Learning and development (L&D) departments are finally adapting to the way we all consume content and media. As a result, training is quickly moving away from outdated in-person classes and their online equivalent, which have long been the standard for employee training.
Instead, modern managers increasingly rely on technologies that allow them to directly connect with their teams and deliver pinpointed training straight to employees’ personal devices. This works particularly well for deskless workers but also benefits office workers who are used to relying on their smartphones outside of work. The format of this training has changed as well, making it more engaging and relevant to workers who often had to sit through endless hours of general training of which they retained very little.
The reasons behind this rapid shift lie deeper than just practicality or convenience.
Deskless workers represent 80% of the global workforce but lag office workers when it comes to accessing digital tools for work, including L&D. That’s because these programs are initially designed for desktop computers and ignored the tiny computer in everyone’s pocket: smartphones.
In addition, the global workforce is getting younger, and so are the managers at every level of your organization. As of 2017, over one-third of all workers are Millennials, and Gen Z is also beginning to enter the workforce. These two generations, made up of digital natives with a much more collaborative mindset, will define the character of the workplaces of the future and are already increasingly running the show.
According to a 2020 Zapier report, 62% of Millennial employees and nearly 50% of Gen Z employees say they have direct reports. People often love to complain about the fact that Millennials and Gen Z are always on their phones and have shortened attention spans, and many cases, this is true.
As a L&D leader, you’re competing with an entire world of fun and engaging content for the attention of your workers, and formal, classroom-delivered training is simply not relevant anymore. And this is true whether your employees are sitting at a desk, working at a warehouse or serving customers on a retail floor.
Below are some of the best practices we’ve observed among thousands of companies when it comes to employee training. As you can see, these lessons apply to both deskless workers and office workers.
Break Training into Bite-sized Bits
One of our clients, a major clothing retailer, used to send its staff to a specially built training center a few times a year for a full day of training. Not only is this massively expensive — you’re taking your entire staff away from the workplace for an entire day — this type of training is rarely effective. And people often forget 50% of what they’ve learned after just one day.
Instead, break your training into bite-sized chunks that your employees can consume in their own time when they have the necessary attention span. Take that one-hour session about new safety protocols and turn it into a number of five-minute clips that people can watch on their mobile devices while waiting in line at the doctor’s or while picking up their children from school.
Not only do you ensure that your employees can actually focus on a single topic, you only show them you respect their time and productivity.
Training in the Time of Need
Having the ability to reach your employees on their mobile devices is an incredibly powerful tool in your L&D toolbox. Instead of updating your workers once every few months and overwhelming them with information, prepare a quick training session whenever you have new information to relay.
It’s time to think of employee training as more than just sexual harassment prevention and policy updates. Use the fact that you can reach your entire staff in an instant to your advantage to quickly disperse critical and helpful information. Maybe you added a new product to your line and want to show your employees how to stock it, or you implemented an updated safety protocol for your field workers.
Record a short video explaining the new information and send it off with the click of a button. This transforms training from a quarterly occurrence to a fluid and constant process.
Turn Employees into Active Participants
Don’t make the mistake of simply moving the classroom online — that’s not progress. After each bite-sized training session, use a mini game like a quiz to test your employees’ knowledge.
Gamification in learning is a powerful tool to improve engagement, information retention and participant satisfaction. More than that, it also helps you gain valuable data about your course, such as participation and completion rates and how well the information was relayed. Test again after a few weeks to see if the lesson stuck and adjust your training accordingly.
Use Knowledge Sharing to Build a Collaborative Culture
More likely than not, you already have a wealth of knowledge within your company that is just waiting to be shared. Instead of outsourcing your training lessons to a company or using paid actors, make use of the talent inside your company. Peer-to-peer training has been shown to be an incredible tool for knowledge sharing.
Think about it: Who would your employees trust more to talk about a new safety protocol — Greg from the loading dock or an obviously paid actor they don’t know? In addition, giving your employees the chance to teach what they know and be seen as experts in their field can make them feel valued in the workplace.
Use your top regional salespeople to teach others what they know, or let an employee share a method they found to speed up a certain process. Show your employees that their knowledge is deeply appreciated and that you support a culture where knowledge is shared to consistently improve the company.
Not All Training is Right for Everyone
Employee training is not a one-size-fits-all solution. While some of your employees might learn best with short videos, others might prefer a podcast format or written text.
To make training as effective as possible, you need to understand what works best for whom and for which type of information you’re hoping to convey. Analyze your worker’s skills and knowledge levels and adapt their training path accordingly. The data you gain from your training can help you discover hidden talents and direct people into new career paths where their skills can be put to better use.
Having a training system that allows you to create topic-specific training also allows you to make specific lessons available to learners in related job roles instead of overwhelming everyone with information they might never need on the job.
New training technologies and formats are more than just a sign of their time. They are deeply rooted in this generational handover. As the way that we consume and relate to content changes, so does the way we learn. As a L&D leader, you have a choice to make. Will you go with the times and create opportunities for future growth and expansion or stick with your old ways and be left behind?