The wood from the trees: How to engage today’s overwhelmed workforce pt2

Martyn Bull concludes his piece on engaging today’s workforce.

The changing process

Learning & Development, like many functions of HR, has been slow to move away from paper-based manual processes. Even those that have been converted online to webforms are not truly digital, in that they are still fragmented processes that need to be micro-managed.

A big shift that L&D teams need to make is to move from process-based learning design to human-centred, experience-driven learning provision.

For example,  it is not uncommon for employees to have to look at a website to discover the training available, look at their leave booking system to check they are not on leave, send an email to their manager for approval, login to a learning management system to book a place on the course, look up their budget code on the finance system to pay for the course, and then contact the travel provider to arrange hotel accommodation.

Given that employees are demanding continuous learning opportunities, L&D needs to become more “consumer-like” and provide a more integrated user experience, making complex processes and systems easier for everyone to use.

A big shift that L&D teams need to make is to move from process-based learning design to human-centred, experience-driven learning provision.

Wouldn’t it be great for an employee to have an Amazon-like workplace digital dashboard uniting all of these separate tasks into a simple one-click experience? And then see recommendations for other similar courses that colleagues booked? Or discover online learning courses that they might be able to do instead without leaving the office?

The changing technology

Technology is increasingly vying for our attention, both in the workplace and at home. The average smartphone user checks it 150 times during a day, and at work, they get interrupted as often as every five minutes, often by work systems and collaboration tools.

It is estimated that in one day, more than 100bn emails are exchanged, yet only one in seven is critically important, and the average employee now spends over one-quarter of the workday reading and answering emails.

The modern learner in the workplace can find themselves with as little as half an hour a week to focus on training development, and given that two thirds of employees say they don’t have enough time for their work, the time for quality, learning & development gets squeezed more and more.

Seeing the wood for the trees

So how do we address these challenges?

Be human

It may sound ironic that as a company increases the volume and sophistication of its tech, it should focus on producing more human processes – but it is exactly what is needed to address the challenge of a rapidly changing workforce and an outdated ‘process design’ of training.

L&D teams need to study what employees do, visit their workplaces and observe their behaviour. What perspectives do these individuals hold? Are they used to longer form learning made up of face-to-face classes and courses, or are they used to short, bite-sized micro-learning such as instructional video or quick snippets of text?

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By adapting the process to a more human-centred design, you can use your insights to create a programme of learning, digital and face-to-face, that works with your workforce, improving productivity, engagement and increasing employee satisfaction.

Bring together and simplify

To break through the bells and whistles of the quick-reward, short-term distractions it’s important to create ‘learning experiences’, rather than packaged learning content. By bringing together disparate IT systems into one gateway, learners can engage in all their employment and personal development in one place.

Creating one portal where users can access their learning content, be that bite-size video, tests or longer courses, makes it easier to facilitate ‘employee’ and ‘learner engagement’ through simplifying access. Learners then have the option to engage with the content at their own pace in the order they choose.

This allows them to build their own mental picture of the content as they explore, spending more time on the most important things that will help them develop and improve. Taking this approach reduces workplace distractions, frees up more time for work and skills development and helps give a sense of ownership – something that is key to engagement.

Create a culture of sharing

When learners begin sharing resources and knowledge with their colleagues, they become curators of knowledge, and their expertise guides their colleagues through the information forest.

Open and accessible digital learning tools can be used to support this culture of sharing, with beneficial business results of increased productivity and a more flexible workforce.


About the author

Martyn Bull is the senior learning designer for digital learning agency Insitu Digital


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