Can mLearning work for business change?

You have a smart-phone, right?  Maybe more than one.  A tablet?  iPad, Nexus, Galaxy Note, Surface? If so, you’re carrying a potent mLearning tool.

The learning benchmarking organisation, Towards Maturity, has reported that 39% of the organisations they track are using mobile learning in some way, and 76% expect to adopt in the next two years.

Faced with a situation you haven’t experienced before, rather than trying to retrieve a dim memory from a day-long training course last year, how about being able to call up specific modular training? How about being able to see videos, demonstrations, guidance relating to the exact scenario you’re dealing with now?

Learning when and where you want

Outside of work, people are relying more and more on these “as you need it” guides – look at the number of YouTube videos for make-up tips, recipes, or how to tie a bow-tie.

People like being able to call up help as and when it’s most needed.  If that’s how people choose to learn outside the work environment, then it follows that the same approach could work well in professional context.

Making it work for business

We’ve seen it work well on a project to deploy iPhones throughout a large organisation. Device based learning materials can be very interactive and multi-functional, for example, the electronic quick reference guide created to support the deployment, was searchable and structured into task-based topics.

A commonly cited drawback of classroom training is that it often relies on artificial or unrealistic scenarios.  Mobile learning or mLearning allows quick field-based development of learning, based on real situations in the field. This means the learning can be more closely aligned to the practical reality, which lends credibility as well as being more aligned to the learner’s requirement.

Here are some ways it can have an impact:

Maximising mobile devices for learning

Mobile learning or mLearning can empower the user with access to any-time learning they can customise through downloading apps. It can work through:

  • Tailored push notifications
  • Modular content
  • Apps developed with additional video and links to other resources
  • Apps for collaborative tools that can be accessed via mobile devices enabling learners and L&D people to communicate about specific issues.

As with all training solutions, mLearning is not a silver bullet.  Classroom training, self-directed learning and eLearning all have important roles to play.  The trick is to pick the right horse for the right course.

Person-Centred Business Change

How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?  Apparently just one, but the bulb must want to change.  The old ones are the best – but maybe there’s something here for us in Business Change.

The Person-Centred approach to therapy was developed by Carl Rogers.  Crudely, at the heart of his thinking lies the belief that if people feel secure – safe and valued – they’re more likely to be able to embrace change, and effect it for themselves.  Intuitively, this makes sense, and evidence over decades now can be produced to support the contention.  Rogers identified three ‘core conditions’ that would characterise the attitude of the therapist to the client in effective working: congruence (being genuine); empathy (a deep understanding of what the client is feeling); and an unconditional positive regard for the client (acceptance).

Are there parallels for us as business change practitioners?  Seems to me there are quite a few.

First, and not least, like Person-Centred therapists we do well when we view those facing change as clients, not patients – equals in the relationship.  And, like the corny joke, if they don’t want to embrace change we know that change initiatives are likely to be far less effective than we need them to be.

The core conditions seem to apply as well.  When those leading change programmes are not genuine, when staying on message becomes spin, then those impacted by those programmes invariably sniff that out – and resistance to change grows.  So, congruence matters, and that’s probably pretty well understood.

At Afiniti, we’ve always stressed the need for empathy a deep understanding of those impacted by change – taking the time to understand their current context in depth, learning about what they do, and how they think and feel about it, and about the prospect of change.  We think we pay more attention to this empathetic understanding than many, but its importance really shouldn’t be news to anyone.

What then about unconditional positive regard?  The Person-Centred model wouldn’t require us to approve of every action that those impacted by change take, but it would require us to approve of them.  So, how do we really think about those impacted by change?  As a problem to be solved, or as partners?  As individuals with bad attitude, or as people with entirely legitimate concerns and anxieties?  As people of intrinsic value, or as resources to be deployed at will?  Of the three core conditions this one seems the hardest, the one that Change Initiatives are most likely to stumble over.

How many change leaders does it take to change an organisation?  Perhaps one, but maybe it’s not just the organisation that needs to want to change.

Business Change Newsletter June

In this month’s issue: Communication tips for managing change and empowering your managers to engage with employees. 

Afiniti is an award-winning business change consultancy that delivers change with a people focus, producing sustainable changes in culture, mind-sets and working practices. For more change management articles and resources, you can follow our company page on LinkedIn.

Views from the front line of change: Afiniti Engagement and Comms Consultant Nadia Conway Rahman


Nadia Conway Rahman – consultant

What’s your experience of managing change? We asked one of our consultants to share hers
Nadia delivers change to people in large organisations like DHL, Royal Mail and Network Rail. She identifies ways of working and culture, and devises engagement and communications strategies; supporting employees throughout programmes including transformations and technology change.


What it’s like delivering change when it goes well?

The most high speed collaboration I’ve ever seen was at an energy client, up in Aberdeen. This remains a favourite project.

They’d bought a $1bn North Sea asset, which includes an oil platform. We had 12 weeks to understand all the technology changes they’d need help with, and make sure everyone was ready to switch to a new way of working overnight. This was a huge deal; nobody could afford to stop drilling, yet any glitch could have brought everything to a halt.

The urgency and high stakes helped everyone to focus on just getting stuff done. What’s more, being a young and energetic company, the IT leadership was up for trying new things and signing things off at pace. Their trust and enthusiasm paid dividends, and the transition was a real success.

Change challenges 

Sometimes when things are changing, you might sign up to the change verbally, but deep down don’t believe it still applies to you. Think of automatic supermarket checkouts – at the first encounter you wanted to throw down your bags and get a ‘real person’ to help you.

We do a lot of work to help clients introduce new technology, for example, switching to self-service HR. People might generally agree that web-based timesheets beat using bits of paper. They’ll do the eLearning and nod along to the concept. But when the new system gets awkward they’ll avoid using it and persuade the admin team to help them out directly.

What I really learnt from this is that, as a change consultant, you’ve got to go through these smaller changes yourself.

It’s easy to talk about big change like acquisition or relocation, but make sure you’re always exposed to smaller changes – fix your own IT, rearrange your office space. The frustrations and adaptations help you empathise with the people you’re trying to help.

What skills do you need to be a change manager?

A good change manager will see things from many points of view. It helps if you’re naturally curious and a good listener.

The best advice I’ve been given is: ‘try and understand before you make yourself understood – take time to see what motivates your audience.’

Change management tends to be done against tough deadlines, but we mostly work best with people who look and feel relaxed. So I think the most inspiring change managers are those who keep things moving without losing the calm manner that encourages people to open up and share what’s going on.


Engaging people on the frontline

Change Health-check: Planning, measuring and re-evaluating your front line engagement

Often called a change readiness assessment (CRA), the change health-check can be done at any stage of your project.

Middle managers and the project team are often tasked with leading employees through periods of change and yet often they don’t have the required knowledge of change management.

They are part of the communications plan and given the communications toolkit but can need practical support. A CRA and follow up workshop can help identify gaps in their capability and provide that support.

A CRA is usually a series of questions aimed at uncovering where the organisation or project is in terms of leading change, communicating and training around the new, identifying drivers and benefits, change method and culture.

It may also include a survey of managers with a series of questions around:

  • Their own and their teams’ commitment to, and understanding of the vision, the quality of the communications and dialogue they are having
  • Their understanding of their role
  • Current blockers and enablers

A CRA can help managers and leaders to understand the following:

  • The goals and benefits of the change and the impact on employees
  • Their role in the change journey and how to have a positive impact
  • What actions they need to take
  • What success looks like in guiding employees through change

The results of a CRA show where the change effort could be vulnerable or is already faltering. A resulting workshop discussion will generate ideas to boost engagement and address other areas of weakness. A healthcheck workshop could include:

  • A presentation of the change curve to show how employees react to change
  • Break away discussion on how well change in managed in the organisation and how the current change is being communicated and received
  • A plan to improve engagement on current projects
  • An outline of good and bad practices of change leaders and managers and how to make the task easier
  • An agreed set of short term actions for quick wins
  • A clear definition of roles of those managing change and their accountability

A project or programme often starts to stutter because of inadequate engagement and communication relating to the most important part of an organisation: its people.

If you carry out a healthcheck, you can identify weak points and give people the knowledge and support they need to deliver change, which is valuable at any stage in a project.

Free resources

Preparing for change. Free online change readiness assessment 

Engaging and Communicating with your audience – Communications reference guide


Recent insights

communicate changeHow to communicate with your change army

Change management techniques for communicating change. Plus, approaches to communication that will get people engaged with your project.

integrated planningThe importance of integrated planning

“As long as we hit OUR project’s deliverables it will all work out!” What to do when tunnel vision hits.

Afiniti regularly blogs on the topic of change management with practical tips for benefits realisation and delivering change with a people focus. Subscribe below to receive content:

How to communicate with your change army

The Terracotta Army of 8000 warriors took 720,000 people over 37 years to build.

The original vision for this was grand beyond imagination but it was thanks to all of those workers who created every individually distinct soldier that this amazing relic survives in great detail over 2200 years on.

The point? People drive change, but unlike 2200 years ago, business leaders now need to work with people not just impose orders or tell people what to do. Employee support is crucial for change and people need to be involved and heard.

Nowadays we must go through change and execute on a strategy with people, designing and implementing it together to ultimately realise the benefits.

Engagement and communication works to Make Change Stick– here are some stats showing how engagement effects project outcomes.

employee engagement

If we use positive communication styles and change management approaches together we see really positive results for engagement.

Here are some beneficial communication styles and behaviours:

  1. Listen and listen again – an important skill anyway, but when times are tough, leaders can almost act like counsellors. It can be incredibly uplifting for an employee to know their leader is listening to their concerns.
  2. Stay positive – to see possibilities rather than barriers and use to positive language like “we could” rather than “we have to”; and “opportunity” rather than “challenge”.
  3. Be both personal and visionary! Understand employees’ concerns and dissatisfactions; but know when to play the leader role too and stay future focussed about how and why the business needs to change.
  4. Be authentic and build trust – the best leaders engage and connect with their people, act with integrity; but above all they care and they demonstrate passion and commitment. Trust is not established oversight, it’s built through series of consistent actions over a period of time; lead by example and walk the talk; volunteer information, but above all deliver on your promises
  5. Demonstrate empathy – show employees that you care about the wellbeing and their future; take the time to listen and play out some of the concerns; and be honest and realistic about where you can help


Some helpful Change management techniques and activities:

  • Plan your communications – Leadership conveys the vision and how the business will reach its goal; local managers provide relevant context and work with people on how change will happen; everyone affected by the change is given the chance to have their say. Change management practices involve stakeholder mapping so the people are considered and given opportunity to have meaningful input through communications planning.
  • Build the case for change – communicate the ‘burning platform’ repeatedly; make the drivers for change absolutely clear so that the status quo becomes unfeasible.
  • Proactively manage resistance – there are a number of tactics in my earlier blog

The bottom line? Change is all about people no matter the original driver or whether the project is seen as primarily technology or process or operational. The more positively we communicate change, the more we engage people affected by change, the more beneficial and sustainable results will be.


Further resources:

Engagement and communications channels download