Learning has long been viewed through the lens of a classroom setting — online or in-person — with a standardized test to complete the process.
While the bones of that structure remain intact, technology and innovation are changing the delivery mechanism. Finding ways to personalize the experience for learners while offering a hybrid model of online and in-person is the goal, said Laura Flangos, director of education and certifications at WorldatWork.
WorldatWork, which offers various certifications in compensation and benefits, has in recent years heightened its focus on the delivery of content through e-learning and virtual platforms. The process of providing more e-learning experiences quickly transitioned from add-on to necessity because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
“It accelerated us moving products that had traditionally been in the classroom,” Flangos said.
For instance, WorldatWork’s immersion programs — Compensation Immersion Program and Executive Compensation Immersion Program — are designed to be an engaging, in-person experience for learners.
“There was actually resistance in the past to do anything other than in-person with those, so that was a huge shift that we had to do because we already had people registered for those classes when COVID happened,” Flangos said. “That was probably the biggest shift and just getting corporate partners and global partners set up to do global delivery, because many of them were not equipped for that.”
Kristen Fyfe-Mills, director of marketing and strategic communications at the Association for Talent Development, emphasized that it’s important for organizations to assess whether the training or learning experience is designed to advance the goals of both the individual and the business.
“This happens with needs assessments, stakeholder input, learner-centric design and a consideration of the right modality for delivering the training,” Fyfe-Mills said. “Measurement and evaluation are critical, and here we are looking beyond attendance at a course to behavior change and business impact.”
Advances in technology also allow for more flexibility in training employees. A traditional training program might be structured to last six weeks at the same time each day(s) of the week. This requires an employee to adapt their workflow around the training instead of vice versa. The concept of “meeting employees where they are” is considered a best practice in the field and it would behoove organizations to employ that strategy when possible.
“We know the modern learner is pressed for time, over- whelmed and often distracted. Blended learning solutions, micro-learning events, asynchronous/learn-at-your-own-pace training came into its own this year and we expect to see that continue,” Fyfe-Mills said. “E-learning is here to stay, and companies will continue to refine their processes to ensure employee development is meaningful and effective.”
Having the internet at your disposal and opting not to utilize it is like using your hands when drinking water — sure, it works, but there’s a more efficient way to quench your thirst. Thus, the birth of online learning. However, the transition to online learning delivery isn’t quite as seamless as running water into a cup — there’s nuance and engagement that can get lost through a computer screen.
Flangos said part of the swift transition to online learning in 2020 involved teaching course instructors and moderators new techniques for online classes while still delivering the same course material.
“The biggest struggle instructors face is getting people to engage and to ask questions and to feel involved in the discussion — for some reason it’s much easier to do that in person,” Flangos said.
"The biggest struggle instructors face is getting people to engage
and to ask questions and to feel involved in the discussion — for some reason
it’s much easier to do that in person.”
“Learners are also more likely to network with each other during breaks and even after class. Virtually it feels kind of forced — it’s just difficult to get people to do that in a virtual environment. So, there’s strategies for icebreakers and ways you can ask questions and call on people whereas in a classroom you wouldn’t have to worry about it as much.”
Matt Whiat, co-founding partner at Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute, is a huge proponent of polling during virtual classroom settings. Whiat notes that it’s important to start the polling with innocuous questions such as, “what kind of music did you grow up listening to?” This type of question, Whiat says, provides people with a comfort level that is more conducive to participation when the real learning begins.
Additionally, Whiat recommends breakout rooms in the virtual environment, which he says he uses regularly to help organizations strategize.
“It’s putting people into small group discussions after large- group discussions so they can have a conversation for 15 minutes, and they can be putting what they’re learning into (polling technology),” Whiat said. “Then I bring them back together in the main group, everyone sees what they were talking about, and each person got to speak, versus sitting and listening to something like a podcast.”
There should also be options for someone to choose how they absorb the information. While some learners might prefer an instructor-led class, others might favor an individual experience so they can progress through the content at their own pace.
“By providing opportunities for all types of learners, we feel that our members will be able to choose the method that best suits their needs,” said Zachary Stahmer, an education design manager at WorldatWork. Stahmer noted that based on customer feedback, WorldatWork has increased the number of online courses that places everyone in a virtual classroom with a live instructor.
The design of an instructor-led class differs from that of an individual program where the course material must be presented in a way that both appeases the eyes and the mind to promote peak interaction.
“Some the latest things we are working on is how to make the information more interactive and interesting,” Stahmer said. “We are looking at how to best organize the material so that people aren’t overwhelmed with the large amount of information in each course. Whether it is completely self-paced, or instructor led, the course materials need to be engaging and hands-on.”
Graphic design is a key aspect in creating that interactive experience for the user. For WorldatWork, the process involves building out the instructional design, determining the platform for delivery and then implementing different graphic design elements to enhance the product.
Michael Gentile, senior graphic designer for the education design team at WorldatWork, is tasked with finding the right elements to supplement the course material. Gentile said advancements in interactivity, motion graphics and video are leading to an overall better experience for learners.
“These are the exciting design elements we are currently implementing with all our new course materials. It puts us into today’s trends as well as creates room for us to lead by example in our specific educational arena of total rewards,” Gentile said. “That’s why it is so important for our instructional designers and graphic designers to be cohesive in the design process.”
"These are the exciting design elements we are currently implementing with all our new course materials.
It puts us into today’s trends as well as creates room for us to lead by example
in our specific educational arena of total rewards.”
Training Within an Organization
While WorldatWork’s education and training efforts are geared toward members looking to advance in their total rewards careers, every organization has incentive to provide training opportunities for their own employees.
Employers that reskill and upskill their workforce properly not only save money — outside hiring costs more than filling positions internally — they also engender goodwill among their employee base, which improves retention rates. To do so successfully, however, requires a personalized approach, which means going beyond the job title, experience level or past credentials, said Marta Turba, vice president of content at WorldatWork.
“The organizations that seek to understand the individual — including past experiences, career aspirations, personal passions and perhaps even current job pain points — will be more successful in developing and retaining their valued talent,” Turba said.
“Leverage the power of people analytics to assess needs and prescribe solutions. Those organizations that truly understand what employees have done before joining the organization, currently do in their role/job, could do with existing or strengthened skills, and want to do will be able to elevate the learning experiences and ultimately help build an engaged workforce with the right skills, more resilience and higher levels of adaptability.”
And while the organization will ultimately benefit from this reskilling/upskilling process, there should be a fundamental shift to become learner-centric instead of organization-centric, where often the sole focus is on meeting business objectives.
As Turba noted, organizations at the forefront of training are deploying people analytics to better equip their employees’ upskilling efforts. The idea of career road mapping on an individual basis has gained steam in recent years because it enforces a company’s investment in their own talent.
“Career mapping is a powerful tool for engaging employees,” said Leah Reynolds, principal, engagement, at Buck, an HR and benefits consulting, technology and administration services firm. “If an employee feels that the organization is invested in understanding their specific career goals and development needs — and supporting them in closing their skill gaps — their motivation, productivity level and commitment to the organization will increase.”
Best Practices in Training and Trends to Follow
When discussing the “latest and greatest” in terms of education, training and development, most of the trends focus on advancements in video graphics and virtual reality. Flangos noted the concept of gamification in training, which progresses a learner through a series of games to increase engagement and bring life to a concept that might otherwise be boring if a person were asked to retain the info by simply reading it.
Another development in the space is the idea of “micro-credentialling,” which allows learners to earn a credential based on a skill that could be deemed useful in their line of work. For instance, one small component of WorldatWork’s Certified Compensation Professional (CCP) program is market pricing.
A learner showing mastery of that skill would still have much more to undertake to earn their CCP certification, but with micro-credentialling available they might determine a proficiency in just the one component is adequate.
“It’s a matter of pulling out those specific skillsets that people need.
It goes back to the concept of getting people the information they need it when they need it.
If we were to break our content up into this micro-credentialling system it would be
much easier for them to pick and choose which ones they feel they need.”
“It’s a matter of pulling out those specific skillsets that people need. It goes back to the concept of getting people the information they need it when they need it,” Flangos said. “If we were to break our content up into this micro-credentialling system it would be much easier for them to pick and choose which ones they feel they need.”
Another trend on the rise is peer-to- peer learning programs, Turba said. These programs allow employees to share industry knowledge with their co-workers, which can also lead to a better all-around organizational culture.
“These programs deliver mutual benefit: The learner gains knowledge and the presenter is acknowledged for their expertise and contribution beyond a defined role,” Turba said. “The end result is more positive influence internally, stronger cross-team relationships and greater productivity at all levels.”