Why Offering Virtual Learning is Crucial, But Not Enough
Here are five proven ways to keep your team of learners engaged, accountable, and successful.
Customer Experience is Multifaceted.
Customer experience is the culmination of so many things.
- It's about the end-to-end journey your customers have with your brand, built on every interaction and emotion along the way.
- It's about employee experience, ensuring your employees feel connected to the mission and empowered to deliver the best possible experience.
- It's about your entire organizational culture, representing consistent values both inside and out.
Training and learning for employees throughout the organization is a key component. Employees want to deliver a great experience, and you want to provide them the resources and best practices to do so. That makes ongoing and consistent training a must-have. Plus, learning opportunities keep your employees engaged and happier. Happier employees provide better customer experiences! The best customer experience leaders prioritize learning throughout their organization.
Today, it can feel like we have more time for learning. It can also feel like it's the last thing we need.
As leaders, it's easy to offer resources like a link to an online course and leave it at that. Do things on your own time! While that can sounds appealing, it also leads to obstacles for learners. If your goal is to provide valuable training for staff and enrichment and professional development opportunities for all, then sending a link might not be the only thing to do.
Your team members might all have different learning styles. They probably have various levels of distraction and focus available to them today. Just think of all the changes your team has endured in an extremely short amount of time.
- Some are working from home for the first time in their careers.
- Some are juggling kids learning at home.
- Some have partners in the healthcare field who need to take extra precautions just to come home from work.
- Some are taking care of family members.
"Learners today need different support and learning modalities than we were providing in the past."
- Leslie Daley, Chief Learning Officer at Orangetheory Fitness
Learning and development leaders are aware of these new realities, and doing their best to respond accordingly. Leslie Daley, Chief Learning Officer at Orangetheory Fitness told me:
"Learners today need different support and learning modalities than we were providing in the past. We need to consider their physical, emotional and mental well-being in today's realities. That's why L&D leaders need to provide engagement that meets the learner where they are currently which will allow them to continue to grow and develop."
(Full disclosure: Orangetheory Fitness is a past client of Experience Investigators.)
The new realities include higher anxiety levels and disruptions to routines. The bottom line is we're all dealing with unique situations and juggling distractions we didn't even know existed a few weeks ago.
"48% of the US workforce are now Millennials and Gen Z-ers. And one thing we have learned from that demographic is that they--Gen Z-ers especially--are making employment decisions in part on how seriously companies are taking personal and professional development."
- Scott Milrad, Content Manager for Business Skills at LinkedIn Learning
Today's learning professionals are getting creative to connect and deliver to learners across their organizations. Scott Milrad, Content Manager for Business Skills at LinkedIn Learning, told me we shouldn't think of this new way of learning as a temporary solution. This is an important, ongoing exercise for companies to embrace the future of employee development. In Scott's words:
"One idea keeps emerging--that this "new normal of learning" is actually not all that different than what L&D (Learning & Development) leaders have been saying for quite some time--that companies need to adopt new strategies and top-down support for professional and personal development for their employees. If not before, it's most certainly the time we're living in now.
"Here's an eye-opening stat: 48% of the US workforce are now Millennials and Gen Z-ers. And one thing we have learned from that demographic is that they--Gen Z-ers especially--are making employment decisions in part on how seriously companies are taking personal and professional development."
(Scott was nice enough to give me a quote because we've developed four courses together at LinkedIn Learning. You can check those Linkedin Learning courses out here.)
Ask yourself: Is your company really leaning into this new way of working?
And then: How can we ask our team to dedicate time to virtual learning when we don't help them prioritize it?
There are some amazing resources for virtual learning available today. Here are some ideas to engage your team in learning to deliver the best customer experience for today.
Five Ways to Provide Your Team an Engaging Learning Experience:
1. Explain the why, not just the what.
Learners have to care.
If you're sending your team to various courses or requesting they engage with your learning platforms, it's not enough to send the link and say "take this course." Learners are more successful when they understand WHY they're learning what they are.
Try explaining the connection to the customer experience.
For example, sending a course on empathy might imply to the learner that they are not showing empathy today. I've found explaining around why it's a bigger goal for the organization helps reduce that defensiveness that might come up for someone who thinks they are being targeted.
In a situation like this, you may want to send the link with a short note explaining:
"One of our core customer experience values is showing empathy to customers and colleagues alike. During this time, we're aware of the new challenges around this and thought this course might help us all reset our expectations and connect with our customers more..."
You can copy that verbatim if you like... consider this my permission. (But I recommend making it your own.)
The why is a way to cut through the tactics and empower your learners to feel part of the bigger strategy.
2. Ask for feedback specifically.
Learners need an anchor.
Think back to your high school years. Do you remember that one teacher that never had trouble getting students to raise their hands and engage? Like magic, right?
My teacher like that was Mr. Mularski. Well, I'm going to show you how Mr. Mularski did one of his magic tricks.
When sending learners to their virtual training or online courses, let them know what you will be asking them. Instead of just asking for general feedback, ask specific questions that help them engage with the content.
Next time you recommend a course, mention something specific, like "I'll be interested in your feedback about the difficult conversation method in there." Later, ask specifically about that portion of the learning.
Learners are more engaged when they have a "learning anchor" to look out for.
Mr. Mularski -- and likely your best high school teachers too -- used learning anchors to help students avoid becoming overwhelmed with information and unsure of where to focus.
The other side of feedback is how you're collecting it from learners. They should be able to tell you:
- What's working?
- What's not?
- What can you do differently to support them in today's environment?
I recommend requesting feedback after each learning milestone as well as regular checkpoints across your organization. Let learners know you've heard them and are making changes, just like closing the loop in any feedback program.
3. Create course cohorts.
Learners need a crew.
Taking a course on your own time, with no boundaries around time, can feel lonely. Asking a group of learners to participate together can add accountability and engagement to the learning.
One of my favorite examples of this was from an international organization. They created a "round the globe" conversation where learners from the earlier time zones would start one day and record video messages and reactions to specific lessons. Learners would respond according to their time zones and by the end of 24 hours, there was a whole set of feedback videos to discuss via a group Slack channel for a few days.
(I recommend LinkedIn Learning courses for this, but you might have a robust learning library where you are.)
The results: Motivation, accountability, and a sense of belonging and empowerment that added a tremendous amount to the learning experience.
4. Host lunchtime learning - and ask learners to guide the discussions.
Learners learn best by teaching.
In a lot of office settings, "lunch and learn" meetings offered employees a chance to learn about something different, as well as connect with colleagues from different areas of the organization.
- Sally from Sales might teach about creating better LinkedIn profiles.
- Fred from Finance might teach about how to create a household budget.
- Henrietta from HR has some great resources for practicing mindfulness and lowering stress.
Allowing learners to be teachers doesn't just strengthen their understanding of the concepts they've learned, it empowers them to define and share what's most important to them.
Colleagues and employees might really surprise you! What can they bring to your organization virtually that allows for similar value? Zoom lunches with opt-in classes guided by your team can help improve those social connections we need right now.
5. Build momentum around virtual sessions.
Learners need new ways to interact.
Virtual, live training sessions still have critical place in your learning strategies. But treating them like a classroom that happens to be online might not work as you expect.
Virtual trainings require a different set of tools to engage learners throughout the process. Using digital whiteboards, interactive tools like polls, and leveraging things like breakout rooms virtually helps learners stay engaged and feel connected, even while everyone is at home learning.
It's also important to set expectations clearly for virtual training sessions.
- Let learners know what times will be high engagement and when they might have time to take what they're learning and apply it.
- Provide breaks and meal times, just like in-person training.
- Respect the agenda and timeline and the energy levels of a learner required to stare at a screen for the entire process.
I'm recommending clients consider shorter time spans over more days for virtual learning now. Everyone is getting a little burned out on screen time, so provide shorter, more actionable sessions instead of a full-day, intense workshop or session.
Training your employees to deliver the best possible customer experience requires new ways to interact. There are tools and best practices available today, but it takes an awareness and empathy for what your learners are handling today.
Recapping Ways to Keep Virtual Learners Engaged:
- Explain the why, not just the what. Learners have to care.
- Ask for feedback specifically. Learners need an anchor.
- Create course cohorts. Learners need a crew.
- Host lunchtime learning - and ask learners to guide the discussions. Learners learn best by teaching.
- Build momentum around virtual sessions. Learners need new ways to interact.
Are you ready to lead with learning? Your employees and your customers need your guidance, today more than ever.
The article Why Offering Virtual Learning is Crucial, But Not Enough originally appeared on Experience Investigators.
For more than 20 years, Jeannie Walters, CCXP has had one mission: To Create Fewer Ruined Days for Customers™. Hundreds of companies, from SMBs to Fortune 500s, have trusted Jeannie and her company, Experience Investigators, to consult, train, and speak. Learn more at ExperienceInvestigators.com.