Classroom training can seem like a real treat. Especially when we consider that more than 3 quarters of people haven’t attended a course in the last two years. But if they’re not attending courses (even if they like them), then how are they developing themselves? If they are like you and I they are likely to be self-directing their own learning. Web-searching when situations arise or asking a colleague. In that respect, ‘learning’ is wedded to the work itself – on a ‘grab-and-go’ basis. The real learning occurs in the act of applying the new knowledge or know-how and the immediate feedback (did it go well or did it not?!). They are likely to have trusted their online publishers and blogs, as well as social media, to keep up-to-date, and good old (audio / e-) books.

But when it comes to formally developing at work, people expect training to happen in the classroom.

So we may deduce that our people don’t attend courses very often and self-direct their efforts based on present needs. And therefore, there are no performance or capability gaps for L&D to fill, right? Everybody is being inducted perfectly, yes? There are no friction points getting new starters to become top performers, no? All new managers are supported and guided before they are in charge of people, yes? All employees are equipped to improve their employability in readiness for new roles? Everybody is technically proficient to operate in ever-more digital roles and complex global business environment? And Executives have the ability to influence multiple and often competing stakeholder priorities, correct?

What do you mean: No, No, No and No?

Despite the perceived preference for face-to-face classroom training, we can’t serve the pressing business needs with one day every 2 years.

Smart L&D teams are finding ways to use technology to address all of their priorities and are doing so by appealing to what their people are motivated to do. So, how do they get employees to adopt technology for learning?

It’s a bit of a trick question because employees aren’t primarily motivated to engage with L&D for ‘learning’. They are motivated to ‘learn’ at work to be better and faster at their jobs and progress their careers. ‘Learning’ is seen as a mechanism for these outcomes. When you recognise these motivations, you can support your fellow workers with technology, influencing and enhancing every day performance, whilst building essential capability. Here a 5 tips that are working for your peers in other organisations that will help you to achieve your L&D goals using the right technologies:

Tip 1: Address your employee’s biggest work challenges

What are your people struggling to do right now? And who is struggling most? If you can identify them and help them to do what they want to do (but better) then you’ll be addressing their primary motivation to engage. You won’t find the answer to those two questions in any books, magazines or online. The only way you’ll find out is by asking people. When you get their answers, find out what specifically they need help, don’t aggregate it to a common level or for inclusion in a course. Collect their specific work challenges. I’ll explain in Tip 4 what to do with them but to summarise, the right technology and approach will mean you can address these specifically and adoption of technology will be no problem at all. Facilitated by smart technology, consumer experiences are becoming more personalised – moving away from standardisation – and those consumer expectations are also becoming corporate expectations.

Tip 2: Don’t dress up HR and L&D priorities as employee priorities

The absolute opposite of the first tip, is addressing a HR or L&D priority rather than employee priorities. The most common example I can give is: Managers as Coaches. Of course there is benefit in managers coaching their team members, in the right situations. But providing support or training for something that is not seen as a pressing business priority is a sure-fire way of sending your digital interventions into the abyss. On a logical level, managers will get it. But what are the business priorities that are preventing them from getting to it? Their world is complex and demanding and so annexing what could be seen as additional (non-business critical) activities on top is unrealistic. A lot of the time, a mismatch of priorities (between HR and employees themselves) emanates from a disconnect. So, get close to them and help them with their pressing concerns (their ‘what?’) – and you might just find ways to influence the ‘how?’

Tip 3: Share Career Stories of how others have progressed in your company

In the main, the days of career ladders are well behind us. Whether you now espouse Career Lattices, Career Breadth, or Tours of Duty, there are very few promotion promises that can be made and careers are rarely linear. In this new reality, it can be useful to show real experiences of what other employees have actually done in order to develop their skills, progress within the company and be on their way to achieving their career goals. Short (and honest ‘warts and all’) video stories will help to show that with some planning, skill-building, networking, self-promotion, opportunism and hard-work, paths can be forged and progression can be attainable. Help to unpack some of the common, acceptable practices that seem to advance a person’s cause. Collect as many Career Stories as you can of people across different levels, functional disciplines and maturity in the organisation. Host panel events to supplement your video stories to engage in conversations and bring them to life.

Tip 4: Use ‘resources’ to keep employees in the workflow

When you need to know something, or how to do something, for your job, do you search your LMS for a course, find the closest to the need you have and either wait until you’ve attended it (or stop work and complete it, if it’s e-Learning)? Or do you Google it / ask somebody? The chances are it’s the latter. Again, because most people are just trying to do their jobs better and faster. So, design the experience to keep them in the workflow. You do this by creating ‘resources’ (not ‘courses’) that act like the most appropriate web-search result or digital ‘tap on the shoulder’ of a knowledgeable colleague. The aim is that you provide just enough insight, instruction or information to help your employees to progress with their work with the addition of more confidence and competence than they would without it. And do this with the right technology, such as Looop (which is purpose-built for your resources) and not Sharepoint. The user-experience is as important as your content. If a resource can’t be accessed on-demand, on-the-go and as easily as a web-search, then Google will win! The right tools make all the difference. In addition, you can create and share digital resources in minutes, with Looop. So, don’t cut corners and invest in the right tools.

Tip 5: Run campaigns to drive traffic and repeat visits

Unfortunately, we don’t live in ‘Field of Dreams’ (or Wayne’s World 2) and if you build it, they will not come. You need to run campaigns to sell the value of your resources and drive continued engagement. Even YouTube have weekly digests of their most viewed videos in order to drive engagement. Your own weekly digests can be created and shared in order to drive traffic and repeat visits, and you could also create user stories that demonstrate the value of committing time to your resources via the results that can be gained. Unfortunately, your content will not do this on its own. Be smart and borrow from the best weekly digests out there. Simple works best: Show what’s popular and show what’s new.

These are not theoretical tips. All of these are working in organisations where they’ve had no problem in the adoption of technology in their L&D. That is despite employee expectations initially being the same as yours.

People like a good course. But unfortunately we can’t achieve all our L&D goals with infrequent events. The business world is moving fast and people want to keep up – and they want to progress. Tap into these motivations (instead of the less significant motivation: to ‘learn’) and work with them to solve their performance and capability challenges. Not only do you then immediately align to the business but you also super-charge the impact of your L&D with technology.

See also:

How ASOS Got Their People Wanting More Online Learning

How Looop is Helping Discovery Communication Build An Everyday Learning Culture

How Looop is Helping Edwardian Hotels Deliver Consistently Exceptional Client Care


David James is Chief Learning Strategist with Looop and a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with nearly 20 years of experience in the field. Most notably, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region.

Looop help their clients all over the world to digitally transform their L&D and capitalise on how people really want to learn today with a platform that is renowned for its extraordinary levels of learner engagement.

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