How to develop a successful, corporate digital L&D strategy that delivers real business impact
On average, organizations use 19 different learning technologies and spend 18% of L&D budgets on digital. Why do some organizations drive real impact and ROI from their digital learning strategies, while others fail to reap the returns?
This best practice guide will help you develop the digital aspect of your corporate learning and development strategy to deliver real business impact.
You can also download your step-by-step guide to developing a successful digital learning strategy.
In a nutshell, a digital learning and development strategy is about shaping the way your organization uses digital learning in all its forms. This can range from blogs and videos to webinars and online collaboration through to online courses, immersive experiences and resources. The aim is always to help employees learn new skills, enhance their performance or develop themselves for the future.
“Many organizations start their digital learning initiative with expectations similar to, ‘We have 50,000 hours of learning for all our employees! Can you imagine the impact this initiative will have?!’ However, such a broad initiative often lacks focus and strategy. One year later, the utilization rate for noncompliance courses is often below 10%. After all, just because your local library has 10,000 books doesn’t mean you will read all of them—or even go to the library.” Centre for Creative Leadership: ‘6 strategies for digital learning success’
Make your digital learning the go-to place for answers and learning in your organization, time and time again. Drive up user engagement, reach, reuse and, of course, the impact of your digital learning on business performance and productivity by reading on.
A modern digital learning and development strategy…
Strives to help digitally overwhelmed and busy people improve their performance where and when it matters with the very best, carefully selected experiences and resources available (notall of the content available on a topic!).
Empowers end users to use digital learning content flexibly – when they want, on the device they want, and how they want. For example, a video might not always be right for them, or be a good choice in that moment when a one-page guide will do.
Requires critically reviewing the performance of every learning platform. Are they delivering ROI and the desired results to support the business strategy? There might be another platform altogether that’s being used by employees to connect, share and learn – is your strategy missing a trick?
Needs to work now and in the future, and that means it needs to be measured, adaptable and iterative.
How digital fits in your wider learning and development strategy
Most organizations make use of a range of learning and development methodologies and include a combination of face-to-face and digital channels. For many organizations, it’s not enough to look at a digital learning strategy on its own. Instead, they review the entire learning offering and put together a blended learning strategy or overarching L&D strategy before they focus in on digital itself.
Shaping the right blended learning strategy
Whether you’re reviewing your employee training program, shifting from classroom into digital learning for the first time, or looking to gain the most benefit out of all your learning options, a blended learning strategy is key. A blended learning strategy can help guide you and your team on making decisions about how to best meet each aspect of an overall performance goal, within a defined budget.
It can also help you align your digital tools and platforms in the business to support the booking of workshops, online coaching and virtual classroom sessions, and digital content pull and push. Top tips for getting started with blended learning
Have a clear list of the benefits different modes of learning offer – see below!
Revisit a previous project that was delivered either fully in the classroom or purely digitally. Map out an ideal blend as a conceptual experiment. Could you test this approach out?
Start testing some mini-blends out. Make some changes to a classroom-based course by providing participants with something like an online diagnostic tool upfront, and provide them with some focused follow-ups such as digital performance-support tools, an elearning practice scenario or an online discussion. Measure the impact.
Review a face-to-face session critically. What shouldn’t be there? What doesn’t lend itself to group learning? What would be better off as some personal, digital, training?
Review an online course and, as with above, assess what shouldn’t be there. What would be better to do as an online discussion, an assignment, a diagnostic assessment? Break it up into a digital blend – there’s lots of different shapes and sizes of digital learning to play with, after all. You should also consider how digital can be injected into the classroom.
Online learning vs face-to-face learning - What are the benefits of each?
The best blended learning and development strategies tap into the highest value opportunities offered by the different modes of learning, and don’t waste the opportunities presented. So, which mode is best for what?
“If you don’t have permission to learn, if you don’t have the psychological safety and the trust to do things differently and potentially to fail, then you’re going to be resistant to doing the change.” Digital-first training strategies, Learning at Large Podcast with Sam Taylor
2. Measurable/Flexible: with learning analytics available within most modern learning tools, digital learning enables you to track employee engagement with learning, shares, drop-off points, user comments and lots more.
3. Connected:xAPI learning technologies enable you to connect the dots between all kinds of resources, experiences and activities that make up an individual’s learning journey and guide them from one relevant piece to the next to make learning continuous.
5. Personalized: modern learning technologies enable you to produce personalized or adaptive learning solutions that target an individual’s role, needs and skills gaps, in their own localized language.
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
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:
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 dramaticallyaccelerate 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
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.
“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?
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.
The key to an effective corporate learning and development strategy is user-centered research. Digging into current habits, needs, trends and opportunities will help your team set up a strategy for success now and in the future.
When it comes to your digital workplace learning strategy, learning analytics and content analytics are fantastic resources of insights and data to help point you toward most popular and lagging technology uses, most shared and least shared modes of content and more.
Working with individuals to help understand how they might and do use digital learning in the flow of work, in moments of need as well as for more focused skills and development training, is critical for modern learning strategies. So, if you haven’t already, get your L&D team’s eyes and ears to the ground. See our elearning development process guide for more details!
We can help you do it!
From transitioning your authoring team to Elucidat, to making big project releases go smoothly, we’ll make sure your elearning is a huge success – both for your team and your learners.
Book a free tailored demo today to see how Elucidat can help you to produce digital learning that delivers a transformational impact, as well as developing an effective online learning strategy.