Too Long to Do, Too Short to Remember

When people ask me what World Learning Hub does, I tell them, “We are rapid, immersive learning creators, with a bent to animation.” We are not simply eLearning providers, and when delivering a recent face-to-face piece for iHR Australia, I was reminded why I label us this way.

At the moment, a real challenge exists for an increasing number of Learning and Development professionals. Encouraging people to participate in learning activities is getting very difficult. Tough times and profit seeking across the western world has meant that productivity is the king and time is the enemy, putting Learning and Development under greater pressure than ever before. Many so called eLearning providers have responded by churning out multitudes of short compliance ‘briefing’ pieces that have an evaluation process tagged on to the end of them. These are sold as ‘eLearning suites’. In my view, this approach has little to do with education and a lot more to do with products that are designed for time poor organisations to cover their proverbial … you know what I mean. It often creates a bad training experience which, in turn, fosters negativity about participating in future eLearning interventions.

Interestingly, according to World Learning Hub’s recent training survey, the use of face-to-face training by Australian organisations is currently greater than eLearning interventions. Having worked across Asia for a number of years, I have no doubt that this trend is being replicated across the region. The quality of eLearning tools is not always highly regarded by their users, which finds some dedicated training and development professionals struggling to source eLearning materials that they believe provide an adequate learning experience.

With most western countries keeping their heads just above recessionary waters, higher levels of productivity are not just a desire, they are essential. In some organisations, there is a general disdain for activities that take people away from the ‘real’ job at hand. The expectations of workers around lifestyle balance is also high, meaning that being asked to complete compliance or organisational-based training at home is regarded by many as a social ‘no no’, while for some, an unequivocal breach of personal rights. The perfect learning and development storm is here, putting those assigned with the task of seeking out interventions and content under real pressure. It is of real concern for me when I hear that learning and development professionals hunting down 10 minute interventions for often complex and critical topics. On the other hand, I totally understand their challenges.

Yet in the context of our current environment, I am convinced that good training prevails. Once you convince people to undertake learning that is engaging and relevant, they will enjoy it — and probably want more of it. On the other hand, if the experience is drab and irrelevant, people will want to avoid it. I was reminded of this the other day when I did a face-to-face compliance piece with a group of executives and senior managers for a world leading investment provider. This is a high pressure industry, full of people with little time and plenty of good reason to stay focused on achieving high targets. A dose of appropriate workplace conduct training was probably the last item on their wish list. Yet a couple of hours after walking into the training room, a little confused at the time about why this was so important, people were leaving the room clearly moved by what they had learned. Handshakes were exchanged, individuals wanted to share their stories and views, in addition to commenting that they wanted more of this ‘stuff’. What was it that turned them around? Here are some facts:

  1. The Group Head gave the session his backing. At its commencement, he was clear about its importance and that he wanted his key people to remain focused during the program.
  2. The Learning and Development team worked with the senior executives to explain why taking the time to participate in the intervention was so important.
  3. The message of the training was designed to be relevant and clear. No fluffy activities.
  4. Events within the program did not necessarily replicate the workplace, but were identifiable and relatable to the audience.
  5. The approach was unique and powerful. Using our actors to demonstrate or accentuate specific learnings captures the attention and emotional space of participants.
  6. The pace was intense but still allowed for exchanges.
  7. The objective was about merging the program’s content with the world that participants were walking back into.
  8. At the session’s conclusion, the organisation’s leader reiterated his enthusiasm and commitment for the program. Therefore, participants felt comfortable having been committed to, and enthusiastic about, what they had learned.
  9. An invitation for a continued dialogue was invited, so people wanting to learn more about the subject matter, or related topics, could be supported.

It was a great learning moment in an intense business environment. I loved doing it.

It is no doubt that given the current environment, people do not respond favourably to slower paced training experiences — especially in the eLearning space, where a person expects the learning pace to be heightened substantially. On the other hand, quick tick-and-flick eLearning practises are of little value to learners, other than the capability of being quickly completed.

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