"Creating a learning culture isn’t just a matter of buying an LMS, producing eLearning units and crossing your fingers."
Juliette Denny is MD of Growth Engineering, who are focused on improving online learning engagement through social learning, gamification and learning personalisation. Founded in 2004, the company won the Learning Provider of the Year award in 2016.
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: What do you think are the crucial elements of not only creating but embedding a learning culture in modern organisations?
Juliette Denny, MD, Growth Engineering: Creating a learning culture isn’t just a matter of buying an LMS, producing eLearning units and crossing your fingers. Great training is about creating the right environment for your learners. You can only do that if you know who your learners are.
Organisations are made up of people and the first, most important element is the desire to help those people become the best employees they can be. If you’re just in it to tick a few compliance boxes, then you’ve got an easy job. But if you want to create a learning culture and change behaviour, you need to care about every individual’s development.
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: You talk of Epic Meaning being needed to personalise the learning experience. Can you tell our readers what you mean by this?
Juliette Denny, MD, Growth Engineering: I’ve always believed that training is about encouraging the behaviours that matter to the organisation. With the right employee behaviours, organisational goals essentially achieve themselves. But you can’t just go up to an employee and tell them ‘if you don’t behave this way, we can’t give your manager a pay rise’. I mean, would that motivate you?!
Epic Meaning is about creating a narrative that puts every employee at the centre of something larger. Don’t tell them about profits or margin – they don’t care, and why should they? You need to go back to the reason your company exists in the first place. If I can use Growth Engineering as an example, the company was founded to combat the reign of dull, boring eLearning that wasn’t working.
When we’re training our people, we try to make everyone feel like superheroes. They’ve got unique powers deep inside them and the training lets them unleash it and change the world.
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: How do you balance the need to personalise content to make it relevant and create content with a broad appeal so that everyone can make the most out of it and align their skills with organisational need?
Juliette Denny, MD, Growth Engineering: You always need to find a balance between the organisational needs and those of the employees. The formal training has to deliver a consistent message to everyone but that’s not an excuse to make it boring or overly corporate. Knowing the values of the organisation is a great start. Values and culture are important to people when they choose an employer. Since they form a common ground, they give you the best foundation to work from.
Focusing on informal learning and giving employees the chance to learn from each other is a good way to personalise the experience. If you have a social platform, people can share their expertise through learner-generated content, giving them a greater sense of ownership. Each person can then build a library of content that matters to them and is relevant to their job.
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Talk us through some practical steps organisations can take to gamify existing learning experiences to increase uptake and engagement.
Juliette Denny, MD, Growth Engineering: Using a levels mechanic is a good place to start, and it’s pretty simple. Choose a role in your organisation and plot out what that career path looks like. You’ll probably find that there are a few obstacles to negotiate along the way. At these points, break the path into sections. Think of those sections as levels, and build the required content accordingly.
Now, instead of calling them ‘Level One’, ‘Level Two’, and so on – be a bit more creative and add a splash of fun. Give them titles that’ll resonate with the learners and communicate your organisational culture. Once you have your levels, it’s easier to decide where to assign badges. Again, you’ll need to stick to the same theme but once you’ve done that, you’ll have the makings of an engaging learning journey!
Jamie Lawrence, Editor, HRZone: Social learning is an important process for organisations to be more collaborative and innovative but how do you make employees want to share knowledge and engage with others?
Juliette Denny, MD, Growth Engineering: Assuming you’re already committed to creating a strong engagement strategy and you understand your learners, there are several things you can do. Make sure that the learners are recognised for sharing their knowledge. If your LMS is gamified, you can award badges and points, but the trick is making the game mechanics work together to achieve a specific goal, in this case it’s getting people to share their knowledge.
On the Academy LMS, we do this by creating topic-specific discussion groups, each with their own leaderboard. Those who contribute the most, rank higher and they effectively identify themselves as experts. From there, it’s possible to grant them special Expert user permissions.
This lets everyone see who the experts are in the business and who they need to ask if they have questions. This is the kind of recognition that motivates employees and makes them feel valued in the business. If everybody sees that they can earn this status, that’s often enough to spark a collaborative, knowledge-sharing culture.