Learning and development professionals around the world stand in front of the biggest shift in their profession – the time to move towards virtual, hybrid and digital learning is now. When we say virtual learning, it doesn’t mean “let’s build some e-learning on a digital platform”. We mean creating high-impact, end-to-end learning experiences, connected with the real time needs of your people in the company.
What do you do when you want to seek out how to bake a great pumpkin pie for Halloween? You search the internet for recipes, and you watch someone who is more experienced bake it through a streaming service, offering you a step-by-step guide to become the star chef of your Halloween night. We are learning hacks for everyday activities from TikTok and YouTube, such as folding clothes, removing pomegranate seeds or changing windshield wipers.
This just-in-time micro-learning is here to stay, and that’s one part of creating modern learning and sharing opportunities for your employees and managers. For example, how can you design informative learning material to managers where and when they need it? For example, instead of sending newly appointed managers on a 3-day course for “beginner leaders”, why don’t we build our manager processes in such a way that they offer the help and assistance right there and then, when the manager is needing the tutorial or doing something for the first time?
Are you facing your first recruitment? Great, here’s a video to onboard you onto our way of recruiting, including our recommendations for succeeding. First performance discussion with a team member? Great, here’s a couple of videos for you to watch, and then the contacts for a coach who you can rehearse with, building your confidence to enter into the real conversation.
Building these micro-learning opportunities is a multiplier of organizational learning and performance. But not all learning can be done through short tutorials and instructions.
What if there’s something we must learn that requires more than the two-minute span of focus? What if we want to impact a whole team or organization positively and help them understand a whole new mindset, more complex concepts and then how to apply it in their own work?
Did you know, there is no such thing as unlearning (without brain injury). We can’t erase a neural pathway. We can only invite people to start creating new neural pathways, and strengthen them until they are stronger than the previous pathway. That leads to change.
Agile HR Community’s Agile HR Certified practitioner program is impacting the behaviour and mindset of HR professionals, on scale. While our founder is trained in applied neuroscience, here’s how we’ve built the program with a brain friendly learning perspective, fully virtual and digital. We’re glad if you pick up some great, neuroscience based tips for building impactful learning programs here:
Our participants are kept focused throughout our virtual learning sessions through interaction and through the possibility of being requested to comment or share an insight at any time during class. This keeps people out of their emails, and reducing the urge to check in on other digital distractions.
Our sessions are a max of 1.5 hours in one go, and a training session includes at least 5-8 different sections, keeping it fresh and interesting. We visualize a lot in the live learning sessions using pictures, Miro boards, and infographics. It’s easy for the brain to keep focused, when there’s enough structure combined with variation and novelty.
Generation means that we generate new neural pathways that can connect to the existing ones in your brain. What we do in our programs is help you to explicitly understand your current way of thinking. We then connect new learning to the existing mental models, and invite you to challenge your current beliefs in a safe way. We’re also welcoming a healthy criticism of what is applicable in your own world. This way we’re not offering something new, before you have accepted and defined your current thinking patterns. We’re not selling or pushing new ideas. We’re offering a safe place for you to observe, digest and curiously examine new ideas and concepts, practices and methods as a learner. You are making the final call if something makes sense to you or not anyways. We can’t change your mind, and that’s not what we are here to do. We trust you to learn what you are ready to digest and take in.
There’s amazing evidence about the stickiness of learning when emotions are involved. That connects to our reward and threat pathways in our brain. A negative anecdote or warning is easily understood. A positive surprise with some reflection leads to strong memories. In our program we build in events and interaction where emotions are felt, acknowledged and shared i.e. through short interactions where people can share their emotions and hear from others.
Our brain loves new things. Novelty. Our brain gets rewarded by short intervals and finishing items, because we can then start a new item, which is the biggest reward for our brain. In our program we offer the learning in bite-size sections, with a continuous flow. There’s a lot of content to digest, on the verge of “information overload”, but we’re right on the limit where 95-98% of our learners are still feeling in control and able to handle it. We’re riding on the brain’s rewarding mechanism of finishing parts and ticking them off.
According to neuroscience research spacing out the learning improves how we consolidate memory and encode information into the long-term memory. Our training builds on around 11 sessions of live interaction, around 70 bite-size digital learning resources, and 4 certification application exercises. There is enough time in between the bites, to help the brain hard code the learning. Did you know why there’s a saying “sleeping on it”? Well, that’s when the brain cleans up the unnecessary memories and information and encodes what we need to remember into a better long-term repository. Kind of saving the information for the day.
When encoding new information and skills, repetition is a key factor to also enhance the retrieval of the newly built skill (or thinking pattern) from our long-term memory. When repeating something through somewhat different perspectives, we’re building a coherent picture of not just an independent detail, but a full picture of the connections, dependencies and how it fits in holistically. Our Agile HR training program includes just enough repetition to build stronger memory retrieval, but not too much to bore out people.
Social & Experience
There’s nothing as powerful for learning as social interaction for embedding the information through stories, anecdotes, emotions, and surprises. This is multiplying the learning in the room. If you can, you should build in social elements throughout your programs. In our program we build in short breakout room discussions, group work, exercises and a research task with the aim of presenting findings to each other. We learn through simulations and games, leading to a fun way of experiencing the “theory” right there and then the first time around. The people who join our public classes tend to feel a bit blue when leaving their weekly meetings with the learning mates. They have created social bonds and a feeling of belonging.
What leads to an emotion? Novelty. When our brain encounters something unexpected. When we are experiencing cognitive dissonance (this is when our current mindset/values are not in line with what we are learning about). If we can make people feel safe to have surprises and deal with cognitive dissonance throughout our programs we’re doing brilliantly! In our program we release learning pathways one after each other to the learner. Every sprint is new. We build in learning through a fast-paced exercise and another game, where the outcome is unknown, but the learning comes from the AHA’s after the game. We also focus on keeping people in a safe place to share their questions or conflicts of thoughts in a non-judgemental way.
Honest professional feedback with a good intent of really wanting to help you improve. As adults we rarely get professional and honest, genuinely supportive feedback, where we can in a trusting environment also receive constructive feedback. We’ve built in plenty of feedback discussions and sharing between participants and a certification process that builds on showing evidence of your application skills. This evidence is assessed, and you’ll get proper feedback pointing out where your Agile approach is excellent and where the biggest gaps lie.
Support and get people trying out tools immediately in real life, with a possibility for discussing and getting feedback on how it went (continuous improvement). The “first push” to take things into practice is super important for recurring use of valuable tools, methods or practices in real life. We build this in through sharing of application ideas, sharing of experiences and applying what is learned in each sprint onto a case example. We also learn from researching others’ real-world application.
Despite talking about trendy words such as “Agile learning”, we haven’t changed a lot as human beings, though. Our brains haven’t changed much, so these neuroscience-based tips are valuable whatever learning program you are designing. These are specifically helpful when designing excellent remote and hybrid workplace learning programs.
We have a lot of HR professionals who are describing our Agile HR Certified Practitioner learning journey as truly having changed their lives. They tell us their behaviour, thinking patterns and behaviour have drastically shifted, and that they can’t, and won’t go back to where they started off. To us, this means that we’ve been able to build a brain friendly learning path, that leads to lasting and sustainable behavioural change.
After all, it’s just about inducing and strengthening new neural pathways in our brains. We’re helping our participants create and enhance these new pathways, creating sticky new behaviours that are then impacting their work, life, leadership and customer interaction.
We’re pleased if we could share some valuable tips for remote and digital learning design here.