What are some of the biggest challenges learning and development professionals are currently facing? How are you continuing to support various learning initiatives, from new hire onboarding to ongoing training and engagement for existing employees? In June, we gathered global L&D leaders to participate in our Udemy Connect virtual conversation series. Catch some of the highlights and key takeaways from these events here.

Supporting the whole employee through continuous learning: Speaker spotlight

Ian Stevens, Capability Development Lead, Publicis Sapient gave a presentation on how his team is thinking about moving from classroom to community in an online setting. He shared the specific example of Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) training, which relies on internal subject matter experts.

When shifting this in-person training to a virtual setting, Ian and the rest of his team decided that their priority should be to build a community of practice. They wanted to use time in the classroom to focus on activities and knowledge transfer and encouraged employees to use Microsoft Teams to create the feeling of community where employees could engage in general conversations and share resources and best practices. 

For example, Microsoft Build was traditionally an in-person conference, but it took place online this year instead. The Publicis Sapient L&D team wanted to make sure employees were aware of this resource, so they amplified the message through learning channels on Teams. This drove engagement with people commenting, liking, and sharing their learnings with others.

Ian says that it has taken a few weeks to build an active community, but now there’s a lively group of over 500 employees who regularly open posts, comment, and visit various channels. 

The L&D team also spent time familiarizing themselves with Teams’ functionality and now use it as a centralized hub to store employee registration requests and information about certifications. Switching to Teams actually allows the L&D team to be faster and more effective at responding to requests and ensures that everyone now knows where to find relevant information.

Supporting the whole employee through continuous learning: Audience tips & tricks

After Ian shared how Publicis Sapient is approaching continuous learning, Udemy Connect attendees had the opportunity to break into smaller groups and share their own experiences and best practices. Here are a few tips and tricks from these breakout sessions.

How are you fostering a culture of continuous learning in your organization?

  • Guided learning transformed to self-guided approach with resources available
  • Trying to shorten time in the classroom and implement more blended learning
  • Creating more virtual learning opportunities, especially in Teams, and worrying less about the formalities (design review/scripted video) and more about quick turnaround (getting a quick video out that demos a certain workflow)

What tactics, tools, and technology are you using to embed learning in the flow of work?

  • Slack channels, peer-based vetting
  • Technicians can pull up training video “nuggets” on how to complete specific tasks. This is available on their mobile phones.
  • Our materials live in SharePoint and we embed them in relevant Teams. We have some company-wide Yammer groups that we help people in. It’s a good way to crowdsource information and make sure big questions/answers are visible to many people.

Supporting the whole employee through continuous learning: Key takeaways

  • Prioritize flexibility and the ability to be responsive: Investing in this allows you to be agile to current times and points of need.
  • Embedding learning in the flow of work allows us to automate our own processes so we are moving faster and using it as a collaboration tool. It also allows us to maintain data and gain more metrics from the learning engagement.
  • Understand how and where your stakeholders are working — keep in mind that different teams operate in different places.
  • Just because you aren’t getting likes or comments, that doesn’t mean it’s not effective — don’t equate volume of voice to volume of consumption or value that people are getting out of it.

Creating virtual learning experiences that drive engagement: Speaker spotlight

In this presentation, Annemie Cowley, HR Digital Transformation Specialist at Tiger Brands shared how her company approached new hire onboarding during South Africa’s lockdown period. 

Annemie described a complex onboarding process at Tiger Brands that included a range of employees such as essential workers who were still based onsite and others who were working remotely temporarily during the lockdown. 

Speed was a critical factor, and Annemie and her team used existing internal tools like SharePoint to quickly design and implement their online onboarding program. Annemie’s team closely collaborated with the IT team to ensure new hires could access the onboarding materials using their personal email addresses if they don’t have a company email address yet.

They recorded subject matter experts’ Skype presentations, used an internal eLearning authoring tool, and included TV advertisements as breaks in online modules so that new hires could learn more about the various Tiger Brands products. 

Annemie says, “We worked in a small multi-functional team, prototyped, and implemented quickly. In just two weeks, the online onboarding platform took flight. And it was great!” The slide below provides a quick overview of their two-week implementation process.

Annemie shared several tips for increasing engagement with online onboarding experiences:

  • Build what is necessary with the tools that you have, and improve it over time.
  • The truth about technology is that nobody cares about the technology itself. People care about the solution to the problem that technology solves.
  • Accept that no tool is perfect and avoid “sexy” technology. It will only cost you money.
  • 90% of the time, the technology tools that you currently have are probably more than enough to make your online onboarding platform a success. There is no need to spend money on an online onboarding solution.
  • And most importantly, have fun as you go on your online onboarding development journey.

Creating virtual learning experiences that drive engagement: Audience tips & tricks 

Participants broke out into smaller groups to discuss how they’re driving engagement with learning at their organizations. Here are a few of their suggestions.

How can you set people up for success prior to training?

  • Assign pre-reading.
  • Share stories around experiences. 
  • Communicate the why behind learning and business goals associated with it. Tie learning to their current role rather than seeing it as a future goal. 

How can you adapt your facilitation style to fit the needs of remote learners?

  • The power is in the audience: involve and include them using the chat box and virtual whiteboards. 
  • Break up certain elements of the training instead of trying to fit everything into one long session.
  • Have more than one presenter and take breaks.

Creating virtual learning experiences that drive engagement: Key takeaways

  • To keep learning going after the training, make the next steps like planning and implementation part of the learning session before they break.
  • Tie learning to employees’ current roles rather than seeing it as a future goal.
  • Break up learning into chunks vs. traditional learning of whole day or long sessions.
  • Be deliberate about involving the audience — the more you involve and include them, the higher the engagement.

Increasing productivity & engagement through workforce well-being: Speaker spotlight

Katie Johnson, Organizational Development Manager at RetailMeNot shared that the mission of the People team at RetailMeNot is to provide a world-class employee experience throughout the entire employee lifecycle so employees can make a positive impact on the business and develop every single day. A recent engagement survey at RetailMeNot found that feeling “cared for” by a manager was a top driver of manager effectiveness at the company.

Katie also introduced the participants to the concept of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) — voluntary, employee-led groups that serve as resources for members and organizations by fostering a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational values, goals, business practices, and objectives. 

At RetailMeNot, ERGs give a voice to the employee base and provide career development for team members, giving people the opportunity to step into leadership roles, practice public speaking, learn to organize events, and more. The slide below outlines the process for establishing an ERG at RetailMeNot.

Increasing productivity & engagement through workforce well-being: Audience tips & tricks

Participants discussed their organizations’ approach to ERGs and other well-being resources. Here are some highlights from these breakout sessions.

Does your organization currently leverage ERGs?

  • We have employee-led focus groups using various levels within the organization from senior to junior level.
  • Our organization doesn’t currently leverage specific ERGs, but all parties are starting to bring ideas to begin forming them.
  • Nothing specific, but current events have prompted us to look at inclusion. More focus/mindset towards people and what affects their well-being and performance.

What steps can you take to better integrate well-being initiatives into your organizational development strategy?

  • More webinars led by our CEO or other members of the executive team.
  • Small things like best practices to work from home and links to mental health hotlines.
  • Weekly touch points are key to keep the workforce connected with the organization.

Increasing productivity & engagement through workforce well-being: Key takeaways

  • Leverage senior leaders across the organization to normalize conversations about employee well-being and encourage employees to be authentic about their experiences.
  • Amplify the voice of your employees by connecting with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) or conducting surveys and understand that there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution.
  • Integrate workforce wellness into your organizational development strategy by highlighting available resources such as working from home best practices, mental health hotlines, and online courses for subjects like stress management or change agility.

Udemy Connect is all about bringing L&D leaders and practitioners together to promote collaboration and sharing best practices. We’ll continue to share more updates and highlights from these gatherings in the future. 

Looking for more ideas to help you take an employee-first approach to learning at your organization? Check out the resources we’ve curated on our Learning Resources for Leaders page.

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