Successful Learning Adoption and Engagement – Part One

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the HR Core Academy conference in Brussels.  The subject of the presentation was around the successful engagement and adoption of learning, to which I also explained the role that mobile learning can play here.

In the first of a two-part posting, I will summarise my thoughts around improving learning adoption.

AdoptionA Successful Learning Adoption

When looking at how we can make sure the learning we’ve developed is adopted, here are some of the key elements that need to be addressed.


It goes without saying that each learner should see the content as being relevant to them, if they are to consider adopting its content back on the job.  So work hard to really understand what is most crucial for them to learn, validate that they agree and keep the content tightly defined.  You may also need to consider offering different versions or pathways through the learning to sustain that relevance.


One of the main reasons for poor learning adoption is the timing of that training compared to when the learner needs to use the new skills and knowledge.  “Sheep-dipping” people at the start of their career or on the first day of their current job is rarely a success in the long-term, so find ways to appropriately assign the learning at the best time for the learner.  Even consider moving from “push” to “pull” learning, allowing the learner to choose for themselves.


One of my main mantras at the moment is to encourage a move away from “pure learning” to “performance support”.  With so little time to learn on the job (or even worse, away from the job), we need to target our content on what will make the most difference and quickly.  So learning that prioritise the practical “how tos” will see greater adoption rates than that which dives deep into the underlying theories and background.


Regrettably, the “click next” type of content we often see is probably some of the more user-friendly, but we know we need to move away from that format.  So as we strive to create more engaging, immersive and interactive content, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that our learners need to be able to navigate through it successfully.  And that almost has to be an intuitive process, as people don’t have the time to read instructions.


“Accessible” can refer to making sure our content can be taken by those with disabilities that might impair their hearing, vision or dexterity – and that’s key.  Here, though, I’m talking about making sure our learners can easily locate the training in the first place and complete it without distraction.  So make sure you look at the interfaces of your LMSs or learning portals and think about whether now is the time to look at mobile delivery options.


Remember the so-called “forgetting curve”…?  What, you’ve forgotten…?  Unless we invest time, resources and energy to help our learners remember what they’ve learned – sometimes long after the main training event – then we are throwing away the investment we made in creating the content.  So build refresher content and mechanisms into your blended learning programme designs.  In fact, I now prefer to work backwards and look first at what learners will need to make sure they adopt the learning.


Now it would be great if we could always give people a pay rise after completing some training, but that’s never going to be the case.  But people like to be recognised for what they do, both on the job and after they’ve taken the time to learn something.  So find ways to do this and to incentivise people to continue their learning journey by applying what they’ve learned afterwards.


I’ve seen great adoption when fellow participants have bonded well and remained in contact with each afterwards.  Sometimes that’s been through purpose-designed learning collaboration tools, but often via tools that the learners have found for themselves, including WhatsApp.  So look for ways to foster a desire for learners to support each other during and after the training.  Let them support each other’s adoption.


We’ve long recognised the critical role a line manager plays in the adoption of learning and I’ve long recognised the fact that this isn’t easy for our busy managers.  But that’s not stopped me from trying to facilitate their involvement.  That’s included creating a simple set of post-training questions that learners share with their managers afterwards and developing line manager support packs to accompany major learning programmes.


There has been a trend over the last 12 to 18 months for marketing and communications agencies to enter the learning space.  Why?  Because they truly get how to improve user adoption.  As a result, we are seeing more campaign-based learning programmes emerge.  These blended learning programmes – spread over an extended timeframe – address both the rationale and motivation to learn, alongside the need for constant reinforcement of the key messages and pushing the learners to change the habits needed for success.  So work with your internal communications and marketing specialists on your next flagship programme.

Successful Learning Adoption and Engagement – Part One

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