Reflecting over the last two plus years, as contact centers worked remotely, learning and development (L&D) teams had to pivot so quickly to ensure that new hires, existing team members, and leadership were provided with engaging learning opportunities.
We can all agree that there has been some struggles and a learning curve for all of us in the L&D space.
The great news is that through the challenges, there have been so many amazing opportunities of growth that we did not experience in the pre-COVID-19 pandemic (only on-site) training world.
Although there are many areas to examine around the topic of L&D, we will address a couple of common questions that everyone in the training world has faced and is facing.
With the intention of creating positive, meaningful learning experiences that lead to the desired outcomes starting on day one, there are many practical techniques, strategies, and mindsets you will want to adopt. You will then maximize interaction, engagement, and overall learner experience.
When thinking about designing learning programs for remote or hybrid teams, we need to consider the different variables that impact learning and engagement. These include keeping learners focused and not multitasking while the virtual classes are on, managing overall energy, encouraging relationship building, and creating a space for diverse learners to feel included and to have their voices heard.
Also critically important are taking wellness breaks. They ensure that the mind and body are rested and able to learn. Let’s see what some L&D leaders have to say!
What challenges have you experienced in virtual/hybrid training?
Trainer and speaker Mike Aoki, President of Reflective Keynotes shares “My main challenge was adapting to multiple videoconferencing platforms and ensuring participant interactivity.
“My clients used different video platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or WebEx, so I needed to adapt to each platform. For instance, Meet only allows a single answer for polls, whereas Zoom allows multiple answers per question, and Teams requires an add-on app for polls. So, understanding the quirks of different platforms took time and practice.”
Hera Tchaderian, Assistant Vice President, Learning & Development, CAA Club Group shares “Engagement in a virtual learning environment is top of mind at the moment for me. Engagement is so critical in a learning environment and while we’ve adjusted our methodologies over the last two years, I think we have more work to do. “
What are some solutions you found to help solve the challenges?
Mike shares “Practice was the key. I enlisted my family to log in on their devices. So, I could practice with them using polls, chat, breakout rooms, and sharing videos with sound via Zoom, Meet, Teams, etc. Keep practicing until you master your organization’s video platform.”
Melissa Hurley, Vice President, Learning & People Development, Global Training, Bill Gosling BPO, shares some valuable nuggets and insights around solutions to solve the challenges.
“Solutions come from the learners; surveying and asking for input on their experience has helped us develop a plan to highlight what we are doing well and to keep doing it and areas we could enhance to make the experience more engaging.
“To highlight a few of the solutions we have implemented, we have workshops for facilitators that help them learn new ways to adapt training content to a virtual space (small things like animations in presentations and ice breakers related to the content created a fun space).
“Solutions come from the learners...” —Melissa Hurley
“We have also incorporated more interactions and gamification throughout our eLearning experience and breaking up training into microlearning. This has helped learners focus on areas that they want to learn more about while also having them share their own experiences and knowledge with their peers.”
Hera adds “We’ve added a lot more Interactive activities, group presentations, increase in time for all exercises, learner led training modules, polls, and group discussions.”
How do you create a diverse and inclusive environment for your learners?
Melissa shares “Creating a diverse and inclusive environment is our priority, especially in a remote learning environment.
“Everyone learns differently and it’s important to provide options to all our learners to learn in a space that works best for them.
“We have incorporated closed captioning on eLearning videos, live transcript available on our live remote training classes, and we have adapted an approach for our content development team that ensures we have a structure that leverages multiple interactions and self led-activities.
“As a content team they are constantly conducting research, which is very important in allowing us to adapt and be creative and innovative in our content.”
Mike shares “Harness different communication styles with exercises that appeal to audio or visual learners. For instance, have people discuss an issue with their webcam turned on. Then, follow it with a different exercise that asks people to share written examples in the chat window. Use a poll for a quick-hitting exercise. Then, leverage the whiteboard for visual creativity.
“It is also important to provide an inclusive learning environment. I always check with clients to see if their team has accessibility needs. For example, you can use closed captioning and chat to ensure people with hearing loss are able to participate fully in your sessions.”
As a leader in L&D, what are some top of mind topics that we should be discussing?
Melissa adds “it is important that content that is developed brings in images/photos and/or characters that are diverse.”
“I think it is important to ensure that we celebrate different cultures in our learning and finally putting a focus on developing content in eLearning, learning paths, and instructor led [learning] that are inclusive of all adult learning principles but also a learning space that is engaging and inclusive for all individuals.”
Victoria Imola, Director, Shared Services, MCAP shares that “Online learning, or eLearning has become a critical part of the training programs we build.
“Bite-sized, personalized, and on-demand training programs are essential to ensure we are meeting the needs of our learners for not only their current roles, but also their future roles as they grow and develop their careers. These topics are certainly trends across many different industries today, while companies continue to adapt to remote and hybrid workstyles.”
Hera says “With the pandemic impacting so many industries, we’re seeing a shift in our workforce. And while one of the tenets of adult education is the acknowledgement of the experiences individuals bring into the classroom, it is critical that it becomes the foundation upon which we build our learning strategies. So how do we do that in this virtual world we’re creating?”
What are some simple strategies to boost engagement?
According to Melissa, “Gamification of learning, microlearning, and simulations/hands on learning. In our world today information is accessible at our fingertips, so learners want to be able to learn more about topics that are important to them. It is critical that we celebrate the knowledge in the learning environment while transferring new knowledge (job-specific) in bit size chunks while making it relevant (YouTube, LinkedIn Learning).”
1. “Appreciate people – a simple ‘thank you’ or letting people know the impact they made in a particular situation goes a really long way.”
2. “Involve people in what’s going on – sharing as much information as possible not only promotes trust and transparency, but more importantly, creates space for some great thinking and ideas from all levels of the organization.”
“Feeling understood and heard to goes a long way.” —Victoria Imola
3. “Lead with empathy – if you don’t show up for each other with an open mind and listening ears, people become disengaged. Feeling understood and heard to goes a long way.”
Hera adds “Three simple strategies I’d say are:
1. “Cameras on while training virtually with names and pronouns identified. If training in-person move around the room.”
2. “Make eye contact with learners.”
3. “Asking learners a lot of open-ended questions consistently and pausing at least 10 seconds allowing for answers, group discussions where learners can share [and] discuss concepts, role playing, or sharing thoughts.”
While speaking with various organizations, the common challenges around recruitment, training, attrition, and engagement come up continuously!
Although technology is necessary and increasingly important, it is through creating meaningful human experiences that many of the challenges can be mitigated.
Taking the time to understand your learners as whole beings and adapt to serve them as you train or create the training programs will have a direct impact on your organization’s retention and employee engagement (especially in the first 90 days).
It is great to see how leaders in the L&D space have pivoted to create a better learning experience for learners across the organization.
With the mindset around adapting to the environment and to the learner, we can collectively make positive learning experiences for all resulting in a meaningful, welcoming learning experience as part of the overall employee onboarding experience.
If you have a story to share, please feel free to connect at [email protected] to continue the discussion.