The times, they are a changin' - First steps to becoming a Digital First Learning Organization
Shaping the future of learning
No one can accuse 2020 of not keeping us on our toes. Amongst the many major culture shifts and changes to how we live our lives, the current reality of work and how we learn in the workplace is very different to the one we thought we knew at the start of the decade. In the blink of an eye, digital learning has gone from nice to have or part of a mix to absolute essential in a matter of weeks.
We asked several clients within L&D – what will be your immediate priorities once the lockdown lifts? A clear trend emerged – a need to support their business stakeholders in accelerating their strategic plans and bring about change at unprecedented speed.
For many in L&D this means making significant changes to how they support their stakeholders, a need for speed, flexibility and agility to help upskill or reskill the workforce. With a large focus on digital content during the pandemic most agree a digital learning strategy is the way forward.
“Learning priorities and L&D strategy have changed for 94% of organizations in response to the pandemic, with two in three making significant changes to what they do and how they do it.”
Organizations with a more mature digital approach are now ideally placed, but for those that now need to pivot to a digital first approach, it feels like a sizeable shift. We at Kineo are watching closely – and are helping our clients to navigate this change.
What does ‘digital first’ mean?
Being a digital first learning organization is not just about adopting digital technologies. Whilst that’s obviously a fundamental aspect of a digital first delivery strategy, it requires more than that: a root and branch review of how learning is managed, organized, structured, designed and delivered.
Digital isn’t just an add on to traditional face to face programs, or a mass conversion of content into elearning or virtual classroom. It’s about being learner-centric in identifying what employees need, when they need it and how best to serve them. This means taking a performance focused view and using insight at every stage to identify gaps and to validate approaches before delivering solutions.
Many digital first organizations seek to nurture self-determination of personal learning and development; using digital technologies to support them. It’s an approach that recognizes training as a continuous process and acknowledges the importance of allowing learners to take personal ownership of their development.
Digital first learning organizations foster learner curiosity, actively support the thirst for knowledge and encourage experimentation and a preparedness to try things out. They back a shift in power toward an agile learner-centred approach where the role of ‘learner’ and ‘teacher’ become increasingly indefinable. This change in approach to supporting and enabling learning provides the basis for successful digital transformation and the move to becoming ‘digital first’.
What problems are we looking to solve by taking a digital first approach?
Before the pandemic many learning teams recognized the need for change but may have struggled in getting engagement from their wider stakeholders. A few months ago, we could define the typical problems statements as:
- Continual pressure from stakeholders to do more with less and optimize speed of delivery.
- Classroom training remained high on the business priority list despite utilization dropping due to late notice cancellations or poor uptake.
- Poor perception of elearning, especially with compliance-based topics, as this medium is seen as quick and cheap way to tick a box.
However, times have changed, and many may now find the door easier to open. We’ve had to rethink many aspects of how we live and work. Whilst the use of digital learning technologies within workplaces was widespread prior to the crisis, the last few months have seen a dramatic rise in the use of and reliance on it. The challenges now may look like this:
- How do we accelerate our plans and support our stakeholders in meeting their goals?
- What does a modern learning experience look like in the digital world and how do we get there?
- What skills and experience do we need to enable a digital first strategy?
- How do we enable just in time design for all learning teams?
- How do we standardize our learning offer and make it accessible to a global workforce?
- What is the best way of achieving a balance between formal and informal learning, covering both a breadth of soft skills and technical skills?
- How do we rapidly reskill parts of our workforce as the business pivots and changes direction?
Do these problem statements sound familiar? This list is not exhaustive, but we are assuming there will be some common challenges here.
What are the benefits of digital technologies?
Becoming more agile or digitally focused may seem like a daunting task—perhaps even more so for large global companies where change can feel like it’s taking an age to happen. However, the rise of a new era of platforms like Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) or social learning and collaboration technologies has made the task a whole lot easier. These technologies deliver more value at reduced costs by standardising delivery across the wider organization. They are geared towards improving the user experience by recognising the need to support informal, social and self-directed learning. Ultimately these technologies and way of thinking behind them introduces the benefits organizations are looking for:
- Increased agility – ability to respond to ever changing needs at great pace.
- Learner-centric UX – content and delivery are in a medium that suit and engage the learner.
- Self-service approach – access to content, where and when learners need it.
- Enhanced collaboration – facilitate better learning, knowledge sharing and problem solving.
- Improved impact – better results for business and employee performance.
- Increased satisfaction – higher levels of engagement through improved experience.
- Innovation – continuous improvement, adding value faster with less disruption.
- Reduced costs – a shift to just in time delivery and learning in the flow of work.
Where to start?
There is a danger that we get preoccupied by futuristic ideals of what digital transformation could do for learning. Instead, we must focus on the specific challenges we are faced with and make changes that solve these. This may mean working with the technologies we have or by developing a roadmap that takes steps towards implementing a digital strategy. Key things to consider as you get started:
- What can you learn from others who have started this journey? Ask other organizations what they are doing.
- Undertake a Learning Culture health check – making sure any digital strategy aligns to cultural behavior and norms.
- Develop a vision document or build out a business case for change, something that can help you socialize ideals and the steps needed to be taken.
- Reach out or find a digital partner who can advise, support you, and help build capability both from a technology point of view but also from people skills capacity set perspective.