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Gerry Griffin

Skill Pill M-Learning


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The five-minute makeover for your learning


Gerry Griffin gives the community five tips for freshening up the look of your L&D approach.

With the darks days of winter now receding in the rear view mirror, maybe it is time to think about giving your learning a spring cleaning. Here are some ideas:

Watch what I do - not what I say

There is a lot of talk these days around data and the ability to use it to form a bigger picture. This can be beneficial, particularly in the digital environment, because you are able to form a perspective on the dynamics of your learning population. One thing to watch for is the actual behaviours of employees rather than just their postures. What I mean by this is that polling people to see what they are saying does not always give you a clue as to what is really going on. An example of this is the now infamous Nokia experience: years ago, Nokia conducted extensive market research which concluded that consumers did not want touch screen phones. How wrong they were! And it cost them dearly, allowing Apple to take over as the dominant force in mobile (despite not originally being a mobile player).

This cautionary tale is a good example of why you cannot just listen to what employees say, but you should also consider their actions. Use data and analytics to try and look at how the learner interacts with various pieces of content. Consider their time of connecting, how they recommend materials and so on. Using data to analyse actual user behaviours allows you to be smarter about your L&D approach and course adjust where appropriate.

Leaning forward

Next, let us take a look at the Kirkpatrick Model. Created back in the 50s, this robust model has served us well through the decades. However, in my view, the assumption behind this model is no longer valid for 21st century thinking and learning.

The key reason for this? It treats the learner as an object at which to direct learning, meaning, ultimately, learning is done to them rather than something they engage in. Alternatively, I believe that the 21st century learning dynamic will involve the learner ‘leaning forward’, getting involved with the process, designing their own pathways, and searching for their own content. To support this, the role of L&D must change from being a broker of knowledge, to being a Sherpa. The shift from ‘learner as object’ to ‘learner as subject’ is an incredibly important dynamic.

If you want to shift learning which is mandated to self-service learning you must ensure that there is adequate user uptake to justify the investment. Here’s the deal: There will not be uptake without engagement; to create engagement we need a sense of personal ownership.

So what you are looking for is to get employees to engage with the material and see its utility within their own personal game plan. One thing that I have noticed is that unless you build a ‘WIIFM?’ (what’s in it for me?) into the learning object, there is much less likelihood of it being looked at or being appraised by the learner.

Get into the habit

The third idea is around habits and behaviours. Habits can work for you (good habits) or against you (bad habits). You need to create a link between what people are doing and what people are learning - to form the basis of a habit. Otherwise you will always be in a different space to where the business transacts. To avoid this, you need to create learning that is ‘in synch’ with the learner. Achieving this means you need to understand their behaviours. Broken down, behaviour equates to: motivation, action and the trigger.

  • Motivation: What drives the learner (‘WIIFM?’)? If you do not fully understand what the motivation is, you will not connect with the learners.

  • Action: What do you want them to do? What is the utility of this? Get practical. We should not view learning as merely a worthy transformational process. Instead it is a utilitarian play in which you use learning to drive business value.

  • Trigger: Where are the occasions of usage? Unless you can look at your learning material with a clear perspective and spot the moments where people will uptake and use them, your learning will be left to the bored ‘grazer’. Not the return on investment you require.

Don’t tell - sell

Let’s revisit analytics again – have a look at the below graph on usage trends for content regarding confidence building. As you can see, the client’s usage of the content spiked in September. This real time data is great and helps the client to understand the traffic management going on in their organisation. Probably more interesting though, is how you can begin to reverse engineer this; so for a subsequent cycle you could, for example, take the relevant content and in August (i.e. running up to the trending period) put it in to the ‘what’s recommended’ area. Why? I have found that 6 out of 10 of the top looked-at or appraised pieces of content are in the ‘what’s recommended’/‘what’s new' area. So if you take that material and put it in to these areas you are increasing its visibility at the time it is most needed, thereby encouraging uptake. So again, this is one of the useful ways in which you can use tracking to sell your learning rather than just reporting usage.

Make or save

Finally, it goes back to the relationship between the learning apparatus and the business. You need to ensure that learning is a function of the business. Learning has got to be candid in terms of how it can make or save money for the organisation – either by increasing efficiencies (saving money) or by driving productivity (raising money). A recent case study with Dell showed that proper use of digital learning deployed to Dell employees’ BlackBerry devices managed to gain an uptake in desired behaviour of between 11-19% globally. Ultimately, regardless of what vendor or learning objects you are looking at deploying, it boils down to the very simple question: ‘how can it help us make or save money?’ You do not want to be overly reductive or transactional in how you appraise learning but simultaneously you should never be too far from this question.

So there you have it, five simple ideas to rework, refocus and re-energise your learning for 2015. Mostly common sense – not always common practice. Have fun!

Gerry Griffin is the founder of Skill Pill M-Learning. He has over 20 years of experience with a broad range of communication specialism. He posts a bi-monthly blog via Skill Pill’s website

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