The business world has been subjected to constant shifts for a while now. The global health crisis was yet another gamechanger. For L&D departments, it meant taking center stage and doing their best to ensure that employees had the support they needed to keep doing their jobs or begin something entirely new.
The firemen-like interventions were necessary and welcomed a year ago, but by now, it is obvious that a new, more thought-through approach is needed.
Upping the online training game in 2021
There is a lot of talk about making all organizational aspects more effective. The learning function should act as an engine of this change by self-reflection and finding the appropriate ways to do things better.
Becoming proactive rather than reactive is the first step the L&D departments should take.
It’s common knowledge to all in the field that most of the instances in which the organization is asking for a training intervention have nothing to do with knowledge or a desired behavioral change that will positively impact business goals.
Usually, it’s about fixing something that nobody else in the organization wants to address properly.
Of course, refusing to deploy training is a very delicate situation and unlikely to happen after the request has been placed. So learning specialists should start inquiring and finding the real training needs, then design and pitch programs that will truly bring value and help the company in the long run.
Know your audience
Conducting in-depth audience analysis is also essential. The effectiveness of a training program does not consist of the number of people who take it. It’s not a popularity contest.
When faced with alarmingly high numbers of potential participants, the course administrators should gather more data about the people and their knowledge and interest concerning the subject. Some may be indeed the perfect individuals for the material; some may already know a good part of it. In contrast, others may lack the prerequisites for truly understanding and being able to make use of the modules.
Training should be applied strategically, and this is where having modular e-learning comes in handy as each group of attendees can be offered precisely what they are missing. Personalized learning has to become more than a nice-to-have aspect of a learning plan.
Create interactive training experiences
Interactivity is the key to a fulfilling learning experience. This is, of course, nothing new. However, the traditional model of the “sage on the stage” is still prevalent when delivering training (whether it is in a traditional classroom environment or online).
Unless the speaker is the most skilled entertainer and the subject matter has unprecedented appeal, learners will get bored. They will retain next to nothing (truth be told, that would probably be the case even with the great show person and exciting topic because that is how memory works).
Furthermore, today’s appetite for all things digital and new immersive technologies indicates a growing need for interactivity in all aspects of life and work. That, of course, includes training, and it’s up to instructional designers to find the appropriate ways (and the right amount) of interactive features to be incorporated in the learning modules.
Information reinforcement is even more important than knowledge-sharing. The forgetting curve is very steep. Within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information you presented. Within 24 hours, they will have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, forgetting claims an average of 90 percent of the information.
Forgetting is a natural and much-needed adaptive cognitive process. We are programmed to remember only what is deemed essential or useful to us in a specific situation. The human brain has the remarkable capacity to store information and bring it up when it becomes relevant. However, if there are no situations when that’s the case, the item will be simply labeled as unimportant, and therefore, forgotten.
If the training simply stops when the material has been viewed, its efficacy will be very low. There needs to be a build-in methodology to reinforce the information and provide opportunities to practice after completing the course.
This is also where the HR department and the direct managers need to get on board because incentivizing the desired behavior is crucial in making it a habit and not a sterile mimic exercise.
Measure training success
Having clear evidence of success is the final step in transforming training into what it needs to be in the modern organization. Training programs should be monitored continuously from the inside, their efficacy and relevance measured at regular intervals.
This has to go well beyond the end-of-training quizzes and feedback forms. There is no shortage of tools to gather all the needed data and analyze it to offer comprehensive reports on all training-relevant KPIs.
That ever-elusive training ROI is within learning managers’ grasp. It’s common knowledge that the learning function is essential in any organization but having the ability to put a number on that and demonstrate real monetary value and results will give the L&D department a better seat at the table.
If there is one adjective that is often associated with learning specialists, that is adaptive. They have always had to adapt, and the recent developments have forced them to take that up a notch. Now it’s time to become even more visibly relevant in the organizational ecosystem by providing the most innovative and effective programs for their organizations.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.