The quandary: If you still want to be relevant in several years – in today’s constantly changing business environment – you need the right people with the right skills in the company. You can’t just constantly hire them; you must internally further and promote them.
As a learning experience (LX) consultant at Ray Sono, my daily job is to find solutions to this problem that don’t end in frustration and money thrown out the window. How can this be done? It’s simple: I keep to some golden rules:
Rule 1: If you want to learn knitting, you don’t need a Russian course
Although buzzwords have never solved a problem, they never really die. Once again, we recently observed at the Learntec trade fair how various learning experience providers offer “the solution” and “the tool” for further education. It sounds like this or something similar: “Personalised micro-learning with explanatory videos on a mobile-optimised and algorithm-driven collaborative learning management system – in the cloud!” I hope I haven’t forgotten any buzzword…
Throwing apps, learning management systems and other universal tools at company challenges corresponds to the common provider business model: have solution, look for problem. For 27 years, Ray Sono has been supporting companies in their change processes. A successful change project has never started with the solution, but always with understanding the users and their needs. That means asking the right questions. For example:
- What skill deficits are there in the company?
- What costs is the company incurring due to lost orders due to lack of delivery capacity?
- How can employee training become more cost-effective than expensive hiring measures?
- How can we earn more by investing in our employees and providing them learning programmes?
- And how will we see if we’re on the right track?
You can only create relevance when you know a company’s exact needs – when you solve a real problem with an optimised measure and communicate this transparently and attractively to company employees. The solution for this can be e-learning. But it doesn’t have to be – user needs and business requirements are the deciding factors.
Rule 2: Learning is more than continuing education
With “Learning” we immediately think about typical HR topics: fire safety training, presentation training, Design Thinking training. Acquiring new knowledge is important, especially for an employee’s daily tasks outside the training situation – we just don’t call it that. However, if we identify this promptly as a learning field, we can approach the matter very differently. Two examples from our world:
The Linde Group wanted to develop an effective onboarding process in its own CMS and intranet for new editors. The new editors had to understand the content framework, master editorial processes, and learn the practical mechanics of working with the program. In addition to providing this content in a needs-based manner, the editorial community should be networked, easily able to access training content, and regularly have the opportunity to state their needs or ask questions – regardless of their location.
A vehicle manufacturer wanted to digitally optimise its daily training support so that more time remained for personal support. Trainees designed their own truck model. For this, they first had to learn certain work steps theoretically using texts, videos, and tests. Their colleagues helped them with the practical exercises. In addition, the required work materials had to be online. And of course, the head of the shop wanted to access information about all the progress at any time in order to intervene appropriately as required.
These examples show that learning and teaching is individual! Such fundamentally different requirements do not cry out for e-learning, apps, or workshops, but for a holistic view and a solution that is tailored to specific needs. In the two projects mentioned above, blended learning approaches, a digital learning platform, gamification, explanatory videos, and a mobile Windows 10 app played a role, but also face-to-face training and above all: smart project management. In both cases, the result was fully integrated into the development of the employees’ and company’s goals. And that’s important. Because…
Rule 3: Learning is business
Whether it’s the development and implementation of a new content strategy for digital channels or the realignment of the customer approach in the e-shop, companies must ask themselves a crucial question about almost every action in a company: How does this measure contribute to our goals? And we mean “contribute” literally. How does the measure affect sales? When it comes to a company’s educational measures, the responsible persons are still often a little timid in formulating the business case: “That can’t really be measured…” – or can it?
For us, measuring success means finding out if the goals have been met. For this, project hygiene is needed. The objectives must be clearly defined, the framework conditions (budget, stakeholders, timing) must be defined. The learning goals are created in accordance with the needs of the target group. Only now do methods play a role. Finally, the measure must be communicated. Accordingly, we can measure and evaluate at all points:
- How was the measure received by the employees?
- Did they learn what the company wanted to convey?
- Are they now applying what they learned in their daily work?
- How is this change in behaviour affecting our business?
- And what is the relationship between the learning costs and the business impact?
The rule is that if we have not determined what results the measures have, we could have saved ourselves the trouble of the learning programme. A Learning Analytics model provides the answers and turns the mood killer “learning strategy” into a highly attractive business case. It becomes measurable, effective, and relevant – and thus an indispensable part of the corporate strategy.
Rule 4: Don’t call it learning
Methods are always only a means to an end. If this end and its business impact are clearly defined, if the needs of the learners are clear, and if all the general conditions are clearly stated, then the learning measure will work – no matter what it looks like in the end and whether the underlying change process is called “learning” or not. But it’s much more crucial to tell your employees or customers why they are learning something and what they (and you) will get from it. And to talk to decision-makers about the business impact (rather than learning methods). Transparent communication is half the project’s life.