Digital L&D pt 2: Resources Before Courses

As Director of Talent, Learning & OD at Disney, I learned that I wasn’t actually accountable for Learning. I was not charged with embedding, accelerating or transferring learning.

At a time of huge shifts in consumer, technological and wider societal shifts, I was responsible for preparing the workforce to operate in fundamentally different ways, and to operate with enhanced (if not different) skill-sets. I knew then that ‘courses’ wouldn’t cut it and that we needed new ways of influencing the way that people operated at Disney – and feel equipped to do what they were there to do.

These days, most of us will web-search at our moment-of-need as part of our day-to-day. Whether we seek answers, information, insights or know-how, search results will return us articles, blogs or videos that we hope will efficiently help us with the work we are doing, or the work we want to be doing.

But as great as Google, Bing, Yahoo or [add in your alternative search engine of choice] are, they neither deliver results that directly relate to our jobs or the contexts of our companies.

If you actually think about questions you might ask a peer, a colleague, or an internal ‘expert’ at your company. Chances are, your questions will end with (or something like): ‘here’:

  • How do we do expenses here?
  • How do successful people get things done here?
  • How do I become a manager at this company?
  • How do others deal with internal politics at Company X?

This is where purpose-built ‘resources’ can help.

In the context of L&D, ‘resources’ help distinct groups of employees to do the actual work they’re tasked with – in a way that is expected and that benefits the organisation – or prepares them for the work they could be doing at their company. Resources do this by packaging up what internal ‘experts’ know and do in a form that others can easily digest and then perform with greater competence and confidence.

It may seem fanciful or hugely time-consuming to create digital resources that appeal to distinct employee groups rather than e-learning for the masses. But it’s not. Technology today makes this very easy. And this approach (‘Resources-first’) also changes the conversation in the organisation from ‘What training do we need?’ to ‘How can we support our people to deliver the most important priorities for this company?’

What does a resource look like?

Resources could be just like articles, blogs and videos you might discover online, but with your organisation’s context and priorities addressed. Here’s an example…

There are a great many applications for resources. In fact, where you currently offer courses, you could find that resources offer efficient, on-demand support for workers when they face their challenges, and better equip them to be more immediately effective:

  • New starters could be equipped with valuable information before they even join your company – not with training but with resources. From Day One, resources can guide and influence the way they learn about every major facet of the company, the job they will be doing and the colleagues they’ll be working with. Resources can provide on-demand access to recent new starters to share what they know, in a practical, not hypothetical, sense.
  • Cultural assimilation is often left to the individual to work out. The nuances of culture (‘how things are done around here’) are often broad and complex. Resources that can be created in just a few minutes can be so powerful in guiding somebody from ‘naive’, through to ‘aware’ – and then to ‘savvy’ – in a few short steps. The benefit to the organisation will be that sophisticated and tacitly held understanding and navigation of the company culture becomes something that those making their way can recognise and attain, and then efficiently get things done.
  • Career management is rarely as simple as: do these things and you’ll be promoted in 6 months. Today, it takes an appreciation of the organisation’s context; the development of transferable skills; skillful self-promotion; and the demonstration of the requisite capabilities. With this in mind, providing resources with tools, hints and tips, alongside actual career stories can show well-trodden paths and unpack what it takes to actively manage a career journey.
  • Emerging leaders generally get frustrated by the lack of opportunities to learn about what they need to do to prepare for the role. It’s a Catch 22: you need to be a manager to attend the training but you can’t be a manager until you know what to do. Resources help to unpack what leaders do; what skills to develop; and how to demonstrate readiness. This can be light-touch but so impactful.
  • Managers could find resources that answer their questions; guide them in new and tricky situations; share lessons from more experienced managers; and provide tips for operating and influencing diverse stakeholders at their company. In fact, in the same way as websites such as Fast Company and Forbes provide valuable and practical insights, you can create a manager channel of resources that can potentially influence the way managers both learn about their roles and operate day-to-day.
  • Technical development often falls outside of the remit of L&D due the depth of understanding required to provide solutions. But that doesn’t mean that this development is necessarily owned by anybody else in the company. Often, organisational context (or external factors related to the organisation) becomes a key factor in technical proficiency. Resources can be developed in conjunction with Knowledge Experts who can plug knowledge and capability gaps for the benefit of whole departments. No Instructional Design or Course Development is required. Just the packaging of know-how to the extent you’d show somebody, if they were sat next to the expert.
  • The transition to Senior Leadership is perhaps the biggest leap somebody can make in their entire career. It can take years to become fully proficient in a new role at the very top level and yet formal development opportunities become more scarce – and perhaps less relevant – towards the top. Context, however is a critical component of successful leadership. ‘A brilliant leader in one situation’, according to McKinsey, ‘does not necessarily perform well in another’. So, helping to unpack what successful senior leaders ‘know’ and ‘do’ in order to influence, engage and make the right things happen can be critical to a new leader’s success. Resources that do this can provide timely support and help to bridge the canyon in new leaders’ experience and understanding.

Resources can be incredibly powerful tools to equip business people with organisational context, knowledge and know-how. By capitalising on what employees are already doing to support their working, online and in the workflow as challenges arise, your digital transformation in this direction will have fans from Day One, if you get it right. In addition, with the ability to quickly assess ‘needs’ and build resources, initiatives can be run the same day as identified and reach vast, dispersed employee groups almost immediately.

However, ‘resources-first’ doesn’t mean ‘resources-only’ and campaigns should consider a rounded approach to addressing employee ‘concerns’ as well as ‘capability’.

The next post in this series takes a look at how to run a ‘resources-first’ campaign.

David James is Chief Learning Strategist with Looop and a seasoned Talent Management, Learning & OD leader with nearly 20 years of experience in the field. Until recently, David was Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company’s EMEA region.

Looop help their clients all over the world to digitally transform their L&D and capitalise on how people really want to learn today with a platform that is renowned for its extraordinary levels of learner engagement.

See also:

Digital L&D pt 1: Beyond e-Learning

Digital L&D pt 3: How To Run A Resources-First Initiative

Digital L&D pt 4: What Happens To Classroom Training With ‘Resources-First’?

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