Empowering your Learners with On-Demand Training
One of the toughest challenges in commercial logistics is solving the “last mile” problem. You can fly a package halfway around the world, efficiently and cheaply, to within a few miles of its final destination. But what about that last bit? To get the package where it needs to be, another system has to take over and actually deliver the goods to the customer’s door, filling a critical gap in the supply chain.
There’s a similar challenge in corporate training. If your company implements a comprehensive learning and development program, it will do wonders for your employees. They’ll come away with new skills and an extensive knowledge base. The whole process will have been highly efficient due to the economy of scale. But what happens later, when they’re on the job and encounter their first actual need for the training? There’s a gap here, too: the gap between the acquired skill set and its application.
On-Demand Content in our Daily Lives
This is where performance support, also known as on-demand learning, steps in. Performance support is a training innovation that puts skill development in the hands of learners when and where they need it. You could say it’s the “last mile” of a training program.
Think about the last time you had to fix something around the house, like a leaky valve on your water heater. If this happened anytime in the past five years, chances are you looked up the problem on your smartphone, brought the phone to the problem location, watched a video showing you exactly what to do, and fixed the problem, all within the time it would have taken you to find a reputable repair service.
Now, imagine you’re a new employee in a metal fabrication plant, and one of your duties is to monitor a pipe bending machine. When a defective section of pipe comes through the machine, what do you do? This was probably covered in your employee onboarding last month—or was it? If you have access to a performance support platform, you would have been able to review the protocol for this workstation in the morning right before starting the machine up. And with a microlearning platform on your mobile device, you could even pause the machine for a moment to double-check your recall of the knowledge.
These two situations are pretty similar. There’s an immediate problem due to a lack of procedural knowledge, and a solution should be easily accessible. Unfortunately, on-demand content isn’t as common in corporate settings as it is in daily life with recreational technology.
Building your Training Strategy
It’s clear that on-demand learning is extremely valuable and that it fills a critical gap in just about every learning system or business process. But it needs to follow a coherent strategy to be effective. When you’re designing or selecting a platform for your business, make sure to:
- Break information into small, actionable chunks – On-demand learning is often treated as a reference guide. Learners will use it as a set of building blocks to create their own solutions.
- Tie information directly to specific outcomes – Get to the point, and don’t make the learner waste their time. When you have a flat tire, you don’t need to review the principles of leverage—you need to find out how to loosen the lug nuts and raise the jack.
- Design for mobile devices – Your assets must appear when and where they’re needed. Quite often, that’s in the field. Sometimes, they’re also needed offline—so learners should be able to download assets to their mobile devices.
- Enable social learning – On-demand training empowers employees to make their own decisions on content consumption. Sometimes, though, the training can still fail to answer questions. If a learner can message their colleagues or access a discussion board, they’ll be able to handle just about anything that comes their way.
- Access through an easily searchable LMS or index – If you want your learners to choose what content they need, then support your content with some back-end content management functions. You may need a learning portal or LMS to enable searchable directories of PDF, SOPs, videos, etc.
- Address known or expected skill gaps – Before you fix a car, you need to identify the problem so you can gather the right tools. It’s the same with training: don’t waste time making courses that won’t be used. Identify everything learners might need, then design to those learning objectives.
On-demand learning is not an evolution of traditional employee training. Rather, it’s a training content delivery strategy that gets us through the “last mile” of the training-to-performance journey. The technology enabling it couldn’t have been imagined 20 years ago and is improving by leaps and bounds every year. It’s going to be exciting to see what comes next. Stay tuned.