If you wanted to train for a marathon, would you just start running and hope for the best? No. You’d follow a training plan that builds the specific types of strength and endurance you need to succeed.
The same is true of digital learning in the workplace. You need a plan. A digital learning strategy is that plan.
It helps you determine where to spend your time and resources to get the most out of your training program. You won’t have to wonder where to focus your efforts. And you’ll find a greater degree of success.
We’ll create an example digital learning strategy for a custom software developer called Fast Software, Inc. Fast Software wants to reduce the lead time on iterations of their software by 15%.
To do that, every project needs to become more efficient. Let’s take a look at how we can make that happen with a digital learning strategy.
1. Define Your Training Objectives
A good digital learning strategy starts with what you hope to do with your training program.
Are you trying to increase productivity? Reduce costs? Decrease the number of on-the-job injuries? Improve customer satisfaction scores? All of these work as training objectives.
Avoid the mistake of training for training’s sake. Don’t run a learning and development program just to say that learning is important to your business or that your employees get continual professional development. To get the most out of your program, build a plan and stick with it.
Learning programs with specific objectives outperform program with vague ones. Take the time to document your training objectives before you start.
It’s also a good idea to align your training objectives with your strategic business priorities. In our example, Fast Software, Inc. is trying to reduce the lead time on their custom development by 15% over the next year.
A corresponding digital learning objective might be something like this:
Project managers will be able to identify two areas of potential improvement in each development project.
Of course, different groups may have different learning objectives. Developers will have different objectives than project managers. Account managers will have yet different objectives. Executives will have their own, too.
The fewer objectives you have, the easier it is to coordinate various trainings. You can create as many as you’d like, but a smaller number will be easier to work with.
Be sure to take the time to write your training objectives well. The more specific you are, the easier the following steps will be.It’s easy to skip over developing a digital learning strategy objective. But don’t succumb to the temptation. The rest of this process will be easier, faster, and more effective.
2. Define the Audience of Your Training
Learning objectives often identify the people who will take part in your training. But after defining a goal for your digital learning strategy, it’s worth taking extra time to make sure you’ve identified the correct audience.
Fast Software, Inc. is going to train its project managers to identify gaps in workflows and speed up the development process. But do all project managers need to take part in the training? Or are there project managers who would be better served by a different training program?
If you plan on offering multiple training tracks or a variety of optional courses, you have more to think about. Let’s say we want to offer a track on agile development and another on an in-house project management tool.
Who should attend each training? You probably have project managers who are experts in the tool. And there might be others who come from a development background. Having them learn about the things they already know wouldn’t be a good use of time.
So we might say something like this:
Managers who have experience agile development will take a course on our in-house project management tool, while managers who have a background in project management will take a course on agile development.
Defining the audience of your digital learning strategy is an idiosyncratic process. You might have a single objective that works for everyone in your small company. Or you may run learning and development for an international corporation—in which case you may have a wide variety of objectives and audiences.
The important thing is to spend time figuring out the best use of each audience’s time.
3. Set the Scope of Instruction
Which type of learning better suits your objective: basic or advanced? The answer is probably built into your learning objective. If it’s not, you need to be explicit about it now.
You might wonder why this deserves its own point—but any knowledgeable employee who has sat through a very basic training will tell you. Being bored in training sessions kills enthusiasm for learning.
The right scope of instruction depends on the information your employees are learning. For example, if you’re introducing a completely new piece of software, you might aim to get employees from no knowledge at all to a basic familiarity.
At Fast Software, Inc., though, we’re working with experienced project managers. So we’ll focus on more advanced methods.
(It’s worth noting that we could also provide both basic and advanced information and separate the sessions into different audience expertise levels.)
Again, this is probably represented at least implicitly in your learning objective. The learning objective for our project managers implies a relatively basic training—being able to identify areas of potential improvement is probably a basic or intermediate skill for these managers.
As with defining the audience, you might have several different scopes of instruction depending on your training. So take some time to think about this point.