Learning and Localization Blog

What Does It Take to Reimagine Learning at Your Work?

Published on Feb 03, 2021

With the Right Cross-Functional Team, It’s Easier Than You Think

Does This Scenario Look Familiar?

Joanna just finished a Zoom meeting with her safety compliance stakeholders and the news was not encouraging. Although their workforce of 15,000 employees had recently completed their mandatory safety compliance training, what they learned wasn’t sticking. Key Performance Indicators of worker safety behaviors hadn’t changed much and were still far below their benchmarks. 

She knew the problem wasn’t access to the safety information – all workers could launch the 35-minute safety compliance training in their LMS (Learning Management System) anytime they wanted to review the information. She also knew the problem wasn’t the content itself – the information was factually accurate.

But Joanna understood that what she’d been doing was not delivering the results her organization needed. Something had changed, but she didn’t know what. She wanted a new perspective to figure out what the underlying problem was and how to solve it. Joanna was ready to reimagine her approach to workforce learning.

The Old Perspective

Many program owners, learning professionals, and executives have been accustomed to implementing their workforce learning initiatives through a traditional content-centric learning perspective. From this point of view, content is structured and presented in a well organized and fully detailed manner. Workers are shown the course objectives, the course content, and then are assessed on their knowledge. If they need to review some content, they can access a standard eLearning course, informational videos, and/or PDF Job Aids/Resource Guides. 

What’s wrong with this approach? The short answer is that the content is not engaging- thus easily forgotten and ultimately does not change work behavior/performance. Until the last few years, this hasn’t been a noticeable problem. Workers were forced to take compliance training and they dutifully completed it. Completion was all that was expected for learning.

Get a New Perspective

In recent years, the expectations of the learning experience and outcomes of compliance education have dramatically changed. Thanks to advances in technology and design, workers are all accustomed to delightful and engaging experiences when they shop, socialize, and get entertained with their electronic devices. When compared these enjoyable experiences, compliance courses are often seen as boring, tedious, and completely unengaging. When workers tune out, the content is more readily forgotten and often does not impact worker behavior/performance. In addition, these same technological and design advances also generate a vast amount of data that can be analyzed and readily make the connections between learning interventions, worker performance, and business outcomes.

A major part of the success of delightful digital experiences such as Amazon, Instagram, and Netflix is the focus of their design. It’s not content-centric, it’s user-centric. These companies spend billions of dollars researching and analyzing what their customers want and need – and then build and refine experiences that meet those needs.

What Does User-Centric Design Look Like in Workplace Learning?

In an organization, a user-centric learning design begins with an analysis of the workers’ needs, as opposed to the content. An analysis may include addressing questions like:

  • What problems do workers encounter in the topic area?
  • How can they access support in the flow of their work?
  • Are problems based on lack of knowledge or lack of practice?

Next, a user-centric design uses the answers to these questions as the entry point for workers to explore the content. For example, if an identified problem is skipping a critical step in a procedure, the learning begins with a scenario in which a worker encounters that issue within their workflow. In this way, the content is easily relatable and more likely to be recalled. From there, the background knowledge is presented and the worker practices the skills until mastery. 

A user-centric design also addresses multiple learning and performance support needs of workers. For example, at any given time in the flow of work, workers may need to:

  • Build background information
  • Quickly review key content
  • Practice a skill
  • Tap deeper into greater detail/reference material

Learning and performance support experiences can be designed from a user-centric perspective that more closely resembles the workflows they encounter and address their varied needs. Doing so will more likely improve worker performance and business outcomes because workers will have what they need, when and where they need it. 

How Do You Implement User-Centric Design?

Let’s return to Joanna and how she can reimagine learning at her workplace. She is familiar with the content, her stakeholders are familiar with the problems the workforce is encountering, but no one in her organization is familiar with user-centric design. To complete her cross-functional team, she reaches out to Ingenuiti to lead the analysis of a reimagined workplace learning from a user-centric perspective. 

After a few virtual design sessions, she and her organization have a reimagined blueprint for her compliance education that is engaging and will deliver the outcomes they are expecting. From there, they work together to develop an ecosystem of learning resources based on their blueprint that meets the workers’ needs.

Article by Johnny Hamilton
Johnny Hamilton is a thought leader, author, and full-stack learning designer who has led projects that have resulted in over a dozen industry awards in corporate learning innovation from Brandon Hall, BIG Innovation, eLearning Magazine, and American Business Association.

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