When addressing the need to onboard or upskill employees, all companies understand that training is needed, but most struggle with the best way to deliver that training. Organizations often choose a “one and done” approach that compresses all of the required training into a single format and time such as a classroom lecture. While commonplace, this approach has serious limitations in its ability to effectively train a large workforce.
Today’s workforce is diverse in so many ways; differences in age, race, gender, cultural background, and geographic location mean that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is never able to meet the needs of every employee. People learn and retain information in vastly different ways, and they require different types of motivation and feedback, so what works well for one group is ineffective for the next.
Experienced learning and development professionals recommend using a blended learning approach
Everyone has their own preferred way of learning, and a diverse workforce means that some prefer a classroom setting while others do better with hands-on demonstrations. A blended approach takes these preferences into consideration by combining traditional instructor-led classroom sessions with interactive lessons created using the latest digital technologies. Using variety of delivery methods ensures that each employee finds the one that works best for them. Delivery methods include:
- Instructor-Led Classroom – The traditional instructor-led classroom should remain a part of the blended approach because it helps to foster interactions and build teamwork. Classroom instruction is more popular with Gen X and older employees and is ideal when large numbers of employees are in the same location.
- Interactive Multimedia – Today’s Learning Management Systems (LMS) and online training platforms offer the ability to create interactive training sessions that utilize a mix of mediums that can be delivered on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. This type of training is popular with Gen Y and younger employees and is ideal for a remote workforce. Interactive training programs combine:
- Videos – Pre-recorded videos can help break up classroom presentations while adding visual interest. They can be integrated into interactive presentations and ongoing support options. Digital options allow videos to be truly interactive, taking the employee through an immersive, role-playing scenario.
- Animations – Animations can be used to simplify complex subjects and walk an employee through different scenarios. Animations provide a cost-effective way to customize content to the user while providing visual interest that keep them engaged.
- Photos and Illustrations – Digital platforms present information visually which greatly improves comprehensions and retention. Images can also be interactive, allowing employees to click on different parts of an image to access more in-depth information.
- Text – Digital platforms rely heavily on visuals, but text components are still vital to relaying key information. The use of captions, pop-up windows, questions, and other interactive elements keep the information relevant and engaging.
- Documents – Written materials should be included in a blended learning approach because many people still prefer reading to watching. Whether printed or in electronic form on a tablet, documents can be read almost anywhere and are an effective resource for busy employees.
- Games – Gamification is the art and science of turning lessons into a game. Games are more enjoyable to complete and they introduce an element of competition between coworkers. Posting leader boards and awarding prizes is a great way to keep employees engaged and motivated.
- Hands-On Exercises – Sometimes the best way to learn is by doing. This type of learning is especially effective when teaching the operation of a new piece of equipment or technology; immersing the employees in the lesson can be faster and more successful than other methods.
By utilizing interactive, online platforms, lessons can be divided into smaller segments that are more convenient, allowing employees to work through the segments at their own pace. Employees can access the lessons whenever and wherever it is convenient for them, even going back to re-do lessons multiple times if necessary. This “microlearning” ensures that each person understands and retains the information in a segment before moving on to the next.
Digitally mature organizations have moved from only offering formal training classes to develop, employee skills to implementing a blended learning approach in which employees have a wide array of options to learn formally and informally on a daily basis.
Take A Long Term Approach
One of the most important aspects of a blended learning approach is that it takes a long-term view of the educational process. If people are not able to apply a new skill immediately, their ability and confidence with it can be diminished. Technology is also updated and expanded over time, requiring some upskill in order to remain current.
For this reason, blended learning incorporates ongoing performance support so that students can access the information they need to quickly regain their ability and confidence. On-demand support, available at the point of need, helps students to remain proficient over a longer period of time. Performance support can be provided in many ways, including:
- In-Application Support – Search tools, pop-up help screens, videos, animations, and walk-throughs help a user from within the application.
- Live Support – Users can ask questions whenever they have a need using an interactive chat function or phone call. Answers can be provided by artificial intelligence through chatbots and voice recognition or from a live support person.
- Training Library – A collection of training resources is accessible at any time for students to explore and expand their skillset. By including access to the original training materials, employees can go back for a refresher whenever they want to stay sharp. Additional resources can be added to the library so that employees can take the initiative to acquire new skills and advance their careers.
- User Community – One of the fastest and most effective ways to transfer knowledge is from peer to peer. Establishing a communications network allows students to work with mentors and a larger community of users to find the answers they need.
Measure and Report
Benchmarking, measurement, and reporting are important components of a blended approach to ensure that each student is satisfactorily completing each course. They also allow management to identify high-performing employees who can act as peer coaches and product champions, getting everyone ready for go-live at the same time. Progress and retention can be measured using polls, quizzes, tests, and games, and results can be shared on internal social networks to bring an element of competition that drives higher engagement. Today’s digital platforms allow for convenient dashboards and electronic reports to keep track of participant’s progress and proficiency.
A blended learning approach incorporates the psychology of learning with the latest teaching techniques and technologies to deliver vastly better results than a traditional “one and done” approach. By acknowledging that a diverse workforce has diverse educational needs, a blended learning approach can be customized and scaled to be effective with any size or type of audience. Best of all, a blended learning approach is ideal for today’s increasingly multi-generational workforce.