Learning and development is one of the most important investments any business can make and smart leaders recognise the value it brings to individuals and organisations. But in an increasingly time-poor world, how can we continue to invest in our people without taking them out of the business for big chunks of time?
Online training has been around for years and we’ve seen it evolve well beyond the ‘watch this video and do this quiz’ approach (although some of that still exists). I’ve long held the paradigm that it can serve a great role in training where the need is mainly for information transfer (induction, health and safety, product training etc can be very effectively delivered in this way) but has limitations in soft-skills development, where discussion, debate and experiential learning can really aid embedded behaviour change.
But like all paradigms, we need to challenge them regularly and I’ve certainly had mine challenged over the past couple of years. I’ve come to see that whilst we may lose some of the richness that can be created in well-structured face-to-face human interactions, virtual training (you’ll note I didn’t say online) can offer something that an intensive workshop with follow up activities can’t in the same way.
What I’ve realised is that the opportunity to cover a specific content piece and have participants then applying those skills in their real world, before then reflecting, tweaking and applying again provides a hugely valuable learning experience. Breaking the development into bite-sized chunks (micro learning is the buzz phrase) helps make it more digestible and application focused for some – without the need to be out of the business for multi-days.
It’s not a one-size fits all. Both face-to-face and virtual development (good ones normally include a range of learning modalities – eLearning snacks, e-activities, videos, tips and live webinars) offer great benefits and will work for different people and organisations. It’s about selecting what might work best for your people and your business.
The key however, is not about the training delivery mode, but how the learnings can be applied in a way that makes measurable impact on individual and business performance and results. Any training that doesn’t achieve that is a total waste of time, energy and money – and that’s something nobody wants!