Rethinking L&D during uncertain times: Q&A


I presented a webinar ‘Rethinking L&D: Building capabilities & augmenting training programs during uncertain times’ alongside Dan Bennett, Group Learning & Development Manager ISS Facility Services, on Sept. 24th. Here are answers to audience questions – some that Dan and I could take up during the 60-minute live session and some that we have answered offline.

Q1. How to plan behavioral training through online?

Amit: There are two parts to that – one is the short term and the other is the long term approach. So, in the short term, there is the urgency to shift to live training. In terms of behavioral training, instead of having someone come on site and take a session in person, now it can be conducted virtually. The same expert can deliver the same training experience through a video call in a virtual environment. That is very helpful in the short term.

Dan: The short answer to that question is that it’s not easy. Behavioral change is not affected most effectively when you have someone sitting in front of the computer. So, one of the biggest challenges we have to overcome is to think about giving people scenarios and environments where we want to give them an idea of how we’re going to take them from A to B, but unless you have the chance to apply that it’s very likely you’re turning you training into a tick-box exercise where you display some learning points and say it’s done. But then the learners get out in the world and realize nothing has changed.

So, you’ve got a number of options at different tiers. An ideal situation might well be that you run role plays or scenarios online, where you’re looking at different behavioral models and looking at the impact. But the biggest thing is to give the people a reason to want to change their behavior, incentivize them and demonstrate the outcome of doing things correctly vs doing them incorrectly. One of the projects we worked with UpsideLMS on was how we could build some online material that supported our service culture training program. So we have a very successful training program that is delivered as a face-to-face workshop for our frontline staff- cleaners, security guards, assistants- and how we ensure they’re delivering the best possible customer service. And obviously a huge part of that training was going to be behavioral change. The best way that we could chunk down the full-day workshop that could be delivered online was giving people scenarios, like animations or video sequences, where you see the scenario play out and also the impact of doing things wrong. So, it’s not just that you got that wrong and now try again, but the scenario will continue to play out and you see what goes wrong for you to fix it afterwards. That’s much more realistic of how you can affect behavioral change.

Q2. Could you please share your suggestions on how can a company start digital learning with limited financial obligations? Can you share some action points to create an environment of learning digitally?

Amit: In today’s world there are a lot of options available where the financial obligations may not be a stumbling block. Even in terms of us as a solution provider, we’re always sensitive to the customer’s limitations and try to make it a good fit. But, more than the financial challenges, I thinks it’s more zeroing down on what you really want to do and then finding the right solution to fit that need. In my experience, we haven’t really seen investment being a challenge in implementing learning. Having said that, there are many options available, and I would advise to plan and think and spend the money on the right solution.

Dan: When we talk about limited finances and wanting to build a culture of something, they often don’t go hand in hand, because there’s often an assumption or belief at a certain level in an organization that if we want to change things, we must buy some product or we need to invest in a subscription to something else. If you’re building a learning culture from the ground up – first you must identify the needs of the people and then look for solutions, which don’t necessarily mean going to market and looking for vendors. You can explore how you can address the need yourself or with the help of other experts in the organization in a way with the tools that you already have. And that doesn’t mean a home-made solution, but it could be as simple as using your smartphone to create training videos, or there tons of content already available on YouTube, Vimeo that you can link to public facing pages that are free like your company’s Facebook page or similar things. There is a vast network of free-to-access technology and software that could probably be a starting point, and soon as you have demonstrated the value of doing what you’re doing, certainly others will take notices and hopefully you’ll receive the kind of investment you’re hoping for.

Q3. What can be the attributes of an employee willing to learn so that we can reach them beforehand or can we predict the target group rather than targeting all of them?

Amit: It all has to start with what are your objectives – why are you looking to group learners and finding attributes or parameters for learners? Maybe start with learning strategy. If you identify a program and certain people best fit for it, then it’s a different thing. But it’s still better to start with a learning strategy as a whole.

Dan: I agree. It’s a bigger question. It’s informed by sort of in a small way by your talent pipeline. And this question should hopefully be answered before it comes to L&D. It’s about finding the right people to work in your organization, who show a willingness to learn, who have shown at the time of recruitment that they have a desire to increase their skillset. There are some basic things that can be done in the early stages. First, don’t bring in people that make it very clear that they don’t intend to learn. And as your go forward and if you’ve got tools in your organization, like a catalog of learning material that employees can access, it’ll be easier to figure out who are the one’s more active in learning. That’s one way to categorize a certain group of employees who go out of their to-dos to seek learning opportunities.

Q4. How do we measure impact of e-learning programs? Is it even possible? For an 8 hour workshop, we never measured impact and there is always a constant pushback.

Amit: This is one of the most difficult areas in the learning domain. In our experience with our customers we know that it’s not important to measure the impact immediately, but most training activities have a long term impact, like say 3 months down the line. It’s a gradual change. If it’s behavioral training, the change may take 6 months. So, in my experience, the idea might be to look for impact outside the training activity, like job performance etc. The goal needs to be clear before the training takes place so that you have an active benchmark to measure the impact. Setting parameters like impact for revenue per employee or improving time-spent on some activity. But again it’s a tricky business, because when COVID happened, all the benchmarks suddenly went to toss. So measuring impact is a bigger question that the learning activity.

Dan: Yes, I’d agree with that. It’s a fat question. Look, if you figure out how to measure the impact of an elearning activity, then you’re going to be a really successful L&D professional. Because this is the biggest question asked to any L&D person – what was the impact of the program? How do we know it’s working? – when there are so many factors impacting an employee’s learning and professional journey. So it’s really hard to quantify. So, like Amit stressed – know why you’re doing the training in the first place. Is it just there because it has to be, just a compliance exercise? Or are you looking to drive one of your business matric from A to B. And on the other side, also accept that the impact can’t all be attributed to elearning because there’s also the culture, the leadership, guidance or whatever.

On a more realistic level – gathering feedback from learners is probably the simple way to go at a systemic level. So if you have an LMS, if someone has finished a program, then seek the feedback like a 1 to 5 scale, and having questions to show commitment like – what are you going to change as a result of doing that training? – and nudging them to honor the commitment. More than quantitative I think you’re better off getting a qualitative feedback from your employees because that’s all that you’re going to get in terms of learning impact, and the bigger organizational change is going to be part of a bigger picture.

Q5. What are your thoughts on the future of gamification in the learning industry post COVID situation?

Amit: Irrespective of the pandemic, I think Gamification as a concept is always an engaging way to deliver training. It’s more to do with human psychology in general as we always tend to seek out activities for ourselves that are the most engaging, just like we are when we’re playing any sport. The inherent factors like competitiveness, winning and losing make gamification evergreen.

Gamification Module | UpsideLMS

Q6. Many companies simply don’t focus on employee development. What is your take on it?

Amit: I would say that employee development has to become a business-critical aspect in any organization because in today’s climate when the skillsets needed for the future of work are changing at an alarming rate and employees are not really equipped to do the job. People talk about how technology or automation is going to replace jobs, but think about how many jobs it’s going to create. There has to be someone to manage those tools and solutions. And the best way to ensure you have the right talent is to provide it yourself through employee development activities.

Q7. How to measure the learner's engagement through online learning or digital learning?

Amit: It’s not a straight forward answer because measuring engagement has many offshoots to it. What online learning or digital learning can do is provide opportunities for employees to engage with the organization as well as their professional development though online learning. If you’re looking to measure the learning engagement, then as we discussed earlier, the best way is through the feedback process.

Dan: Yes, learning engagement can be looked at a certain point through the metrics like completions, time-spent on a course or stuff like that, but the feedback process will give you comprehensive data on what works, what doesn’t work and want needs improvement in terms of providing better programs.

Q8. How to engage learners through VR and AR modes?

Amit: It’s quite an exciting mode of delivery. The learning experience that AR/VR provides is exceptional.But again it all depends on your audience and the format that they prefer. So, if your learners prefer video courses or microlearning then they’re more likely to be engaged learning in those modes. Plus AR/VR is still quite in its early stages and also very costly to procure. But I can see it becoming a common practice in many industries.

Q9. Please suggest your experience for training the gig employees.

Amit: Training the gig employees again begs a bigger question as to what is your objective. It’s going to be a completely different scenario and structure to what we do traditionally. So it really depends on what is that you’re looking to achieve by training a gig worker, because if you look at it as an investment then maybe that’s not the right kind of investment. But, in practical terms, delivering training to a gig worker and considering the time limitations, I think microlearning is the right way to go.

Watch the entire webinar 'Rethinking L&D: Building capabilities & augmenting training programs during uncertain times'