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As for any strategic initiative, you can’t undertake a training digitalization project without thoroughly taking stock of your company’s present situation. Before charging ahead, take the time to look around you and talk to people, in a way that’s neither technocentric nor egocentric. This crucial stage, which we describe in this chapter, allows you to make enlightened decisions, to outline your ambitions, to define your goals, and to convince others (and yourself) that your vision of digital learning really is the way to go.
Looking at How Staff Are Using Existing Digital Tools
Taking stock of your company’s situation doesn’t just mean drawing up an inventory of the digital assets already avail able. Where digitalization is concerned, the question of how people use tools is fundamental, and yet too many people still underestimate its importance. Our own experience at CrossKnowledge provides an eloquent illustration of this issue from one of our customers.
A few years ago, a CrossKnowledge customer wanted to set up an in‐house collaborative platform. After carrying out a market study, they bought the tech solution that seemed most appropriate. A few months after launching, they had to face the facts: their new tool hadn’t been adopted, despite all their efforts to support the change. They dug a little deeper and found that to communicate with each other, staff members had already been using the ‘freemium’ version of a rival solution, which they’d chosen themselves. In a nutshell, they’d made a huge effort to impose a new way of doing things with out knowing that one already existed. This story proves that highly robust informal communities often exist in organizations – and they sometimes already have the tools they need. Look carefully at how your people are doing things. That way, you can leverage what they’re already doing and make sure that you’re in synchronization with what they really need.
Taking Stock of Where You Stand Today
In order to get where you want to go on any journey, you need to have a good idea of your starting point. Thinking about implementing digital learning is no different.
Peering beyond appearances
As well as discovering how people are doing things (see the preceding section), you also need to assess the way in which people perceive digital technology. Doing so allows you to judge how mature and open they are with respect to the challenges of digitalization, and to identify what may hinder or jeopardize your digitalization plan. Go meet people in the workplace. Ask them questions. During the analysis phase, depending on the profile of your target populations, you can collect information using informal discussions or focus groups.
Another key task as you assess the situation is to identify how and where people can access digital content. Sure, reaching out to and ‘engaging’ certain populations is easy within the organization, such as managers, salespeople, and others who usually have a full set of PCs, smartphones, and tablets at their disposal. But other target groups – in factories, for instance – don’t use these tools as part of their work, and so they’re much less familiar with how to use them.
Of course that doesn’t mean that you can leave them out of the digitalization plan! When you think that people without access to a computer can’t benefit from digital learning you’re neglecting – or even punishing – them. With a little creative thinking, you can easily implement digital approaches for all your staff members, including the least ‘accessible’ ones.
Auditing begins at home
Training managers tend to move a little too fast when excluding certain staff profiles from the digitalization plan, arguing that they’re ‘not ready for change’. Instead, ask whether the digital culture of your own department is sufficient to lead the project. Making a Learning and Development team digitalize its training activities when the members aren’t comfortable with this approach is a recipe for failure. In most cases, the first people who need to get a deeper understanding of the potential of digital learning is the training department.
Auto‐evaluating your digital environment
When thinking about your training program, being creative is important. Consider what you want it to look like in 5 years. Open up the fields of possibility. In an ideal world, with no financial, human, logistical, or even political constraints, imagine how a totally digitalized training department would work. Take the example of a company that has already used e‐learning as part of a blended learning program, where digital resources are made available to learners prior to their classroom sessions. In this context, the training manager would be right to dream of a new configuration:
- Staff members directly formulate their training requests during annual appraisals, in agreement with their line managers;
- Learners have access to a ‘help’ button throughout the duration of their training so that they can chat with an expert or with other learners;
- Staff members can directly contact tutors after the course is over to ask them questions and find help to apply training on the job.
Make sure that you’re fighting the right battles. Your mission isn’t to design a digital strategy, but to design a training strategy that uses digital technology to create more value. Your priority is significantly to improve the performance of your training programs – and consequently the performance of your employees and so your organization. With this in mind, define your ideal target audience, your goals, and the different groups that you have to convince that digital learning is the right way to go. Then map out the road that leads you to them.
Take time to think: list your needs and identify the things that need to change in your brief, such as types of media, sequencing of your training paths and ways to engage learners, for example. Also analyze what’s going to help you to move faster, as well as potential risks of failure. Be careful not to overestimate technological risks and underestimate interpersonal, organizational, or skills‐related risks – despite appearances, these are probably the most dangerous of all.
Evaluating training performance: Two important yardsticks
Two aspects in particular are crucial when considering the return on investment of digital learning.
- Calculate how many more learners your new digital approach will enable you to reach (staff, suppliers, clients, partners);
- Determine in what ways it’s more robust from a teaching point of view than previous programs;
- Identify the variables that show that digital learning saves time and makes your training team more agile within the constraints of the budget.
Don’t forget that training digitalization immediately generates significant savings in terms of logistical costs, because it partly replaces classroom learning with distance learning.
- Contribution (the ability of training to be evaluated and measured):
A company director who gives his Learning and Development manager a budget of several million dollars will no doubt be interested to discover that the number of staff members trained increases thanks to digitalization. But he’ll be more eager to understand how this investment impacts the performance of the organization. The main aim of your strategy isn’t to save money. Initially express it in terms of its impact on corporate performance: market position, efficiency, and productivity.
Refusing to give in to fashion
A few years ago, MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) arrived on the scene. Today, a lot of organizations want to create their corporate MOOCs. The question is, are they doing so because the format generates added value or are they just playing copycat? In certain cases, the company may well have a vested interest in developing such a program, because it perfectly fulfills its strategic needs. But in many other cases, this huge investment has little meaning in terms of creating value for the organization.