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3 Key Mindset Shifts for L&D Capabilities in 2021

Based on our recent webinar ‘Ready for the Next Normal? A Blueprint for L&D Capabilities’, this article covers three key mindset shifts we see for the future of learning and development. As we move into the next stage of the pandemic and begin to prepare for whatever the next normal may bring, LEO’s Consulting Lead, Patrick Thomas, takes us through key changes we need to see from L&D in the near future.

We all know this year has brought a lot of changes to the world of work, and with that has come a number of challenges for L&D professionals. Back in 2019, in an annual survey, Toward’s Maturity (now Emerald Works) found that L&D professionals from a huge range of industries indicated that while virtual classrooms and social learning were key priorities, they were also the biggest gaps in learning capabilities.

This year has forced us, as an industry, to focus on virtual as the key method of learning delivery.

We’ve spoken at length about what we’ve seen our clients doing this year, but now it’s time to look forward and understand how you can best prepare your learning programs for the year to come.

1. Designing Your Learning Programs Virtual-First

Similarly to when mobile-first design became a priority in eLearning delivery, designing virtual-first learning is a must.

Where learning had previously been event-focused, often shaped around a one-time action, we now need to be looking ahead to how we can not only make virtual learning work, but how we can make it a priority. 

One key take-away organizations have learned in the last seven months is that they cannot simply take old face-to-face training sessions and pull them online. Delivering a simple PowerPoint or a webinar in place of your old training won’t hold the engagement or harbor the results needed.

So, how can you design virtual-first?

There are a number of things to consider, including:

  • Redesign your learning from the ground up. Start with your objectives and reconsider the purposes, as well as the mode, of delivery.
  • Audit your current content to identify useful existing resources.
  • Curate content and knowledge as part of this process.
  • Continue to experiment with your learning design. Keep experimenting.
  • Inject interactivity into your sessions. Aim for more of a workshop feel than a lecture. In fact, move the knowledge-heavy materials online so people can access them before or after the session.
  • Remember, new tools are being developed all the time, so make the most of them. Use more than one in your session.
  • Consider your break-out spaces, and design the learning with these in mind as you would in a physical setting
  • Solid facilitation matters online - and this goes far beyond simple presentation.

You might also like: ‘Going Virtual: How Different Types of Organizations Are Adapting to Digital Learning

2. Making Space for Collaboration and Social Learning

Lacking the physical space in which to interact, social learning and collaboration have been high on the agenda for learning this year. Social learning, however, is a difficult thing to master. As we learned in a recent LEO Campfire session, and a sentiment repeated in the webinar, is that you cannot expect people to collaborate or learn socially simply because you have made the space.

Collaboration within virtual learning sessions is absolutely possible when planned.

You can use polls, chat rooms, and external channels like Slack. There are a huge variety of ways to encourage participation in these events, even at a distance. However, creating an ongoing social learning environment can be a challenge.

One of the key ways to tackle this is to develop a marketing mindset when it comes to learning.

Marketing campaigns are all about engagement, and the world of learning has a lot to learn from the likes of social media. Use-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool for collaborative learning. It’s a great way to get people engaged and keep them invested in the learning journey. UGC itself can often have a snowball effect—it can be a little slow to start but the more people get involved, the more people are likely to join in. Marketing-inspired learning campaigns are a great place to start to get these initiatives going. 

Related reading: ‘What’s Working in Virtual Learning? Your Questions Answered

3. Actively Focus on Performance and Behavioral Change

Behavioral change has always been a key focus in L&D. But now that many of us are learning at a distance, it can be harder to measure this impact.

Learning teams have to design for knowledge retention and transfer into the workplace. This has always been the case, but now the workplace is changing—and for many people is within the home—it’s important to consider how behavioral change may translate differently.

Employees are no longer occupying the same physical space as their management, and as many organizations aim to hire more fully remote candidates, this is a significant part of the next normal. Mentoring and coaching have never been more important as a form of ongoing workplace learning.

In order to ensure managers and coaches aren’t overloaded, it’s vital that this capability is built up over time to help support a more self-directed and less event-based continuous learning model. Alongside coaching and mentoring, it’s important to align learning to performance goals. Performance consulting can be a hugely formative part of learning design.

In a recent LEO-led client knowledge-share session, one of the attendees discussed a performance committee involved in the development of all of their learning. This committee evaluates any new learning for its alignment business, performance, and learning objectives. This helps the organization ensure the link between learning and business goals is a vital part of its learning strategy.

In case you missed it: ‘9 Important Things We Learned About Distance Learning in Lockdown


This article is based on our recent webinar ‘Ready for the Next Normal? A Blueprint for L&D Capabilities’. Access the webinar recording here.

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