After six months of living through the most incredible disruption of business processes in our lifetimes, it is hard to fathom that we missed the most important value proposition of delivering learning in a virtual environment.
During this time, I have shared insights gathered from the design, development, and delivery of simulation-centric workshops. These insights include:
- Greater absorption of concepts because you can space learning out over time in smaller chunks
- Ability to fit learning like simulation workshops into the work-learning balance
- A deeper intimacy with learners via virtual breakout rooms
- Improved comprehension of concepts because participants can hear clearer and can ask questions in a variety of modalities
- Integration of learning tools such as polls, shared whiteboarding, animations, short videos, and instant translations
- No travel, food, or lodging budgets required
But it wasn’t until last night, during a deep conversation with one of our clients in China, that I realized we have all missed the most significant value proposition of virtual learning. During the conversation we were discussing the rollout of a portfolio of competency building programs in the areas of Business Acumen, Coaching, Leading Change, and Leading Execution.
“The thing that I love the most about what we are doing is that we are creating consistency of messaging around the world and I am really seeing that in the every day conversations and every-day decision-making of our people. Instead of many different people delivering the content and adapting it to their own style and the local markets of delivery, we are getting a unified message and it is making a huge difference.”
We totally missed this!
After thinking about it for a few seconds, the reality of what my client shared started to sink in. For many years we all have been searching for that “holy grail of learning.” That situation where you teach people new skills and then have them apply and socialize them throughout the company. In the recent past, even with great business simulation workshops, it’s hard to make cultural impact 25 people at a time. But now, with sophisticated asynchronous simulations and learning content, we are able to push really fantastic content to hundreds, if not thousands, of learners simultaneously and with 100% consistency of message.
Now knowing that delivering a consistent and scalable message is perhaps the most important element of virtual learning, I reflected on some tips to make the virtual learning as valuable and consistent as possible:
If you are going to do this, do it right. Be bold. Take big steps. Think outside of the box. One of the clients I am working with is going to deliver a coaching simulation to more than 80,000 employees so they all have the same consistent process. Before the pandemic, I don’t think this organization would have tried this.
Have high expectations
When you take big bold steps in talent development, have high expectations. This isn’t just for fun and this isn’t just for awareness. Virtual learning can really make a real difference through consistency. Expect change and expect impact.
Hold learners accountable
With higher expectations should come more accountability. Let the learners know that they are accountable for both the learning and the application back to their current and future jobs.
Why should the learning be over at the “end” of a session? It doesn’t have to be, and it shouldn’t be. Design opportunities for follow-up and reinforcement to ensure constancy and freshening of concepts as things change.
Delivering scalable learning to many people with a consistent message also lends itself well to measurement. Measure before, after, and then after again to demonstrate the return on investment.