In the third and final article of this three-part series on digital learning realities in 2018, Director of Research at Fosway Group, David Perring, draws on new research conducted in partnership with Learning Technologies to see how digital transformation is impacting the effectiveness of learning.
Reflecting on the results of this year’s Digital Learning Realities research, one of the trends that became very clear was the limited scope of digital learning transformation within organisations today.
By definition, being transformative means to bring about a ‘marked change’.
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But change for changes sake is not the goal here. It only becomes transformational if you are increasing the impact of learning and adding more value across your organisation.
Otherwise, using digital technologies are just a distraction. You can have all the shiny new tools you like, but unless your strategy and their implementation are aligned to bigger business goals, none of it really matters.
These broader goals could range from supporting rapid company growth or expanding global teams or product development and innovation.
They could be about increasing sales revenue or helping recruit and retain the best new talent.
Or they could be about cost savings, adhering to industry legislation or supporting changing business models and company structure.
Whatever it is that helps your organisation be better than the rest and achieve that all important competitive advantage.
What did our research tell us?
Research responses from 1500+ L&D professionals worldwide showed us that, for the most part, L&D is not focusing on these strategic opportunities.
Referencing the Fosway Model of Digital L&D Transformation (see Fig 1), it seems that scaling learning through digital resources and introducing more learning into the workflow is where the large majority are currently concentrating their efforts i.e. at Level 2.
This isn’t a bad thing. But this must not be where the story ends. If it does, we are missing an opportunity. L&D ideally needs to operate at all levels of the model.
So, tackling the simpler elements is not a bad answer – we still need to operate and deliver the business as usual. But to maximise value and impact for your organisation, you need to be focusing on strategic and performance drivers.
You need to make sure L&D is at least somewhat aligned with broader business drivers.
Each level of the model drives value, but some offer more value and more impact than others. You really need to make sure you’re investing your digital transformation in the places and projects that provide the most value.
This begs the question, how do you broaden the scope of your learning transformation and deliver the most value and impact for the rest of your business?
What are your drivers?
One of the most critical factors of success in your digital transformation will be securing the stakeholder buy-in you need to help drive change.
In order to do this, you need to make sure L&D is at least somewhat aligned with broader business drivers. We think about these using the following categories, which should help you take stock of the unique issues, challenges and opportunities you are trying to contend with.
1. Burning platforms
These are the urgent problems and issues that you have to solve. The ones that cause you or your customers the most pain. They need to be put out, but they risk consuming all your time without adding much value.
2. Grow and shape
These are the things that you need to do more of because they are building positive momentum with your stakeholders and customers – they are adding value and increasing your influence. They need to evolve and become more prominent in what you do.
These are the changes, innovations or competitors who could severely damage or kill your operation.
These include things like acquisitions, mergers and alternative resourcing through business process outsourcing. You need to combat these by being a better choice because of the way you provide your services with the highest efficiency and greatest impact.
These are the new things you need to do and the new operation you should become – if you could truly change what and who you are as a service provider.
Making a compelling call to action
Once you have identified where you are now and what your stakeholders are contending with, then you can start to build a compelling call to action.
This will engage your stakeholders and help gain sponsorship and investment for your digital transformation – as well as creating that all important permission to act.
This innovation is about more than just a shiny new piece of kit.
The foundations of high impact and longer-term change are deeply rooted in gaining the commitment of influential stakeholders. They may be influential because of their position in the organisations or because they are able to exert a strong sway through their network on decision makers.
The five steps to create your compelling call to action
Identify your business drivers, stakeholder and customer context, and impetus for change (see Fig 2)
Create a vision of what the future looks like using key customer (learner) personas
Deliver a strategic plan including change milestones and innovation phases
Quantify the value add, staged benefits and measures of success
Develop your business case, secure stakeholder sponsorship and acquire investment in change – consolidate your permission to act
These are not necessarily quick or easy exercises. You need a systematic approach and to ring fence significant time to understand the unique needs and drivers of your organisation.
Without investing energy and effort into this understanding, any L&D transformation is likely to be punching below its weight – doomed to provide small, operational benefits, rather than driving strategic change.
What are the key takeaways?
Transformation is about change. And digital transformation is a golden opportunity to change not just the ‘how’ and the ‘what’ of L&D, but the ‘why’ too. Value and impact have to be front of mind now.
If you don’t start to think of digital transformation in terms of performance and strategic change – as well as operational change – you won’t make as much impact or business contribution as you should. And that means L&D is not fulfilling its potential.
If you build your business case and your call to action in a compelling way, your stakeholders will understand that this innovation is about more than just a shiny new piece of kit.
Start planning your roadmap using the exercises explored here and remember that success comes from:
Thinking differently (keep asking yourself if your L&D fit for the future)
Rethinking the learning experience (what’s the reality of digital learning transformation today?)
Focusing on the value add and delivering against your unique business drivers
The saying goes that if you build it, they will come. This is only true if you are building your digital learning transformation proposition around your high value audiences and if you build a vision for the future that goes above and beyond the business as usual.
This isn’t about microlearning or adopting VR headsets. This is about building a high performing L&D operation that starts with the end in mind – and that is where you can make the most difference to the rest of your organisation’s performance and its people.