means to achieving favourable business outcomes. Less is more holds true not only in the above examples, but also in UX design, communications etc. So, hopefully you’ll also start considering your strategy, and a more qualitative approach. And if you need help with that, in e.g. content curation strategies or personalised learning design, we are happy to help. Just contact us here.

More Learning Ideas

Agile L&D – How to Stay Ahead in the Modern World?

Agile L&D - how to keep your learning and development agile

Agile L&D – How to Stay Ahead in the Modern World?

The business environment and skills required in the workplace are changing faster than ever. Often, it’s the learning and development teams in organisations that are tasked to keep the organisation’s capability up to date. Unfortunately, we often see such inertia in the learning and development function that responding to changes in the business – let alone doing it rapidly – seems a mission impossible. To constantly deliver value to the business, L&D needs to become agile. To help you start your agile journey, here are three building blocks for agile L&D.

Be smart in building your learning technology stack

Nowadays, technology is something that you cannot escape if you want to run an effective L&D function. However, you shouldn’t just blindly buy up technology to keep up with the latest fads. Naturally, you should always work out your own specific goals, and then find suitable technology, rather than buying tech first and then figuring out what you can and cannot do with it. However, to remain an agile L&D function, you should also look to make sure that the technology you get today can still be useful tomorrow. Here are a few things to look out for.

  • Interoperability. Can the technology be integrated with other systems, that perhaps don’t even exist yet, to pass crucial data and information? Some vendors may integrate only with their own products or their partners’ – or not at all. Don’t paint yourself into a corner by locking yourself to a particular vendor.
  • User experience. Don’t buy into technology that doesn’t have a great user experience. If it doesn’t exist yet, it’s unlikely to magically arrive later on. Professional teams and providers understand that not having a great UX is not an option.
  • Evidence-based learning methods. Business and the world around is changing. However, learning is not. We still learn the same way as before, and the mission of technology is to find the ways to amplify that experience. Thus, you should carefully evaluate the pedagogical expertise of your vendors and the research they’ve put into their products. There’s a lot of false information out there being sold as a good way to learn (learning styles are a good example).

Agile L&D is data-driven and proactive

If you’re still doing training needs analysis or assessment once a year or bi-annually, you’re already lagging behind. Responding to real-time business problems through learning interventions requires real-time data. At any point in time, you should be able to grasp the organisational competency and skills level without conducting additional assessment. This naturally requires capabilities for collecting data, and conducting data-driven training needs analysis. But it’s also about the mindset.

On the mindset level, you need to face the fact that you can no longer plan a year ahead. Of course, long-term strategy remains important, but it’s unlikely that the learning interventions you plan today would be as effective a year from now. So it’s about getting into the heat of the moment, operating within the business rather than from the outside. Proactively assessing and spotting skills gaps through learning analytics as well as rapidly evaluating the impact of your interventions should be standard practice.

Designing learning at the speed of business

Another area where agile L&D can really shine is learning design. Traditionally, you would identify a learning need, develop activities, programs or materials, fine-tune them, then roll them out and hope that people take up on them. The process can easily take several months, but the learning is always needed yesterday. Additionally, there’s always uncertainty whether the end product will be “liked” or taken up on by the employees. The level of uncertainty combined with long development times is a combination simply too slow and inflexible to support a modern business.

Agile L&D practitioners, on the other hand, are comfortable with “beta-versions”. They roll out activities and learning experiences rapidly, constantly collecting data, assessing, iterating and refining. They also switch old instructional design methods to design thinking and service design. Thus, they are able to design and deliver much more impactful learning experiences more rapidly. By setting their focus on the people and how to help them perform better, agile L&D practitioners enable themselves to work at the speed of the business and provide value with their learning interventions.

Final words

Overall, learning and development as a function is facing a challenge. Business leaders are often not confident in the function’s ability to deliver. We have to adopt new technologies, use them smartly, make decisions based on data instead of guesses and learn to operate at the speed of the business, serving business goals rather than “learning objectives”. To actually manage this, more agile L&D approaches are definitely needed and have proven to be valuable. Naturally, change is always difficult and painful. But it may help to stay agile even when adopting agile: take small steps and learn and improve as you go. While the three building blocks presented only scratch the surface, they do provide a good starting point for building the L&D function of the future on. And if you need help, you can always contact us and we can coach your L&D towards more agility.

More Learning Ideas