When You’re Too Busy Delivering Training To Do Digital L&D

First published on Looop 

In my recent experience, it seems many L&D professionals are too busy delivering training to dedicate time to their own digital development. As a result, the L&D provision in many organisations is still predominantly classroom-based, and any individual employee’s experience of L&D is limited to occasional events and technology ‘solutions’ outsourced to vendors or simply bought in ‘off-the-shelf’. Perhaps these are reasons why less than a quarter of workers surveyed had completed a course of any kind in the previous 2 years.

If L&D is too busy to do digital, then the wrong problems can end up being solved. For example, the only problem that buying an LMS and filling it with content solves is:

How can we provide content and see who’s accessing it?

And this might seem reasonable until you recognise that two of the biggest challenges facing organisations – and entire industries today – remain:

  1. How do we support and guide our people to perform with competence and confidence for optimum productivity at our organisation?
  2. How do we plug skills gaps to ensure we have the organisational capability to thrive today and survive tomorrow?

I think it’s safe to say that the LMS full of ‘content’ isn’t addressing either of these in a sophisticated or rigorous manner.

L&D’s Over-Reliance On The Classroom Isn’t Helping

There are many reasons why the classroom has been the primary domain of L&D but it’s become a prison from which L&D are finding it hard to escape to add greater value to their organisation at large.

What we need to recognise is that our preoccupation with delivering training often means maintaining the status quo to the detriment of progress because of the infrequency of which they are experienced and that knowledge transfer, as a concept and practice, is seriously flawed. It’s a strange situation because it feels good to know there is a calendar of programmes scheduled and that people will attend them. But we must look past this and see that employees are not benefiting from meaningful support and guidance that’s focused on actually helping them with their jobs, when they need it – rather than when the class next runs.

We must remember that we’re not ultimately employed to run programmes. We’re employed to add value by enhancing everyday performance and building capability in our organisations. This cannot be done one class at a time and apathy towards generic e-learning means that scaling the classroom in that way isn’t helping either.

Making Time For Digital L&D That Supports The Work And Builds Capability

Going back to the original point, reprioritising and getting out of the classroom for a while will give you the time and energy to refocus on how the right digital solutions can support every employee everyday, whilst a reevaluation of face-to-face can even make it more effective and less resource-heavy.

To reclaim the time to focus on digital, you have several options:

  1. Get somebody else to deliver the programmes. Whether it be to a colleague or to outsource delivery to a supplier. Either way, digital solutions that are aimed at helping employees with what they’re trying to do are best developed with local knowledge and know-how.
  2. Decide to develop your next ‘programme’ digital-first, rather than classroom-first with a blended element.
  3. Put a temporary stop to delivering training courses yourself and replace them instead with short, focused discussions around specific priorities. These may only need to be 90 minutes long but will require no content development and no delivery: Just a room, a host (perhaps you) and a topic. This approach will not only keep things ticking over in the absence of ‘training’, it will also uncover the real needs of your clients. For example:

Becoming a new manager: Invite recently promoted managers to a session to discuss their progress so far and the challenges they’re facing, making sure there’s time for them to openly discuss their situations with each other;

Presenting to groups: Create an open invitation for people who want to get better at presenting and invite somebody who is regarded as a very good presenter at your organisation. Ask what people want to specifically get better at and share experiences together;

Managing your career *at your company*: Invite a panel of 4 employees, representing many levels and business units across your organisation, to talk briefly about their career journey and practical things that helped them. Then field questions from the audience;

Project Management: Invite people together with a shared responsibility for managing projects. Elicit the situations and challenges they are facing and work the you have room, which is full of experience, to explore potential solutions that are grounded in the context of your organisation.

There will be so much to learn from those conversations that your job – and that of your whole L&D team – should be to observe what’s being said, furiously take notes, and seeking to understand the real situations, challenges and questions that those with performance needs have, in the context of their work and their career. This is your first – and probably most important step – towards digital, because digital doesn’t just mean technology-enabled learning, it means user-centred design, moving fast to achieve defined and focused objectives using the most appropriate approaches and tools. The first step in that is learning about individuals.

Of course, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of digital, in the context of L&D – and there is plenty more to know. But it certainly provides guidance on how to make the time, and get moving, on your own digital journey. But it requires you to escape from the prison of the classroom first.

Consider this your Shawshank Redemption moment…

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David James

Digital Learning Strategist at Looop
David James is Digital Learning Strategist with Looop and was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region until 2014. Now an authority in contemporary L&D practices, David works with businesses, globally, to develop and implement social, agile and digital learning strategies that make learning work, with Looop.