How to create a successful digital corporate learning and development strategy
Modern learners now actively seek digital answers to their questions and expect digital learning to be part of their workplace offering. And they’re likely to want to use their mobile device to do this.
“96% of people turn to their phone in moments of need, and 76% of employees say that Google is their preferred choice for workplace learning. Modern online learning is sought after and expected.” Explore these and many more stats on the profile of a modern learner.
So, how do you shape or modernize a successful digital learning strategy in your organization, where digital learning, in its many forms, meets the needs of the business and end users across your whole organization?
Is it possible to be people-centered and personal, yet produce online learning efficiently and at scale?
Traits of an effective digital learning strategy – L&D team dos and don’ts
- Identify performance needs by working with end users
- Bubble up the most useful content and approaches up from ground level and experts
- Connect the dots between useful content that already exists
- Support people to work toward wider developmental goals by helping them navigate the most useful learning experiences, interventions and resources for them.
- Take a “top down” or content-led approach
- Take “orders” for training requests from senior leaders without challenge
- Push new content and courses out as a way to solve all problems – adding to employee overwhelm
- Think short term only, and in siloed, role-specific ways that disable talent from growing or moving roles
Overall, an empowering approach rather than top down delivery helps your L&D strategy deliver more impact.
Common challenges L&D teams face
Successfully integrating digital learning into your corporate learning and development strategy is not easy. L&D teams in large organizations face huge variations in:
- location and time zones of employees and their team
- user needs and expectations
- business and customer requirements
- language and culture
- technology systems and habits
- manager relationships and approaches
- performance reviews and development planning
- what they are “told” is a learning priority by top leaders
This is why successful elearning strategies are never one size and shape, and include multiple goals and measures of success.
4 tips to developing a winning digital learning strategy
TIP 1. Don’t start with learning technology
While technology is at the heart of digital and modern workplace learning, don’t reach for new tools and platforms straight away. Technology in itself is not the (full) answer.
What not to do:
- Get software
- Add content
- Spit out learning
- Expect it to be used
“Over the last 5 years, investments in the digital agenda have been significant and organizations now use, on average, 19 different learning technologies and spend 18% of their L&D budgets on digital…What the evidence tells us is that learning technologies alone do not correlate to business or learning impact, however, the way they are used can dramatically accelerate the learning transformation.” Digital – Does evidence-based L&D matter? Towards Maturity
5 reasons why your digital learning strategy should not start with technology
- Effective learning starts with understanding key performance and employee challenges. Jumping into a specific tech option before shaping the problems could lead you down the wrong path.
- Your employees are probably already using some tech platforms for learning – informally or formally, low-fi or hi-fi. There could be a good reason not to break that habit.
- Investments in learning technology do not directly affect learning impact – it’s what you do with it that counts. Adding in yet more technologies can actually hinder productivity and usage, not boost it.
- 90% of L&D teams don’t unearth the successes and failures of previous learning tech investments before they invest in others, according to the Towards Maturity Health Check. Seize the opportunity to learn before you expand.
- You might not need new technology. Many modern xAPI-based digital learning platforms are able to knit together content and learning experiences held in different formats, in different places, and track and present individualized user journeys. It may be that you don’t need to move everything to a new place, but instead focus on the knitting together of your learning ecosystem.
“Recent developments in digital learning have been nurtured by a ‘people-centric web’ and by newer technologies that facilitate and stimulate collaborative conversations, knowledge-sharing, individualism and interpersonal networking – all of which should be at the heart of sophisticated L&D and HR strategies.” Digital Learning Factsheet: CIPD
If you are in the market for new learning technologies – be it social learning platforms, learning experience platforms, learning management systems, learning content management systems, authoring software, curation tools and more – the first step is to put together your wish list of requirements by in-depth consultation.
You need to get to the heart of actual, typical or major performance challenges real employees face, why those challenges or barriers exist, and what would actually help them. You can do this by using learning analytics, user surveys and data around the use of previous tech alongside Design Thinking.
TIP 2. Consult
The average L&D team involves learning consumers in the design of their strategies and projects just 27% of the time. On the other hand, the most successful organizations were found to consult with their learners 97% of the time.
“It’s around not being order takers. It’s around looking at where the performance needs are inside of the business. That’s where we should be starting; that’s where everybody talks about we should be starting. It’s about getting an idea of what are the main challenges for people in their roles that stop them from being able to perform.” Digital-first learning strategies, Learning at Large interview with Sam Taylor
Modern technology makes it super-easy to create, curate and share new courses and content. But should you?
Get close to the real problems
Effective modern learning and development teams shift their focus from “what can we produce” to “what is actually needed?” They do this by consulting with different areas of the business, with managers and employees, to uncover performance barriers and gaps that need dealing with.
Prioritize on key goals
Find five or less focus areas that will actually unblock productivity or performance for the business. Over a year, this will have a far greater effect than trying to deliver a solution to every “training need” you are told about by managers. TWEET THIS. [pull quote]
Use learning analytics
An effective digital learning and development strategy will also focus heavily on using learning analytics and having defined a goal. You should ideally be checking in on the progress of your strategy against that goal to get the product right.
“Don’t try and solve the problem 100 percent. Try and understand enough of the problem to make one step forward, and then measure where you are, and then re-evaluate, and then take the next step.” Building a learning culture for 45,000 salespeople, Learning at Large interview with Paul Goundry
Carry out a learning technology audit
- What is getting used for workplace performance support and development by employees? (Don’t assume, but ask and observe!)
- Is it what you expected?
- How can you bolster that?
- How can you streamline any disjointed parts of people’s exploration of “digital learning” in your organization?
What opportunities can you see in the current picture that help bring learning into the workflow?
TIP 3. Cull and consolidate content
An effective modern L&D team who already has a lot of digital learning content out there will take the time to clear out the clutter. In fact, “Consult, Curate, Converge and Cull” was our key prediction in 10 Elearning Trends That Research Says You’ll See by 2020.
Old courses that are out of date and don’t work across devices will drag down the user experience, damage the reputation of your digital learning content and do more harm than good. Even if the content itself is valid.
If you have 23 available resources to help someone meet a specific performance goal:
- Pick out the best (use analytics to help you)
- Promote those above all
- Ensure all content is simply and clearly labelled
- Make sure learners can hop from one piece to the next easily, as they want (think learning technology ecosystem)
- Filter for different roles and levels of experience
TIP 4. Curate and socialize learning
A popular word in L&D land, “curate” became a recent new buzzword. But do some jump onto the idea of curating content rather than creating it because it’s seemingly cheaper? Many in L&D do it because it’s more user-friendly.
L&D professionals can help curate together useful digital experiences, discussion points, and performance support resources that relate to a given topic or goal and ensure learners can connect the dots to easily access them, through technology.
“I think in terms of the curate versus create debate—when I build a blend for content, I would say probably a good 50 to 70 percent of that is stuff that I found somewhere else. Now, it might be online resources that you subscribe to, finding stuff you’ve already paid for that people aren’t always the most proactive in going out and actually accessing them, actually pulling some of those resources in to make it more clearly signposted for the learner.” Digital-first learning strategies, Learning at Large interview with Sam Taylor
Grassroots or ground-up learning
A modern workplace digital learning ecosystem sees employees sharing and liking resources from outside and inside the organization, content that’s ground-up and content that’s formally been created. Smart L&D teams will actively enable and support ground-up approaches and the socialization or sharing of learning, in any form.
As part of your L&D strategy, you should find a way to support and utilize this social and grassroots movement without killing it. And that goes back to consulting – paying attention to what goes on, where – and building on that.