How to embrace the digital revolution and break the training mould

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Written by Nic Girvan on 9 February 2021 in Opinion

Nic Girvan believes we need to move to digital - but it doesn't have to be such a big deal. 

The current situation has presented companies of all shapes and sizes with brilliant opportunities – but also worrying realities. Until now, it was easy to think that change stems from being in a room with like-minded people and a trainer.

But the pandemic suddenly shone a spotlight on technology – and this gave us some fantastic creations. Video learning hit a peak, for example, and gamification exploded everywhere.

But not everyone knows what digital learning involves. If you don't know what you're doing, there's a tendency to take your PowerPoint slides, add what you would normally say in text form and hit the 'next' button. And that is a huge waste of the potential of going digital.

Digital training can be whatever you want it to be – a 30-second behavioural nudge, an interactive video or a full elearning package with introspective pause moments. But it shouldn't just be about downloading knowledge – people need to experience it to get the real benefits.

Screen fatigue is real – living through a glowing rectangle all day every day is tough, so three-hour intensive training courses are not always going to be successful. Get smart and cut through the noise without adding to an already long day by using techniques such as microlearning modules and performance nudges.

Don’t tell people how to behave with an hour-long lecture session – just provide short, sharp nudges as and when needed.

If you are seeking to train for a process change, for example, don’t spend hours agonising over a 40-minute elearning piece – instead, keep it simple. Short microcapsules of three to four minutes showcasing the ‘need to knows’ will make navigation manageable, repeatable and actionable – and keep costs down.

By creating a library of user-generated content, your production costs can be low but your saturation high. Engage your early adopters out there in the business and get them to invigorate others.

This ‘keep it simple’ approach also works for behavioural training. Don’t tell people how to behave with an hour-long lecture session – just provide short, sharp nudges as and when needed. Nudge learning can be anything from a sentence pop-up to a 60-second video reminder. We are all used to notifications on our phones and apps, so translate this approach to employees’ workday prompts or WhatsApp groups.

Although cost savings are easily achievable with a switch from classroom to computer, digital should not just be the option when money is tight. Venue hire, travel costs and time away from the day job are all reduced or eradicated by digital learning.

But being smarter with the budget isn't just about watching the pennies and focusing on the return on investment, it’s also about challenging the return on expectation – and that expectation continues to be that learning will stick and behaviours will change.

Live virtual training provides learners with the opportunity to engage with team dialogue rather than content monologue. Breakout groups and polled activities are common features in a well-designed live virtual session.

When bringing people together in a live virtual manner, don’t tell them what they could have found out themselves – use that connected time to get social. Provide discussion opportunities for participants to share what they have learned from pre-shared resources, rather than just talking about a concept you have introduced in the past five minutes. 

Facilitate openings for colleagues to question each other and truly socialise a topic among themselves – in their own narratives.

And finally, one of the good things that came from 2020 is that we have all involved ourselves more in personal development. People are taking ownership of what they want. It means employers have to provide more opportunity and think about that extra value – what's going to make a difference to employees and give a return on investment in terms of expectation.

When you offer something digital that speaks to the topic you want to cover, but you add something that someone can take away for themselves, you get a higher uptake of people viewing what you want them to see.

A lot of middle-ranking managers in organisations, for example, are turned off by diversity and inclusion training because they believe they will be overlooked for their next promotion in favour of a diverse candidate.

The way to bring them on board is to offer them something that clicks for them, as well as something that teaches them how to drive diversity in their organisation. If you get that balance right, there is a lot to gain.


About the author

Nic Girvan is director of learning at diversity and inclusion training consultancy PDT Global


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