In the first of a three-part series on modernizing corporate learning, hosted by Chief Learning Officer (CLO), Axonify’s CEO Carol Leaman made one thing clear: in order to remain competitive, organizations must begin to modernize learning.
This week, Axonify’s Principal Learning Strategist, JD Dillon, continued the discussion by offering three practical strategies for how to make that happen. Most importantly, he talked about how companies must first have the right “plumbing” in place to drive real change (but, more on that later).
JD argued, we no longer have the luxury of long development cycles for workplace learning. And yet, the ability to learn and evolve is a key competitive differentiator.
Those who don’t evolve get left behind.
So, how are you preparing for a world where what your employees are expected to know and do may be different, not just in a year or six months, but several weeks from now?
It all starts with how the act of learning is perceived in the workplace. Driving impactful change doesn’t need to start with a rip and replace mentality. The process should be organic, small, meaningful, and iterative. L&D (learning and development) needs to think about how to become more agile, flexible, responsive and proactive to the needs of the organization.
It’s actually a story about plumbing. Learning happens whether you’re involved or not. But leaders can help accelerate their employees’ development and speed to capability with the right systems, the right mechanics and the right framework. That is, the right plumbing.
Here are three key elements that will help you evolve corporate learning at your organization and bring the modern learning mindset to life.
Element #1 – The framework
A key part of having the right plumbing is ensuring you create a framework that includes the guiding principles of learning. Start with the 70/20/10 rule. We often have great problem-solving abilities at home, but it doesn’t always transfer to our work. Leverage the elements your employees are already using at home in your workplace.
As we go down this list, each layer should become more structured. Your framework should:
- Start with a foundation of shared knowledge. People use Google and YouTube on a regular basis. Make your knowledge just as readily accessible and searchable.
- Provide performance support and clear opportunities for employees to get help when they need it.
- Separate the nice-to-know from the need-to-know and provide continuous reinforcement of critical knowledge.
- Provide the right management support. This doesn’t mean managers have to become teachers. Instead, leverage the control and influence your frontline managers have and enable them to be more effective at observing and coaching the right behaviors.
- Provide a more structured experience when required. Utilize on-demand training to allow your workforce to quickly access what they need to know when then need to know it.
- Offer formal training, as needed, for more complicated knowledge that requires more structured learning.
Element #2 – Right-fit tactics
The first element, creating a new and modern learning ecosystem framework, will help you shape the right mindset for learning and connect it to measurable outcomes for your organization. The second, right-fit learning tactics, will help you apply this framework directly to your workforce to create an overall experience.
Start by taking a look at the different tactics your company is currently using and how they can fit into the new framework you’ve created. For example, this could include tools and technology such as, a shared knowledge hub for accessing on-demand resources, or a social networking area where employees can connect and ask questions, or perhaps a reinforcement tool to ensure employees are retaining information long-term.
By leverage existing strategies, tools, technology and resources and applying those tactics purposefully, your employees won’t have to waste time trying to figure out the intention of internal systems. The need and purpose of these tactics should be clear to the end-user.
Furthermore, think critically about what sort of tactics are necessary to address each learning and training need. A low criticality, low-complexity need can be addressed on the foundational layer of the framework. Think about if you really need to build a structured training program or if creating a job aid, for example, would be sufficient. A critical problem with high complexity, such as compliance or regulatory issues, may need a formal training program. This is where you may need to incorporate reinforcement and management support as well.
Element #3 – The experience
The learning experience must be consistent, scalable and personalized to the individual. We often force our employees to relearn how to learn. We might offer eLearning for one product release, but then, six months later use instructor-led training for another new release. Employees are forced to figure out how and where they’re going to get help and support.
A continuous learning experience combines all the tactics and all the layers mentioned above to provide support and immerse employees with learning and knowledge. The experience you create should engage, reinforce, support, and measure. Operationalize the idea of modern learning to bring it to life in a structured, profitable way.
By installing a modern framework, aligning your tactics accordingly, and building the right experience for the individual you:
- Create an employee-centric learning experience that is the ultimate motivator for people to engage. Learning becomes about the individual employee, even if you’re playing at the scale of tens of thousands.
- Enable an agile framework for responding to business priorities so when someone comes to you today and says we need something tomorrow, you have the right plumbing—the structure in place—to respond.
- Align corporate learning to real-world behavior. Use the same ideas that help people solve problems at home and bring it into the workplace. The process is familiar and they won’t have to relearn how the learning works.
- Set the foundation for a mindset shift by building the components that will help you sell this new ideology to the executives and employees.
- Think critically about your current tactics. Instead of throwing content into the wind, question its value and provide options that make better use of your current tools and technology.
It won’t be easy. There are barriers.
Put your plumbing into practice
The first thing you can do is get people past the student mindset. It starts with the way we talk about what we do. Do we talk about learning, or do we talk about performance and outcomes? Incrementally establish new practices that get people thinking and talking differently. Use what you have and then relate things to real life.
How do you challenge the status quo and overcome established practices? The most challenging minds to change are often those in learning and development. That’s why you should begin with L&D to explore and contextualize the modern learning mindset. At the same time, challenge stakeholders iteratively over time. As JD said, it’s not enough for those in L&D to think this way, we have to grow this mindset across the organization.
How do you find the time to do this? Slowly. Address bits and pieces, and introduce small elements and changes overtime. It’s about implementing one piece at a time. Don’t try to boil the ocean.
Utilize essential skills. Don’t just look at L&D for this. Leverage the people already doing what you need done. Look at the broader skillset of your organization.
Consider the tools you are using. Are they a right fit? Are you using the right technology to deliver? Where do you need to augment? Challenge your vendors and partners to help you provide the world you want to create. It isn’t just about features and functions; it is about the experience.
Is it time to evaluate your current plumbing? How consistently and easily is corporate learning understood? Is the purpose of your internal systems as easily understood by your employees, as the apps on their phone? If not, find something that is.
Find your partners and champions. Go outside of L&D, and think about who has influence. Who is already challenging parts of the organization to move forward, to modernize? Challenge your stakeholders to do more. Apply a modern framework, establish what’s working, and relate new ideas to everyday life. Make iterative changes, piece by piece rather than on a large scale. This is a giant ship to turn, you have to slowly guide the shift.
We need to know where we are going but we also need to remain nimble in that vision. Slowly build to a grander vision, not in isolation with L&D, but in partnership with your entire organization.