Getting and keeping your workforce engaged in learning got a whole lot harder this year
If in the past you felt challenged to keep learners engaged in a face-to-face setting, now you may find yourself working even harder to hold their attention in the two-dimensional classroom. That’s because while you deliver instruction, manage breakout rooms, and answer questions in chat, you’re competing for learners’ attention against home office distractions like technical glitches, energetic children, and curious cats - all of which are simply out of your control.
By shifting your learning strategy to focus on what you can control, you can reclaim your learners’ attention and keep them engaged in your curriculum. In this remote work environment, you can leverage modern technology to adopt a digital blended learning strategy that will enhance your learning experiences.
Blended Learning Strategies Are Changing
Before the pandemic, many companies already had some form of a blended learning strategy in place. That is, your training calendar might’ve included an annual in-person learning event, quarterly eLearning bundles, monthly webinars, and on-demand microlearning modules. But now, there is little to no in-person interaction. Interactions are almost exclusively digital and virtual with most in-person training sessions and learning events converted to webinars and video conferences. What seemed like the best - or only - option at the time has led to a new problem. It’s been referred to as video call fatigue, virtual meeting fatigue, and most commonly, “Zoom fatigue.” It’s that drained feeling you get after a year spent perched in front or a webcam wondering whether you should be looking at the camera lens or the screen. The good news is that as L&D professionals, you can combat this fatigue by making just a few tweaks to your current training strategy.
Rebalancing Your Training Strategy
Prior to 2020, many L&D professionals arranged face-to-face training to coincide with annual meetings, product launches, and new hire orientation. That is, situations in which trainers could get in front of the greatest number of employees to deliver their message in the most cost-effective manner. Training departments were already stretching their training dollar by delivering virtual instructor-led training to smaller groups on an as-needed basis, and by mass-enrolling employees in an enterprise-wide eLearning curriculum to meet regulatory requirements. Although logical at the time, this strategy no longer serves our primarily remote workforce.
In 2020 we confirmed what many of us believed - that transferring live classroom experiences to virtual instructor led training wasn’t a “six of one, half-dozen of the other” situation. We proved that webinars in small doses are fine; however, day after day of back-to-back virtual training sessions is downright disengaging.
Fortunately, you still have the same great instructional content you had prior to the pandemic. That hasn’t changed. It’s just a matter of rebalancing the synchronous and asynchronous components of your curriculum to reflect a shift in priorities. While cost-savings was a key driver for pre-pandemic L&D organizations, social interaction has become the new priority for post-pandemic teams.
What our transition to working remotely has taught us is that a synchronous large-group digital learning strategy is best leveraged for bite-sized sessions with targeted agendas and Q&As. A synchronous small-group digital learning approach might be comprised of a cohort led by a facilitator.
You might start by thinking about synchronous, virtual instructor-led training and videoconferences the way you used to think about live, face-to-face training. A new strategy might exclusively leverage virtual instructor-led training and videoconferences for learning experiences that require:
- Building relationships
- Reading body language and facial expressions
- Providing social interaction
You can now make the case that a self-managed, asynchronous digital blended learning approach is more amenable for deeper learning. Digital blended learning means combining different sizes and modalities of synchronous and asynchronous training to create a curriculum that uniquely meets your workforce’s needs. You may reserve live synchronous training, or Zoom meetings, for learning that is optimized by a social element, like role plays, collaborative discussions, and hearing compelling stories from experts who may not have been available when the default solution was synchronous in-person live events.
You may leverage asynchronous mobile training for employees who have to learn on the go and microlearning snacks for those who have to mitigate home office distractions.
The remote workforce has access to a variety of mobile devices and technology, which makes it easy for L&D organizations to invest in converting existing learning experiences to a digital format. By transferring content to modalities that learners can access quickly, efficiently, and independently, training departments give learners the tools to learn at their own pace, and on their own time. Due to this flexibility, learners will engage with materials and retain information at higher rates than when training is force-fed and time constrained.
A skillfully composed and executed digital blended learning strategy can offer learners a variety of interactive, self-serve experiences. Offering the option to learn “on-the-go” via smartphone, tablet or laptop lets learners adapt their learning experience for any environment, optimizing engagement and results. They take advantage of rare moments of downtime to watch a quick training video or take a quick microlearning module.
It’s critical to note, however, that the technological developments that enable organizations to accommodate their remote employees’ needs for flexibility and self-service come with a learning curve. Businesses need to make sure employees get the information and practice needed to embrace these tools. This means providing a blend of reskilling and upskilling to ensure all employees can access and deploy the tools needed to navigate the digital workplace.
The renewed focus on keeping employees engaged makes this the perfect time to invest in gamification. This approach lets employees apply their skillsets in real-life simulations presented in the context of a game. Not only is it enjoyable for the learner, but the competition and positive reinforcement increases learner retention.
L&D folks love gamification because you can use it for just about any topic and any skill or knowledge level. Its interactive technology makes it great for collaborative teamwork and application of skills in real-world scenarios. Meanwhile, the game construct stimulates friendly competition and encourages employees to improve their performance.
Increase Your Engagement
By creating human design-centered digital blended learning approach that balances synchronous and asynchronous experiences, you will increase learner engagement, reduce webinar fatigue, and provide the independence and flexibility employees need to take ownership of their learning and professional development.