4 Tips for Training Contingent Workforce

Training contingent workforce

4 Tips for Training Contingent Workforce

The modern economy is increasingly made up of gig workers. Many industries, such as retail and other labour-intensive service businesses are using increased amounts of temporary workers. This helps to smooth out spikes and drops in demand, and may keep the organisation itself more lean. However, temporary workers sometimes prove to be a headache for L&D professionals charged with figuring out how to transfer them the essential knowledge to do the job. Therefore, we put together a quick list of tips on training contingent workforce. Let’s check it out!

When training gig workers, time is of the essence

The first rule of training the contingent workforce is that everyone’s always short on time. If you employ temporary help, chances are that your permanent staff have got their hands full already. Furthermore, gig workers may often join a company for just a few weeks or months, which hardly gives them a lot of time to go through an extensive learning process.

Therefore, time is of the essence. Starting early helps. If your new temporary employees are able to access and complete e.g. their mandatory training (compliance, SOPs, safety, hygiene, etc. depending on your industry) beforehand, you’ll greatly reduce the time it takes them to get working. However, while it makes sense to go through the mandatory and perhaps regulatory programs beforehand, the actual learning for the job may be better done on-the-job.

Use on-the-job learning to build capability through practice

As we move onto more specific skills and work tasks, it stops making sense to try train everything beforehand. Too much training isolated from practice makes one an easy suspect to the forgetting curve. Being able practice things in an authentic environment greatly reinforces retention. It also helps to connect often abstract task and process descriptions to the real world.

Therefore, instead of trying to train everything beforehand, your strategy for training contingent workforce should perhaps leverage on on-the-job learning. Provide your gig workers with performance support resources, interactive manuals and how-to nuggets. In this kind of case, just-in-time learning makes much more sense than just-in-case.

Provide a support platform

However, for when those just-in-case situations occur, it’s good to have systems in place too. There’s a lot of unexpected situations that may arise in any given job that you can’t really account for in conventional training. But you can always be prepared regardless. For those rare moments of need, it’s good to have your support system ready.

When encountering problems they can’t solve based on their experience and training you’ve given them so far, gig workers could use that support system to help themselves. For instance, this might take the form of a Q&A bank, where staff can search for answers to uncommon situations. It may also be a helpline, or a support forum, or a live chat environment to another colleague. In its most analog form, it would be pointing out a person that the gig worker can go to with problems. Whatever the degree of sophistication, the idea is to provide a platform to take care of the needs that normal performance support or prior training can’t cover.

Remember to keep it inclusive

While inclusivity in learning was our main topic last week, it has relevance in this context as well. When training gig workers, there are a few inclusivity factors to consider.

First, you’ll want to make sure that the language and communication you use fits their level of experience and exposure. Temporary workers may not be familiar with all industry terms, and even less likely to understand your corporate lingo and cultural artefacts. Furthermore, when it comes to practical skills and experience, the basis for learning for temporary staff may be wildly different from that of your permanent employees. For instance, whereas your permanent staff may be formally educated in the industry, the temporary staff may not be. As such, it’s important to deliver information and learning in a way that takes into account their existing skill levels and potential lack of prior exposure to the industry or tasks at hand.

Final words

While the contingent workforce often presents a headache to learning organisations, it doesn’t need to. There’s a lot that organisations can do with relative ease to streamline the training and onboarding process of their gig workers. A good learning design process helps you to get clarity on the needs of the modern workers and provide a platform for success. If you think you need help in improving your design process, do drop us a note. We can help you design learning in a new way.

How to Use Surveys in Digital Learning? 5 Examples

How to use surveys in digital learning

How to Use Surveys in Digital Learning? 5 Examples

Surveys are a common element in the toolbox of many L&D professionals. While we have administered surveys for a long time, technology has certainly made it easier. Nowadays, you can collect insights as you go, deploying questionnaires in an agile fashion. And what’s even better, the data collection and structuring is automatic! There’s no need to spend time coding interviews and manually transferring data. While there are certainly lots of possibilities, unfortunately often the use of surveys in L&D has been limited to post-training evaluations. However, there’s much more that we the tool can be good for. Therefore, we put together 5 examples on using surveys in digital learning. Let’s take a look!

Development & design feedback

One of the most immediate uses for surveys in digital learning exists in design and development. Once you have rolled out a new learning experience, you’ll naturally want to know what’s going on. While you’ll likely do user testing prior to launching, it’s important that you maintain the feedback loop even after the fact. Learners can thus suggest improvements to the design, flow of the experience as well as the content. This enables you to continuously improve the content. While you should always back up anecdotal feedback with quantitative data, quick and easy feedback can nevertheless bring out valuable user insights. Therefore, make sure to include a quick survey to capture development needs in the all the learning experiences you design!

Surveys in digital training needs analysis

Another great place to ask learners for input is in training needs analysis. Conventionally, organisations conduct a training needs analysis to determine what kind of training they should offer. This may often take into account strategic goals of the organisation and involve executives and line managers. However, it doesn’t always reach the end users – the learners – themselves. But thanks to the various digital learning survey tools, lack of time and resources shouldn’t be a hindering factor.

Involving the end user in the training needs analysis can bring a variety of benefits. First of all, the suggestions that come from the “front line” tend to be much more relevant to the jobs at hand. Often, the end users can suggest ways of delivering immediate value – they’ve been doing the jobs themselves! Secondly, the “front line” is often among the first groups to witness changes in the business, and thus better positioned to evaluate how they could improve their performance through training. Finally, involving the users in the process this way is likely to produce higher engagement – it’s a form of co-creation of sorts. Therefore, you should always ask the end users what they’d like to learn and why.

Personal learning plans and goal setting

A third area of potential use for surveys in digital learning is in personalisation. In this case, we’re talking about individual learning paths and goal setting. While the economies of scale still dictate our decisions, the trend is towards more and more personalised development plans in organisations. A digital survey is an easy way to ask employees about their career plans, current skills, things they’d like to learn and areas of interest. As intrinsic motivation is crucial in learning, it’s important to help the employees set their own goals, and not just inform of them of the L&D function’s goals. Individual goal setting at mass scale can help you also to reorganise the normal flow of L&D, by organising learners into groups based on their interests rather than e.g business units. For such personal goals, you can also consider personal learning analytics to support the process.

Performance reviews

On another front, performance reviews are an opportune place for digital learning surveys too. Over the past years, learning has become an important component in performance reviews for many organisations. While performance reviews are an art of their own, there’s one key thing that makes digital questionnaires lucrative. As such, performance reviews should be a two-way process. Not only do you as a manager review the employees’ performance, but you should give them a chance to do it too. This is easily done with a digital survey. While you may collect novel insights into the workings of your organisation, you’ll also get to view the employees’ side, and empathise with their viewpoint. Furthermore, a survey provides structure and a handy template to manage the performance review process itself.

Qualitative feedback on behavioural change

Finally, the fifth use case related to following up on learning in organisations. Too often, learning is very events-driven and employees either forget or do not apply the learning. And if learners don’t apply the new knowledge – if there’s isn’t some kind of behavioural change – learning itself becomes rather pointless. However, evaluating behavioural change isn’t the easiest thing to do. While you’ll definitely need more comprehensive analytics and a process for evaluation, like the Kirkpatrick framework, and you won’t want to over-rely on self-reported data, qualitative surveys can help in the mix.

For instance, you can ask employees to evaluate their own application of knowledge, as well as others. While calling yourself or your colleagues out for not applying doesn’t get you far, it opens an interesting discussion. Therefore, it’s important to frame the surveys in a way to capture ‘why’ people are not changing. There might be many barriers to application that you might not know about! And until you do, your learning interventions won’t have the desired effect.

Final words

While digital learning surveys have been around for a long time, they may still be under-utilised. There’s quite a lot you can do with the tool and the ability to quickly deploy channels for user feedback and input shouldn’t be overlooked in any setting. If you’d like to review and improve your learning processes, and see how you might support your L&D strategy with surveys, feel free to reach out. You can contact us here.

How to Digitalise Corporate Learning Quickly

How to digitalise corporate learning quickly

How to Digitalise Corporate Learning Quickly

The novel coronavirus epidemic that has taken much of our attention lately has had an impact on corporate training scene in 2020. Whereas many organisations used to rely heavily on face-to-face training, that has now become impossible. While many organisations have deemed it not safe to organise large gatherings, travel bans have also grounded trainers, especially in Asia-Pacific. Consequently, companies are scrambling to put together digital learning offerings to ensure business continuity, in case of a lengthy outbreak. Therefore, we decided to put together a quick guide on how to digitalise corporate learning quickly.

In a crisis mode, decisions we make may be different than those during status quo. Therefore, it’s important to point out that we construct this guide under the following assumptions.

  • Time is of the essence – discontinuation of training puts business continuation at jeopardy
  • The new types of training need to be rapidly scalable
  • New strategies need to be sustainable in case of a prolonged outbreak

How to set up digital learning infrastructure quickly

Now, the first problem that many organisations face is that there’s no digital learning infrastructure in place. While the selection and vetting process under a crisis may look different than usual, the focal points are the ones stated above. If we want to digitalise corporate learning quickly, we need to have a system that enables that. Therefore, a couple of key things to consider from a learning platform include:

  • Out-of-the-box functionality – you don’t want to spend unnecessary time doing custom development
  • Rapid cloud implementation – you’ll want it in the cloud, so people working from home can access. Fast implementation is again needed
  • Rapid learning content creation tools – this is by far the biggest bottleneck in digital learning, you’ll want to minimise it
  • Virtual classroom tools – while not necessarily optimal in the long-term, virtual classrooms enable the fastest training digitalisation

While you shouldn’t consider that list exhaustive, we believe it provides a starting baseline of capabilities to enable rapid digitalisation of learning in organisations. If you need help identifying or implementing such tools, don’t wait to reach out to us here.

How to digitalise corporate learning content quickly?

If you already have a system, or you’re about to have one, the next challenge you’ll encounter is content digitalisation. Normally, this is by far the most labour-intensive part of process. Therefore, you should look for ways to streamline it, and leverage your existing resource base as much as possible. Depending on your organisation and resources, it may be a good idea to engage a vendor to alleviate some of the time pressure. In any case, here are a few directions to consider:

Virtual classrooms

As mentioned, virtual classroom are by far the quickest way to quickly digitalise corporate learning. If your organisation already employs trainers, it’s smart to give them the tools to take their work online. And don’t worry about going into boring webinars, the modern virtual classroom tools can provide much needed interactivity. For instance, a good virtual classroom should enable questions, quizzes, collaboration, polling, smaller group sessions and individual coaching. Remember, it’s also important that mobile functionality and accessibility is good!

Interactive content curation

There’s a lot of great content out there. Likely, you already have a lot of it, too. While documents and slide decks might not be the solution of choice for online learning, you can make them more appealing with relatively small amount of work. For instance, some tools enable you to add interactivity into existing documents and files. You’ll cut the bulk of the work by using existing content, but you’ll also make it more engaging. In case you don’t have a lot of content in-house, you can also consider leveraging publicly available content, e.g. for curating interactive microlearning videos.

User-generated content & social learning

Another option to quickly collect and synthesise training content is to leverage your own organisation in doing so. As practically everyone carries a recording device nowadays, it shouldn’t be too cumbersome to solicit video input from your internal experts. Furthermore, you may also consider exploiting different social tools available to you to create communication channels, whereby people can share learning resources and important updates. During an epidemic like this, it’s good to have more informal communications channels between employees too.

Concluding thoughts

The current coronavirus outbreak situation presents a problem for many organisations. As most employees have suddenly become a part of the deskless workforce, it’s important to view training from a new angle. On one hand, it’s important to digitalise corporate learning quickly. On the other hand, it’s a process that conventionally does take a fair bit of time. However, by considering some of the thoughts above, you can streamline the process a lot. If you need quick help in tackling some of these problems, don’t hesitate to reach out to us here. We can help you get your digital learning delivery get up-and-running in no time.

5 Tools for Corporate Learning Campaigns

Corporate learning campaign tools

5 Tools for Corporate Learning Campaigns

Finally it’s ready. You’ve just designed and rolled out a great learning program for your entire organisation. You’ve spent months working on it, but now it’s finally out there. The best content, great modalities of delivery, highly relevant topics – everything seems to be in place. But once you launch, the excitement stops. You find that only 15% of your people have used the program, whereas you intended it for the whole organisation. Rest assured, many L&D professionals face similar kinds of problems. They design great learning, but nobody knows about it, and therefore it goes to waste. However, you shouldn’t give up just yet! You just need to start running some corporate learning campaigns! Here are 5 tools for effective awareness generation at the workplace.

Email campaigns and newsletters

Despite the common sentiment, email is still a highly effective medium – just ask any marketing professional! If you want to create awareness around your corporate learning programs, email is a natural tool. As it’s probably the most widely used channel for official engagement, you have some of your work cut out for you. Nudging learners towards your content and reminding them about self-development can go long way. Also, should you want to add more marketing flair to it, you can consider e.g. newsletters. And don’t worry about getting your people to sign up to your learning campaign mailing list – you already have their emails!

Text messages get you closer

Some marketing research has found that text messages are in fact the medium with the highest open rate. People tend to open text messages immediately, contrary to e.g. email. Therefore, text messages can be more effective for inciting fast reactions. Some organisations have gone even further than just text message learning campaigns by using the medium for content distribution as well. E.g. you could easily distribute microlearning resources this way.

Follow the logic of banner ads

In organisations, especially large ones, there tends to be a lot of complicated software and tools that people have to use. Sometimes it’s too much to remember it all. Following the logic of banner ads that you see on just about every web shop, you could link learning resources back to their contextual environment. E.g. if an employees needs to deal with with the ERP system, you could display banner ads about the learning resources related to the use of that software within the software itself. In general, if your using company devices, it’s possible to display these kind of banners just about anywhere, e.g. on the employees’ desktop or screensaver.

Social channels can generate buzz

If your company has internal social media channels or similar kinds of productivity tools (e.g. Slack), they provide a natural habitat for corporate learning campaigns. These social channels enable you to spread the word quickly, and you can also enlist the help of your colleagues in spreading the word. Liking and commenting on posts, or sharing learning programs can provide the much needed personal testimonial that helps you to get more people to come onboard. You could also take a play out of the modern marketer’s playbook, and incentivise such sharing via referral campaigns.

Referral campaigns can create a snowball effect

The referral marketing scene has exploded in recent years. Just about any software or internet economy company has a referral program. In general, this is a trend that you could use in learning campaigns as well. Incentivise your people to share desired messages or their own testimonials about training programs and reward them for e.g. visibility, clicks, sign-ups or as their referrals complete the program. The rewards could range from non-monetary incentives to even aspirational ones. You decide how much you want to invest making sure people find your learning programs!

Final words

In our day-to-day, we see an unfortunate amount of learning programs and resources having sub-optimal usage or even going to waste. It’s not that the programs are not great, they are, it’s just that people don’t often know about them. Therefore, take a note of these learning campaign tools, and use them to get people to sign up for your own internal programs! If you need help in designing campaigns or the learning programs itself, we can help. Just drop us a note here.

2020 eLearning Predictions – Towards Smarter L&D

eLearning Predictions for 2020

Towards Smarter L&D – eLearning Predictions for 2020

As we’re setting our sights on 2020, we can reflect on how the field of L&D developed in 2019. However, it’s also important to keep an eye on the future, and the things that are around the corner. Whereas learning technologies are advancing at a great pace, the field of L&D is undergoing a philosophical shift too. Without further a do, here are our 2020 eLearning predictions and thoughts for the new year.

Learning technology “stacks” become more fragmented

One thing that we’ve witnessed over the past year is the growing shift away from conventional LMS systems. Legacy systems have not been particularly learner-centric, and that has become a challenge. Therefore, we are seeing the new category of Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) emerge. However, it seems that this space is going to move into a massive gray area, whereas LMSs are getting more LXP-like features and vice versa.

However, it’s likely that in the midst of this shift, organisations have realised that one product may not rule them all. These big systems and platforms have traditionally tried to do “a bit of everything”. Yet, we are learning to appreciate tools for specific uses that work well for just that task. For instance, there might be a great tool for a particular type of learning, e.g. social learning for leadership, but you’ll certainly need more tools alongside it. Hence, one of our 2020 eLearning predictions is that we’ll see more variety in technology. Should this prediction materialise, it’s important to make sure your learning technology is well integrated.

Move towards more human-centred learning experiences

While the past couple of decades have seen a big push for digitalisation, we might have been a bit too fast at times. It’s unfortunately easy to forget the learner itself. As an eLearning prediction for 2020, it seems likely that we are starting to re-evaluate how we approach the whole concept. Whereas learner-centric design and methods are getting a lift, we’ll also look to see a focus on fitness for purpose. After all, we are not learning for learning’s sake at the workplace, but to do our jobs better.

For the future, we hope to not be judged by the quantity, but rather the quality of content and experiences. As we reflect back, we can say that less is often more when it comes to learning. And we should live by that. Also, if we wish to build great experiences for our learners, we need to build empathy. Along with other design thinking methods, empathy helps us to focus on the human, the learner – the individual.

Increased focus on evaluation, measurement and analytics

Finally, one field that is rising constantly, is the field of learning analytics. For another eLearning prediction for 2020, it seems evident that this trend is only growing stronger. L&D has been in a difficult position for quite a while. A lot of great work is being done, but credibly proving that the work is worthwhile has proven to be a challenge. With the emergence of tools like xAPI and AI, we have reached technical capability.

However, an area we still need to spend time on is the methods. Unfortunately, the way we evaluate learning in organisations is often simply lacklustre. Feedback forms, “happy sheets” and assessment that only tests immediate recall doesn’t quite cut it from a methodological point of view. On the other hand, it’s not even enough to do that. As learning transfer is actually the important part, that’s what we should assess. Corporate learning only produced results if it gets people to change their behaviours in a way that positively supports the business. And what this means is that L&D is going to have to dive much deeper into the business in 2020!

How to Design Alignment in Corporate Learning

Alignment in corporate learning

How to Design Alignment in Corporate Learning

If your corporate learning lacks engagement – or strategic focus – it might be due to problems in alignment. Aligning corporate learning with various stakeholder goals is incredibly important. By aligning with employees, you build engagement and relevance, whereas focusing on the business can build strategic value. However, it’s not always easy connecting these two. Therefore, we’ll take a look at how you could design alignment in workplace learning.

Aligning learning with business goals

First, let’s start with the business goals, as they arguably tend to most often come first. Whether that’s the best way, we’ll let you decide! There’s a lot of talk about aligning learning with business goals, and that seems to be a priority for many L&D professionals. In most cases, the L&D tends to try act as an executor of some bigger vision from the organisation’s senior leadership (e.g. we want to become an innovative organisation). While certainly strategic, you’ll want to pay attention to the problem space in particular in these kind of cases, i.e. is learning even the right tool to solve this kind of strategic issues? In some cases, it might not be, and hence producing learning or training programs to try to address the problem is not gonna yield very much results.

However, aligning corporate learning with business goals can also happen on a more granular level. Everything doesn’t have to be big and strategic. Ultimately, the goal of L&D is to help people perform better at their jobs. Therefore, putting yourself out there, and asking exactly that can be a powerful tool. By focusing on real issues faced by real employees, you provide tangible value. The learning component represents much less of formal learning than it used to, but it’s not a bad thing! Also, as you’re working on practical business problems, you also have tangible metrics to measure your learning success against.

Aligning corporate learning with individual goals

While the alignment with business goals is important, it’s not everything you should do. Many organisations face challenges due to engagement in training programs, and the lack of it. The lack of engagement, on the other hand, might be result of low to no alignment.

First of all, getting people to learn is already a challenge on its own. In reality, people don’t really respond to e.g. strategic objectives as a way of justifying why they should go through training. To nourish engagement in learning programs, you need to convince people that it benefits them, not just the company. Secondly, the benefits themselves might come in various forms, and it’s necessary to communicate them in order to facilitate change. Perhaps the training unlocks career opportunities or prepares people for specific tasks. It might also be just a new way of doing the existing work that is easier, more convenient or less cumbersome. Or finally, the benefit might even be personal (e.g. a lot of soft skills training might carry benefits beyond the immediate scope of work).

Once you identify those individual value points, delivering meaningful and engaging learning becomes much easier. Then it’s just a matter of communicating the benefits! That’s where L&D can borrow a few tricks from marketing, or where storytelling might become a good tool to use. Also, thinking of learning from an individual or employee perspective provides a good opportunity to critically review some of the activities an organisation might be doing. If there’s no individual value-add to be found, it’s likely that the “bigger” business value is not out there either.

Final words

Overall, the best corporate learning programs manage to combine these two. They might start out with an individual value proposition (i.e. what does an employee get out of it personally) but tie that in to the bigger business goals and ways of achieving them. As the learners see immediate value to their own selves and jobs, they are much more likely to implement the learning in practice, and by doing so, make progress towards the business goals. Furthermore, starting to think about the employees first is a good stepping stone into a more learner-centric culture. If you’re facing challenges in learning engagement, and think you could use some help, don’t hesitate to drop us a note. We’d be happy to discover problems together.

Storytelling in Corporate Learning – 3 Impactful Uses

Storytelling in Corporate Learning

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.

Virtual Classrooms in Workplace Learning – Do They Add Value?

Virtual Classroom in corporate learning

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.

Problem-based Learning as a Tool for Innovation

Problem-based learning

Problem-based Learning as a Tool for Innovation

One of the challenges in corporate learning is that activities tend to be distant from the business itself. Furthermore, formal programs tend to be somewhat inflexible, focusing too much on content rather than context. An interesting approach to tackle these problems and a handful of more could be found in problem-based learning. While certainly not applicable to every kind of training topic, problem-based learning can help to enhance collaboration, teamwork and culture. More importantly, the method can also become a method of innovation within the organisation. Here’s the way we see it:

What’s problem-based learning all about?

As the name might give away, problem-based learning is centred around solving problems. The method is increasingly popular in leading universities around the globe. Business school case work can be a good example of the method. The problems are open-ended, meaning there are no predefined right answers or solutions. Furthermore, the subject matter in question only plays a minor part in the learning. The learners will naturally develop their capabilities around different skills like teamwork, collaboration and communication. However, for companies, this provides a tool for learning while solving real business problems.

The method as a tool for corporate innovation

In addition to having people learn to collaborate better, problem-based learning methods could have a significant value-adding offer to corporates. Having people work on real business problems, and organising it in a smart way could help to source ideas, insights, process innovation and solutions from within the organisation. Furthermore, it could help to expose people the different parts of the organisational value chain, and hence have them understand the business in more holistic terms.

How to do it in practice?

Here’s a list of things and processes we would like to install into a corporate problem-based learning program.

  • Form groups of diverse individuals. Mix participant groups from different business units, departments or even locations. To come up with innovative solutions, we must avoid tunnel vision.
  • Introduce the learners to a real business problem. If needed, have a person working on the topic brief the participants. However, remember to keep it a blank slate. Don’t put boundaries in place.
  • Ask people to come with solutions to the problem! However, as business problems are complex, give the participants adequate time to come up with novel solutions. Also, it’s good to have learners present the ideas to the heads of the business.

In general, the more diverse groups you can assemble, the better. If you’re trying to solve an operations problem with people just from operations, don’t expect great results. You may get small improvements, but radical innovation rarely happens that way. On the other hand, it’s easier for people with little prior knowledge to question and re-evaluate the existing practices.

In terms of facilitation, a blended learning approach may work best in problem-based learning. It’s a good idea for the participants to meet in and organise around physical workshops. But digital mediums and social learning tools can be helpful in keeping the collaboration going in between the workshops. For instance, a collaborative platform can enable participants to share ideas, insights and thoughts to the group immediately, and thus “record” them.

Final thoughts

Overall, problem-based learning can provide an effective tool for not only learning, but also to source innovative solutions to everyday business problems. As a learning experience, the method is highly collaborative, and thus touches on the practical aspects of communication, teamwork, leadership, project management etc. However, the best thing about it might just be that it doesn’t really feel like learning. Instead of mindlessly going through courses, your employees can actually contribute to the business whiled developing themselves. Could just be a much more fun way of doing (at least some of the) corporate learning!

Why We Need Design Thinking in Corporate Learning

Design thinking in corporate learning

Why We Need Design Thinking in Corporate Learning

Unless you’ve been living in a basement for the past few years, chances are you’ve heard of design thinking. While the term has become a buzzword, and all sorts of vendors have spawned to offer services within the space – some more ambiguous than others – the underlying ideas and concepts are something an L&D professional should not ignore. We though we’d explore those ideas and concepts, and give you our thoughts on where we see the value. So, let’s look at why we should use design thinking in corporate learning.

Design thinking (the way we see it)

To avoid unnecessary buzzword sprees, we’ll skip the text book definitions. (If you’re totally new to design thinking, Google is your friend!) Perhaps worth mentioning is that design thinking is often defined as a process, but we don’t think that always does enough justice to it. There’s a danger of oversimplifying things and too rigid processes are not something that necessarily benefit design work.

That being said, the core ideas and concepts that make the process valuable are its big emphasis on discovery, research and user involvement. These are followed by ideation, experimentation, learning from mistakes and iterating. If you’re planning to put the methods into practice, it’s good to understand what these might look like from an L&D’s viewpoint.

Why is design thinking important in corporate learning?

Fundamentally, there are no learning problems in businesses. All of it is first and foremost business problems. Sometimes, though, learning might be a valid solution. Furthermore, big challenge in corporate learning is rarely the knowledge delivery and acquisition, but learning transfer, i.e. whether people apply the newly learnt in practice. Keeping these in mind, let’s look at the different design thinking concepts and why they can provide value.

Firstly, proper discovery is really important. As mentioned, all the problems are business problems and learning is a solution to only some of them. If we bypass proper discovery and blindly offer learning whenever someone asks for it, we are not doing any good. Furthermore, discovery is important for the learning design phase too. If you want to have people apply the learning, it has to be easy. Hence, it’s critical to understand the context of the learners. Even good content will go to deff ears if you don’t understand the context.

Secondly, ideation as an open process should be something to go through, even if at small scale. A set time for open exploration enables L&D to look beyond their own immediate scope of work and identify potential solutions that are not necessarily about learning. This helps you get closer to what the people actually need, rather than blindly providing what you think they need.

Finally, experimentation is one thing that you shouldn’t neglect either. Small pilots, test runs and demos let you collect data and validate assumptions before moving onto large scale implementation. But whether you’re doing small or large, it’s important to continuously learn about how people engage with whatever it is that you’ve provided them with. Too often L&D are in a hurry to roll out a solution, but stop the work once the solutions is out. Great solutions are the products of usually multiple iterations, that are made based on previous mistakes and learning.

Final comments

Overall, design thinking as a method or a process is something that any L&D professional should be aware of. However, the key takeaway from it shouldn’t necessarily be any rigid process itself. Rather, we should aim to understand what makes these kind of methods a near necessity in building the workplace learning of the future. Also, understanding the philosophy of why it’s imperative to spend time on discovery, engaging with the users or constantly learning and iterating is important. Ultimately, L&D is about helping people succeed at their jobs and the business to perform better. Taking a design thinking angle to it might help to better address those issues.