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Digital Learners Won’t Let You Waste Their Time

Employees' expectations about what digital learning and development should provide (and how) are changing; the key is to make it 'effortless' for them to get the information they need

Given so much of the way that the world’s employees accomplish their work has changed rapidly across the past half decade, it’s no surprise that corporate learning and development has changed as well. Elliott Masie, a learning technology expert and producer of Broadway musicals, says in Chief Learning Officer, “Some of your learners … may be showing new behaviors that look more like online dating:

“Your learners look at a learning offer and:

  • Quickly give it a swipe left or a swipe right — keep it or let it go.
  • Want to know, ‘Did other employees like this? Is it worth my time?’
  • Say, ‘Hey, give me the good stuff; skip the fluff.’

“Your learners are better guardians of your wage time than you. Set up a 75-minute webinar for every regional manager, and their attitude kicks in:

  • ‘Is there really 75 minutes of new and valuable stuff?’
  • ‘Could I watch the archived version, and skip to the few minutes of important info?’
  • ‘Ah, let me order my lunch, check my emails, and have a side telephone call during this very long webinar.’

“Your learners have attitude because times are changing, and choices are getting more complex.”

Make it Effortless, Not Fun

Masie’s observations align neatly with CEB analysis, which showed that while making learning more fun and engaging does increase employees’ satisfaction with learning offerings, it does not always help them retain and apply what they learn.

What the most successful L&D functions do is to make the learning experience as effortless as possible. They make learning materials easy to find and readily applicable to employees’ day-to-day jobs as well as their future careers.

The CEB research identified a number of interesting distinctions, one of which is that many employees have different attitudes when they are looking to acquire knowledge or information as opposed to when they are actually trying to learn and develop a new skill. Learners’ habits and attitudes have already changed, as Masie notes, when they are looking for information. They are impatient, have shorter attention spans, and have certain expectations about format.

On the other hand, when employees are looking to develop new skills, particularly “soft skills” (interpersonal skills) and leadership skills, they tend to have more patience for longer, in-person learning experiences.

Many L&D functions are working hard to accommodate what they think employees want across all of the learning solutions they offer, but they – understandably – find it tough to help employees develop better leadership skills through an 18-minute “TED talk.” Maybe it’s time for a rethink.


More On…

  • Leadership and Professional Development

    Learn how to help your employees build the right skills that will have a long-term impact on the success of your firm.

  • CEB Talent Daily

    This post was originally published on CEB Talent Daily, a provider of daily news and analysis on the world of talent management.

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