Digital transformation in L&D: Challenges, solutions, and the future

A wavy black digital landscape.

It comes as no surprise that over recent years digital transformation has been the topic of conversation. You can’t escape it. Digital transformation is the future, and the future is now.

The pandemic effectively forced almost every business through a digital transition, whether they were ready to embrace it or not. While many companies had it on their radar as something to progress into eventually, COVID-19 catapulted everyone headfirst into the digital world.

Some were more ready than others, but because of the speed and severity of the shift, most didn’t find the transformation an easy one. With no time to plan and a lack of expertise in digital execution, a lot of businesses had to take a leap of faith into digital working.

 Here’s what they found.

Digital transformation challenges

Any change poses challenges, and digital transformation is no exception. However, COVID-19 brought a specific subset of challenges that changed the way we all do business. Few sectors were left wholly untouched, but those who were affected experienced a variety of impacts.

1. Learners

Modern learners have changed. The days of cramming 30+ people into a training room to talk at them for a couple of hours are gone. Not only that, but the circumstances in which participants are coming to learn have also transformed. They’re in new environments, removed from their coach, juggling a myriad of professional and personal responsibilities, and dealing with the stress of the times.

Now L&D professionals must turn the spotlight away from themselves and ask some serious questions.

Namely: What do these modern learners need? And, how can we help them?

2. Engagement

A change in training methods was inevitable in the wake of the pandemic.

We’ve pretty much abandoned face-to-face and classroom training altogether. And this move has left many L&D professionals wondering how to bring the benefits of classroom training into the virtual world.

The ability to hold discussions, engage participants in group activities and use close conversational tones is vital for learning transfer. However, without the ability to meet physically, interaction is easily lost.

The question is, how can L&D professionals keep their learners engaged online?

3. Quality

Finding a solution that kept the quality of training high was critical. After all, nobody wants to deliver snooze-worthy training. This left trainers and coaches with a conundrum; they needed to find a training solution that allowed them to effectively deliver learning outcomes, but quickly, and on a budget…

Digital transformation solutions

So, how do we overcome these challenges?

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Many companies abandoned their long-term training plan in favour of fast and loose solutions. Perhaps not the wisest thing to do, but ultimately, businesses that weren’t prepared didn’t have much choice.

Here are a few methods L&D departments used to manage their rapid digital transformation:

1. Resources

Thanks to the internet, there’s a wealth of information and training material available at our fingertips anytime, anywhere.

Interestingly (and innovatively), many L&D professionals stopped thinking like trainers. Instead, they thought about how they might learn things as individuals. And what do you do when you want to learn something new? You use the internet.

A lot of companies are doing the exact same thing. They’re turning to TED Talks, YouTube videos, articles, blogs, and more to meet the learning needs of their people.

2. Tools and tech

Before COVID-19, a lot of companies were reluctant to jump into the digital world with both feet. Mainly because they weren’t convinced of what they could achieve with digital technology.

But, when the pandemic hit, they didn’t have any other options. As a result, they quickly opened their eyes and began to explore the broad range of tools they could use to take their workplace digital.

Despite initial unease, most have delighted in discovering new technological platforms and tools that exceeded their expectations.

3. Encourage positive mindsets

Moving to digital requires quite the shift in mindset. It’s not easy to go from thinking, “I can’t do that virtually” to embracing totally new approaches to work. It may have been difficult for some, but the bottom line is that there wasn’t really a choice. The pandemic forced everyone’s hands, and the old ways were no longer an option.

To be fair, it blindsided almost everyone and forced us all to think in the here and now. Short-term solutions and survival were the order of the day, as many businesses struggled to keep their heads above water.

So that brings us to the next section. What’s next? What does the future look like?

The future of L&D

With everything that’s happened, it’s fair to assume that digital learning is the future. But the changes aren’t just limited to the way we learn. Lots of things probably won’t ever be the same again, for good or ill.

For example, with remote working, where your employees live becomes less of an issue. Also, it turns out staff can be just as productive when working from home, and overall virtual training and onboarding has been well received.

It looks like we’ve found a new way forward. And with it, L&D professionals will enjoy a wider choice when planning for the future. That said, when trying to pull these long-term strategic plans together, it pays to be aware of the following points.

1. Be realistic

Be honest about what you’re trying to achieve. Assess what it is you need and what resources you have to achieve it. It’s not always about adopting the next shiny, new thing (as much as you might want to).

It’s all about picking the way forward that meets your needs. What other companies are doing or not doing is irrelevant. Everyone is on a different journey, with their own requirements. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ L&D journey.

2. Be flexible

Digital transformation gives you a unique opportunity to experiment, but just trying stuff and hoping for the best isn’t a good plan. Instead, test your approaches like a scientist. Stay flexible and observe what is and isn’t working. Then, keep the good stuff and throw away the bad. Avoid a rigid mindset at all costs

3. Digital doesn’t mean more tech

Digital and technology are not the same things. They might sound similar, but they’re anything but. The best solution to your digital problem isn’t always more technology. You can make things worse if you try to force a new piece of tech into your business to solve a problem, and it’s not the right solution.

4. Learning is king

You can get everything else right, but if your people don’t buy into your learning plan, you’re on a highway to nowhere. When faced with change and challenges, you can’t expect your team to blindly follow your new way of working just because you say so. Therefore, it’s your job to demonstrate why learning matters and why it’s something to develop and invest in.

Final thoughts

So there you have it. The world has gone through a digital transformation itself in so many ways over the last few months, and in all the ways that matter it is here to stay.

If you need help with your digital learning journey, get in touch. We’d be delighted to help.

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