Global elearning on no budget

Written by Rokas Buciunas on 4 November 2016 in Opinion
Opinion

Rokas Buciunas explains how businesses can implement elearning without spending too much money.

The Restless Development team in India celebrating their elearning achievements. Photo credit: Restless Development
 
L&D professionals often need to overcome what at first seems like an unrealistic ask but some of the most creative ideas come from not enough time and money. 
 

Restless Development, a global agency for youth-led development, launched elearning from the Charity Learning Consortium to 400 staff across 10 countries and multiple regional offices with no training budget, or a full-time L&D professional in place. Moreover, geographical disparity across offices was a significant barrier, given our limited resources and time.

The majority of our staff are under 32, often hired on potential. Our belief is that young people can, and must lead development. We wanted to offer elearning to them to better support their professional development.
 
Over the course of seven months, from approval to implementation, we faced and overcame barriers which truly put our vision to the test. As our elearning site is now up and running, I’d like to share four key lessons we learnt from our global launch with no budget.
 
1. E-learning is designed by everyone for everyone 
 
Limited staff capacity was seen as a fantastic opportunity to seek allies in other departments outside L&D. We asked our in-house marketing department to design our brand and over 40 volunteers from various teams in every country office were recruited to help our team champion and launch elearning globally. 
 
Our collaborative approach was the most effective advertising technique as the majority of staff were already engaged with elearning even before its launch. As other teams helped us build the site, they were essentially creating the platform they wanted to use and felt ownership of the project’s success. 
 
Our call for support was welcomed by other teams who felt it was a truly consultative and inclusive process, which ensured diverse learning needs across different countries were respected and considered. 
 
2. Junior staff are at the heart of launching elearning
 
It was crucial that senior leadership fully bought-into the project, and essential for them to champion elearning to turn this into a success, but management teams were too stretched to give the time and energy necessary to launch it. 
 
So we recruited and supported junior staff from 10 countries to create a Global Superhero Club to promote elearning and train other colleagues in their country offices.
 
We presented this as a structured development opportunity to gain marketing and facilitation skills. This created an engaged, voluntary task force which drove success, with immense levels of enthusiasm. 
 
3. The power of fun 
 
Nothing motivates people more than a chance to have fun with a task at hand. 
 
Junior staff in the Global Superhero Club loved the idea of collecting points for completed superhero missions, such as inviting a certain number of staff into the project team. 
 
More staff were proactive in our elearning name competition than in other office campaign. Our light-hearted games and competitions served as positive interventions, to help maintain high staff engagement throughout months of preparation prior to the launch. 
 
Our tactics worked well in the London office, where our team was based, but we wanted to share the same level of excitement across nine other countries. Without a chance to fly over to remote offices and meet ambassadors in person, our training sessions had to be done online.
 
Video calls presented an excellent opportunity to connect with our international counterparts and build strong relationships. This resulted in a shared feeling of ownership over the project. 
 
4. Your brand is king
 
Thinking about our brand was a crucial and rather simple way of achieving more buy-in from our employees. 
 
We let our staff create and vote for their favourite elearning name. Maarifa Platform was chosen, Maarifa means knowledge in Swahili, the official language of Tanzania. The name has quickly become part of our office jargon because the staff themselves voted for it. 
 
The look and feel of our elearning platform was of huge importance. We personalised everything we could to make it look like an extension of our agency’s website. We captured photos from our field work and ran an office-wide photoshoot to allow our colleagues to become the face of Maarifa Platform. 
 
Prior to launch, we devised a global communications plan to raise awareness of e-learning on a regular basis. We made announcements in our monthly newsletters, shared news in management meetings and office-wide training days. We even used the good old office poster. 
 
The difference we made creating an elearning culture
 
The launch was tied in with Learning at Work Week, our first day entailed 13 launch events, taking place in 10 countries simultaneously around the globe, driven by 40 junior volunteers.
 
Our elearning training sessions were turned into a competition where our staff learnt about our new site as they completed missions, such as finding the right modules and saving their progress correctly. This made our training seem interactive, hands-on and fun. Those who needed more support could later book in one-on-one training sessions with our elearning ambassadors.  
 
During the launch we ran a skill share session and organised a series of workshops hosted by our talented members of staff. This included a Swahili language class on Skype with a colleague from Tanzania; an afternoon yoga class from our campaigns team; an Excel know-how session from the head of finance and an ‘ask me anything’ session with Nik Hartley, our chief executive. 
 
Learning ambassadors across different countries had freedom to tailor the launch to their needs. For example, employees in Sierra Leone listened to a motivational speech on the importance of learning from a well-known university lecturer.
 
Our country directors and global chief executive team showed a genuine interest because the event had a strategic focus beyond elearning, aiming to change the organisational culture. Although our launch events were non-mandatory, we saw an incredible attendance rate and almost the entire global employee base took part. 
 
The CEO has announced that this was the most successful internal campaign to date and regards elearning as our agency’s internal milestone. He’s requested that we run the 
elearning week annually, to recognise the importance of learning in our agency.  
 
Perry Maddox, our chief operating officer, has also taken a vast interest in the future development of elearning and approved the first investment into a bespoke induction module. Elearning now forms part of our annual appraisal process and staff personal development plans, with a structured time for elearning. 
 
Our global launch was a success not only because we introduced e-learning, but because we brought out agency together and inspired our employees to explore a much higher potential of individual learning. 
 
About the author
 
Rokas Buciunas is the People & Performance Coordinator at Restless Development.
 

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