When we first think about corporate online learning, our thoughts are often of compliance eLearning. Of course, that’s just one aspect of the rapidly evolving world of digital learning and it is an exciting time to harness this technology to support the development of our people.
At Miller, we have a holistic approach to development, and emphasise the importance of all team members having the opportunity to realise their potential and grow with us. A strong career development proposition is critical for attracting, retaining and developing talent and online, or digital, learning should form a central pillar of any learning and development strategy.
When looking at the topic of corporate digital learning, it’s interesting to reflect on the impact of COVID in accelerating colleagues’ comfort and familiarity with digital and their expectation to consume the resources they need at their convenience. We have come a long way in three years – for us, virtual workshops are now a core part of our offering. A particular win for us is that colleagues are now happy to be on camera and develop video resources for each other – something impactful that we weren’t ready to do before.
However, there are a myriad of different platforms available in the space and multiple ways they can be utilised. So, where to start?
We’ve found that people are less interested in eLearning modules now, which have started to feel outdated and associated with mandatory learning--that is why we’re exploring alternative digital ways that we can engage with and support the development of colleagues. For instance, creating curated playlists of publicly available content and empowering people to access subscriptions to resources they want, rather than trying to anticipate the needs of everyone and investing in catalogues of content that people may not use and spending limited time encouraging them to!
“We’ve found that people are less interested in eLearning modules now, which have started to feel outdated and associated with mandatory learning--that is why we’re exploring alternative digital ways that we can engage with and support the development of colleagues.”
Where we do still feel that eLearning has a place – for example, communicating factual compliance information - we think it’s most effective to focus on creating shorter, simple modules, with the minimum amount of engagement gimmicks, and including talking head intros to set the business context and the ’why’ people need.
As mentioned earlier, COVID has meant pivoting learning and development strategies to suit a new way of working. Like many firms, we are experimenting with hybrid sessions, and are learning how to make this set-up as valuable as possible for those involved. We have found that engaging virtual participants first in discussions is important, as well as plenty of interaction points, and ensuring that the camera is set-up so people dialling in can properly see the faces of colleagues and feel connected to what is going on in the room. It’s not without its challenges, but if you have a hybrid working model, it’s important to make this work.
We’ve also found that people in our business now largely prefer to learn via virtual workshops, for their convenience. Though we do run face-to-face and hybrid sessions too, virtual workshops have enabled us to be more inclusive for our international offices, whom previously we trained locally, face-to-face, thereby facilitating greater collaboration, which is key for us as we grow internationally.
The human dimension that digital offers can also not be underestimated, which almost feels surprising to say: being able to hear others’ voices and see their faces, to feel the intimacy of someone talking to you and sharing their ideas, expertise and experience is a huge benefit. For instance, we’ve started developing video-based training in support of our diversity and inclusion agenda, of which human connection is a key part. For this training, our colleagues from less represented backgrounds have shared their lived experiences, and we’ve had our senior exec team read them out on video to powerful effect. This year, our inclusion employee resource groups are also working with us to develop videos where they share their personal experiences and small, practical steps people can take to make a difference. We hope that this colleague-to-colleague approach will move us forward in building a culture of practical allyship.
Fostering human connection through digital resources can also begin at on-boarding, such as having a digital induction programme. Creating a portal of information accessible to people ahead of joining allows for ‘just in time’ onboarding and makes you accessible to new employees wherever they are, something particularly important if supporting the global growth of a company and to keep new hires engaged in a very competitive talent market. In addition, we have recently introduced a new suite of onboarding resources, including senior leaders introducing themselves on video, as a better alternative to people waiting months for an opportunity to meet them.
Lastly, it is interesting to think about how digital tools can be used to help facilitate relationship building. We’ve launched an in-house digital mentoring platform where people can now browse available mentors and get in-touch, with video-based training to help them get started. It’s proved to be empowering and sets the relationships up for success, compared to HR matching people and being guardians of the process. We want to help people talk to and learn from each other and get out of the way!
We have all worked in a more agile, experimental way since COVID and digital offers plenty of opportunity to do this – the challenge is perhaps keeping up! Now is the time to commit to getting out of our comfort zones and ensure that everyone can thrive, both for their own success and the success of the business.