Applying design thinking at the heart of L&D delivery

Written by Armin Hopp on 22 August 2018

Most companies want to see employee engagement with learning programmes to achieve the desired company goals, but the majority are not succeeding. Towards Maturity found that while, 96% of organisations want to improve employee engagement with learning, only 20% are successful.

This is largely because it is not enough simply to roll out the latest elearning platform and encourage employees to use it. The traditional implementation process needs to be turned on its head. Using the latest ‘design thinking’ approach, training professionals would begin by considering the specific needs of each individual employee.

The concept of design thinking originates from UX, user experience, design. UX experts are dedicated to enhancing user satisfaction with the process of using a product. They focus on the usability, accessibility and even pleasure that interacting with the product brings.

In the learning and development domain, the product may be an elearning module. UX designers look at every step of the user experience to make sure that it is engaging and accessible.

And now artificial intelligence software can give learning systems greater insight into individual learners than ever before, by predicting the type of content that is of most interest or relevance to each user, and by adapting to each person's learning habits or speed.

Relevant to daily realities

Designing an engaging learning module is not just about making it graphically appealing and easy to use. Crucially, it must be relevant to each individual user, reflecting their daily realities at work and delivering the learning they need on the job. There are several approaches that training professionals can take to bring design thinking to their learning delivery:

  • Design blended learning that works together effectively. Offer users integrated learning experiences ranging from self-directed elearning through to collaborative learning with peers and mentors.

Make sure that each learner can see that the learning programme comprising all these different learning experiences is well designed and integrated. At the same time, each learner should see their learning program overtly mapped against personal and wider business objectives.

  • Design a content curation strategy. As part of the focus of design thinking on the individual user experience, it is important to look for opportunities to bring in more depth and breadth of learning content onto the platform. That way, learners can access content that is highly relevant to their needs.

On average, only 13% of companies have a content curation strategy. However, among top performing learning organisations, 51% curate content. To keep content relevant, curation must be continuous; 87% of top performing organisations regularly review learning content to make sure it's aligned with business goals, with 82% removing material which is no longer relevant.

  • Take a user first approach to designing gamification. Gamifying elearning modules, by setting achievable targets and fostering competition between peers, can be seen as a quick fix for user engagement in elearning. However, it is not that simple.

Successful games succeed because they are fun. It is important to make learning content enjoyable. Interactive exercises, video clips and a story-based progression through the learning journey are all excellent ideas. But they will only work if they are fun and relevant to each individual learner.

Gamified learning is increasingly delivered to learners’ mobile devices, where user experience and ease of navigation is key.

A number of the newest world leading companies, including Pixar and AirBnb, have put design thinking at the heart of their HR approach as well as their customer experience.

When the focus is switched from what the employee needs to learn to how the employee learns best, learning and engagement rates will rise. When passive consumption of learning is replaced with active engagement, learning will be more successful and employees will gain the skills that both they and the business require.

To find out more about how to apply the user-centric approach to your learning delivery, download this Speexx white paper.


About the author

Armin Hopp is the Founder and President of Speexx. Speexx helps large organisations everywhere to drive productivity by empowering employee communication skills across borders. 



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