Posts

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.

Learning in a world of constant change

People now have to go through constant change in their work environment. How can we make sure learning engages users and meets business needs?

Here at afiniti, we are all about “Making Change Stick” – giving people learning that connects directly to their job roles, gives them ownership of business change and influence over how they learn.

Complex projects mean big changes for the user community so we need to go over and above a normal training course.

Traditional structured learning can fail because it makes assumptions about what delegates need to learn. If this assumption is wrong, then the learner is faced with content that they don’t relate to, and which they know won’t have any relevance for them in their role.

 

Less push, more facilitation

One way of ensuring that the learning is relevant is to allow learners to shape the content themselves, using a less prescriptive, more facilitative approach – think less classroom more workshop.

This may mean that the objectives of the session are not pre-defined, and creates an atmosphere where the “trainer” takes a step back and allows the learners to lead.

The trainer will need to provide structure to the session, and provide subject matter content as required, but should allow the learners to explore unpredicted avenues.

Sometimes the content may be entirely new to the learners, but it still needs to be made relevant and relatable. In this situation, a good approach may be to allow the learners to create their own realistic scenarios to apply the content to.  This will generally involve pre-work with representative users to generate reliable and realistic scenarios which people will encounter in their roles.

In this way, learners feel that they have had the opportunity to apply their own real world applications in a way that makes sense to them, as well as building their confidence that the content (whether system, soft-skills or process) is fit for purpose outside the protected training environment.

 

The challenges

This approach does present challenges to the provider.  Firstly, to allow the “off-piste” exploration of the subject matter, the trainer must know more than the narrow field of content dictated by a pre-structured session. By inviting this discussion, the trainer’s knowledge and credibility are really put to the test.

 

Measuring success

Without pre-defined learning objectives, evaluation of learning becomes harder to measure. User satisfaction as a metric should hopefully increase with this approach, and if done well, the required behavior changes should be embedded more effectively.

With this in mind, it may make more sense to implement post-training evaluation which assesses whether the required behaviour change and business benefits have been achieved, with less focus on meeting potentially irrelevant learning objectives.

To Make Change Stick, those of us actually delivering change to people need to meet the challenge of genuinely involving them in change. We need to facilitate collaboration between colleagues and prompt conversation about real scenarios, whilst all the time providing measurable results that show that people have adopted the new and are confident with it.

Making Change Stick through learning

People now have to go through constant change in their work environment. How can we make sure learning engages users and meets business needs?

Here at afiniti, we are all about Making Change Stick – giving learners inspiration through learning that connects them directly to their job roles, gives them ownership of business change and influence over how they learn.

Complex programmes and projects mean big changes for the user community and we need to go over and above a normal training course.

Traditional structured learning can fail because it makes assumptions about what delegates need to learn. If this assumption is wrong, then the learner is faced with content that they don’t relate to, and which they know won’t have any relevance for them in their role.

 

Less push, more facilitation

One way of ensuring that learning is relevant is to allow learners to shape the content themselves, using a less prescriptive, more facilitative approach – think less classroom more workshop.

This may mean that the objectives of the session are not pre-defined, and creates an atmosphere where the learning consultant takes a step back and allows the learners to lead.

The learning consultant will need to provide structure to the session, and provide subject matter content as required, but should allow the learners to explore unpredicted avenues.

In this way, learners feel that they have had the opportunity to apply their own real world practices to the new in a way that makes sense to them, as well as building their confidence that the content (whether system, soft-skills or process) is fit for purpose outside the protected training environment.

 

The challenges

This approach does present challenges to the provider.  Firstly, to allow the “off-piste” exploration of the subject matter, the learning consultant must know more than the narrow field of content dictated by a pre-structured session. By inviting this discussion, the consultant’s knowledge and credibility are really put to the test.

 

Measuring success

Without pre-defined learning objectives, evaluation of learning becomes harder to measure. User satisfaction as a metric should hopefully increase with this approach, and if done well, the required behaviour changes should be embedded more effectively.

With this in mind, it may make more sense to implement post-training evaluation which assesses whether the required behaviour change and business benefits have been achieved, with less focus on meeting potentially irrelevant learning objectives.

Sometimes the content may be entirely new to the learners, but it still needs to be made relevant and relatable. In this situation, a good approach may be to allow the learners to create their own realistic scenarios to apply the content to.  This will generally involve pre-work with representative users to generate reliable and realistic scenarios which people will encounter in their roles.

 

To Make Change Stick those of us actually delivering change to people need to meet the challenge of genuinely involving them in change. We need to facilitate collaboration between colleagues and prompt conversation about real scenarios, whilst all the time providing measurable results that show that people have adopted the new and are confident with it.

I’d really like to hear about how  you have delivering learning to users during change and how you create long term sustained adoption.

Boosting learning and performance in a global company

In today’s globalised marketplace, many organisations span countries and continents.  When creating and designing learning strategies, it would be careless to ignore the cultural challenges and risks this presents.

Language is the most obvious cultural challenge to overcome.  Content can be translated into different languages relatively easily, but the subtler implications and nuances can sometimes be lost in this process.

Other cultural considerations include colours, symbols and images, and the way they are perceived in different cultures – some images may seem innocuous to many, but seem deeply inappropriate to others. This could lead to poor engagement with the learning, and a failure to meet the learning objectives.

Is standardising the answer?

Many organisations will standardise behaviours and processes.  This makes sense for a number of reasons, such as the centralisation of support structures, transparency and visibility, transferability of skills within the organisation and repeatability of training interventions.

Most organisations will have some unifying cultural elements that are a defining part of their organisation.  Generally this is likely to derive from the nation where the organisation is based, or originated, leading to it “imposing” a cultural norm on the entire global audience, and hoping that they all jump on board.

What about other approaches? 

So it would seem that there are three possible approaches to this challenge; Firstly, to ignore any cultural differences, and expect the audience to conform to the “default” culture; secondly to create a bespoke solution for each specific cultural audience; and thirdly, to create a core “culture-neutral” training product, and tailor it to the different audiences as appropriate.

The first option is laden with risk, as user-adoption could be badly affected if the cultural tone misses the mark for any section of the audience. The second is the “perfect world” option, but will ramp up the cost, when most people are trimming rather than increasing their training spend. Also the key messages could end up being inconsistent without strong governance.

The best option?

The third option would then seem to be the most attractive – but how to do it? Well the first step I would put in place is a network of local representatives,who are aligned with the core messages of the training, but are able to either suggest or implement minor changes where needed.  These could relate to language, look and feel or other culture-dependent elements.  Involving local representatives will also increase credibility and engagement, as people recognise that their local training needs are being addressed.

We still have to accommodate different learning styles that are invariably affected by culture. Happily, much of what this involves aligns with current trends in learning: providing a range of learning in different forms, face to face, elearning, online learning etc. Flexibility seems to be of real benefit, ultimately giving choice and providing the right learning for the right audience. This, with knowing the audience in the first place, will help in designing and delivering learning to different cultures.

What have you found works when designing and delivering learning for a global audience?