Upskilling and reskilling employees is one of the key challenges of people development. A study by the World Economic Forum shows that 50% of all jobs will change fundamentally by 2025 (World Economic Forum). This makes it even more important to have scalable and flexible learning formats that allow employees to acquire the competencies they need to optimally meet their work requirements in a self-directed and skill-based approach (troodi L&D Trend Report).
In practice, however, it is apparent that digital learning formats are often not used as frequently as hoped. This is particularly the case in organizations where a digital learning culture has not yet matured.
What can you do as a people developer to make digital learning a success story in your organization? Below you will find six tips from a learning project that we conducted together with the Sparkassenakademie Baden-Württemberg – an academy to one of the biggest banking institutes in Germany. The project was awarded the eLearning Award 2023 in the category “Implementation of Digital Learning”. You can download the complete case study of the “Expedition Leadership” project here.
1. Align the offer with the needs of the employees
It is important that the learning content is highly relevant to your target group. As a first step, you should identify which topics are particularly important to them. This can be done through a self-designed survey, interviews, or the evaluation of existing data (e.g., 360° feedback or employee survey). In our practical example, the learning needs of the employees in the individual Sparkassen banks were surveyed by the people development department and a suitable learning offer was put together based on the feedback.
2. Use pull principle
Learners are best intrinsically motivated when they have chosen their own learning content. Consequently, you should provide a portfolio of offerings from which employees can put together their own individual learning journey. Limiting the offering is important here, however. Our experience from over 100 digital learning projects shows us that flat rate offers usually don’t work very well.
With an almost infinite choice of content, learners often find it difficult to decide on a course and then stay on track and committed. We recommend capping the amount of learning content available. In “Expedition Leadership,” there were a total of 12 different learning journeys to choose from, which participants could sign up for on their own.
3. To get started, curated learning opportunities are suitable
The use of curated learning offers is particularly suitable for the introduction of e-learning or in organizations in which digital self-learning is not yet deeply anchored in the learning culture. Curated means that various learning offerings are put together into a coherent package and learners are guided through their learning journey by, for example, framing e-mails. Figuratively speaking, a guided tour group instead of going off backpacking by yourself. In our project on implementing digital learning in the Sparkassen banks, each of the 12 learning journeys consisted of 3-4 digital learning programs that started with a joint kick-off and were complemented by framing and in-depth e-mails.
4. Self-learning needs structure
Digital learning formats offer many advantages, including the ability to learn “anyplace & anytime”, i.e., independent of time and place. However, this also entails the risk that dealing with the content is always pushed back when other tasks are urgent (anytime = another time). It is important to provide the learners with a fixed structure.
In our practical example, the learning time for a learning journey was limited to 3 months, so the processing time was artificially shortened. The urgency created in this way motivated the participants to invest time in their personal development despite conflicting tasks from “daily business”.
5. Use role models and multipliers
central element in the introduction of digital learning formats is communication. This includes direct communication to the target group, for example, via e-mail campaigns, information events, internal newsletters, or the intranet. In addition, third parties should also be deliberately used as ambassadors for the topic.
Especially if top management reports positive experiences with the e-learning content, this can significantly increase curiosity and willingness to learn. In our example project, the Sparkassenakademie therefore held various events to raise awareness of the offerings among managers and to win them over as multipliers for the digital learning offering.
6. Clear rules provide security
Digital learning projects often fail because the target group simply does not find the time to engage with the content. Clear agreements are needed to protect learners’ learning time (learning time = working time). In our example project, managers have committed to supporting their employees’ participation. In addition, calendar blockers or learning groups with fixed regular deadlines also have a positive effect on the commitment of the learners.
Digital learning offers many opportunities – but simply “making the content available” often leads to humbling results in terms of usage. With these six tips, you can help ensure that e-learning is really utilized in your organization and that a digital learning culture can develop step by step. If you want to learn more about our approach to implementing digital learning, take a look at our case study or make an appointment for an exchange with our L&D consultants – no strings attached.