Learning and Development programs are a huge gray area for a lot of companies. In fact, launching a successful learning and development program can appear to be such a big achievement that it naturally generates great publicity - not just within a respective industry, but across the business world.
This mentality is completely flawed, and there is no reason that you can’t run a successful L&D program by focusing on the five factors mentioned in this article.
For a recent work assignment, my team and I were tasked with determining which factors contribute the most to a successful learning and development program. In less than 1,000 words, or 5 minutes of your time, I’ll give an overview of our findings as well as some insight into how your company can work to start applying them today.
1. Motivation and Engagement
“They just don’t use the program” and “Our employees just don’t want to learn” - I have heard these countless times. Launching a successful learning initiative is all about keeping users motivated and relating the learning programs to the employees’ everyday life so that they can stay engaged. You can do this several ways, so let’s look at a few.
Gamification has been a huge trend, and if carried out successfully, it will definitely lead to an upsurge in motivation and engagement.
The problem here is that gamification has gone from a clearly defined concept to a sloppily applied buzzword.
Gamification is a very difficult concept to apply, and there is no one-size-fits-all application. It involves a lot more than adding badges and achievement markers to your current learning program.
You must analyze and access the goals of your program, and then find a way to create a game that will lead your employees down that road. It must seem more like a game - something that gets employees excited about using the program, because games are fun!
As a result, they are proactively engaging with the learning material.
Progress tracking is another super powerful way to keep your employees coming back for more. After applying a simple goal and progress tracking feature to one of our programs, user retention increased by over 30%. It almost seems like human nature to want to fill small progress tracking bars, and trying to get that 100% mark.
2. Performance Tracking
A major issue I found in almost every learning initiative I looked at is the lack of follow-through with the L&D program. This means actively monitoring employee progress.
Employees are very busy, and if their work starts to stack up, it is very easy to sideline activities that are not seen as high priority. When the habit is broken once, it will usually remain that way, and the employee will not re-engage of their own free will.
Making it clear that the L&D program is a mandatory activity, and that progress is being monitored, is the only successful way to prevent this from happening.
I discovered this almost by accident when working with a large international corporation. They had a limited number of software licenses due to budget constraints. In order to remain enrolled in the program, you had to actively use the program. If an employee’s usage stopped or slowed down, they were booted from the program, and lost their chance to earn the benefits that came with successfully completing it.
In this case, the benefit was the chance to be selected for an expat position - a huge career bump for most anyone in a multi-national firm. Due to this restriction, employees were actively engaging with the program on nearly a daily basis, and very rarely did people drop out of the program.
3. Ease of Use
Another key point that is very often overlooked is the ease of use, or ease of getting started with the program.
Again, employees are busy, and if you throw a huge learning platform at them - no matter the awesome capabilities or features contained - they will open the program once, close it, and never look back.
The program needs to be simple. And by simple, I mean dead simple.
Employees are there to learn the content and subject matter, not how to use a new learning system. If they cannot get started in one to two clicks, the program will most likely fail.
You don’t need to be dumb down or over-simplify the whole platform, but you need to make sure everything is readily accessible.
Of course, there are ways around this with training and information sessions on the program, but those will just take time away from focusing on the subject matter, and teach how to use a learning platform.
4. Demonstrable Skills Improvement
This point falls in line with motivation. Demonstrable skill improvement is one of the best ways to keep employees moving forward.
We can all relate to the feeling of completing a hard task, or the sense of a job well done.
With learning programs, this goes one step further, because it is a matter of developing a life-long skill.
I have yet to find something more motivating then employees being able to look back and realize that less than one month ago, they wouldn’t even have considered what they are doing now a possibility.
This is a surprisingly simple system to set up as well. All it takes is setting certain benchmarks that can be applicable to real-world situations.
For my company’s language learning program, for example, we have a simple list of can-do statements that align with the content taught, and that learners work through.
For example, I can order food at a restaurant, or I can introduce myself in said language, all the way up to I can conduct a meeting in said language. Doing this gives the employee instant awareness of how far they have come, and the new capabilities they are learning in a real world perspective.
5. Ability to Customize Content
A lot of learning programs are pretty set in stone, or are fairly topic-specific, and it can be difficult to customize these kinds of programs. There are however, quite a lot of topics taught in L&D programs that have the ability to incorporate diverse content.
For example, in a language learning program, you should have set goals and targets for language acquisition that fall in line with your company’s needs. But, why stop there?
Language acquisition is a lot more than learning a few sets of grammar points and vocabulary, in fact focusing solely on this will inevitably lead to failure.
You must be able to engage with the culture and know about country-specific practices. By offering a wide range of content for your employees to study, you not only offer them variety, but also allow them to find content that they can relate to, thus making it more enjoyable.
This is not only applicable to language, but a huge variety of topics commonly approached in learning and development initiatives.
Ryan is a learning and development specialist at InnovativeLanguage.com responsible for designs custom learning solutions for companies of all sizes, ranging from small, privately-operated businesses to multi-national Fortune 500 corporations. To learn more about custom language solutions, please contact: email@example.com
Learning and Development Best Practices is brought to you by Innovative Language Learning, LLC. They offer an innovative, fun, and easy to use language learning system that is designed to get you speaking from the very first lesson. Learn at your own convenience and pace with our short, effective, and fun audio podcast lessons, a comprehensive, state-of-the-art Learning Center, and a vibrant user community. As well as custom multi-lingual corporate learning & development solutions.
This entry was posted on Friday, April 17th, 2015 at 11:56 am and is filed under Learning & Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.