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E-learning in the ‘Multi-Generational’ workforce: 4 useful tips

Written by: Uri Roos July 16, 2012  

New media changed more than the way we work, but also the way we share and consume knowledge. The context in which we work is changing faster and faster, especially the online field. Employees need to be kept up to speed with these changes to guarantee work quality. The investment of continuous education of the work force is high. Every educational challenge and every department is different. How can one cope with these challenges as an organization?

The workforce of the 21st century has been called the ‘Multi-Generational Workforce’ because they consist of a mixture of baby boomers and generation Y. The latter differs from the first because they were brought up in the digital era. They are familiar with the internet and social media and easily swing a question into their online network. Research of Harvard shows that in 1986 when the first baby boomers started to work they had to rely for 75% on their own knowledge. The other 25% came from sources such as manuals. In 2009 people were relying on only 10% on their own knowledge and on 90% on information from third party sources such as social networks. New media did not merely change the way we work but primarily the way we share knowledge and learn. Therefore, companies need to make sure their workforce knows how to navigate the vast online environment.

In this sense, E-Learning is more than just a cost saving method but a strategic tool to avoid damaging the company’s reputation and to project a positive brand image.

Social Media and employees
One single negative post or tweet of an employee can have a devastating effect on the image of an organization. For this reason, many organizations have implemented policies which offer support and guidance on the usage of social media. This empowers employees to use social media when necessary while still avoiding the pitfalls that can generate negative PR fallouts. But merely setting up these policies will cut short of these goals. That is why, increasingly, organizations use E-learning to communicate these guidelines and rules in an interesting and interactive manner. There is another major advantage to use E-Learning versus traditional training methods: the costs. The cost of sending the entire workforce to courses is significant. E-learning provides a solution which can be accessed from the desktop at any time and be kept up to date with changes.

E-Learning is increasingly used for specific training purposes, such as communicating the social media guidelines, but it can also play a major role in the broader development and training of personnel. One of the key characteristics of well-designed E-learning solutions, is that they create a space where workers can be active and inquisitive in their learning. For example, the sustainability games of pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk, who has developed an E-learning experience around business ethics, is set up to lead employees to certain preferred conclusions. By allowing employees to personally experience that certain choices lead to the desired outcome, the organization can control specific behavior.

The Box partner agency Fortress Social Branding recently developed an E-Learning solution with the aim to make workers more aware of the social media etiquettes for famous Amsterdam exhibition center RAI. By playing the RAI Social Blueprint game, employees gain insight in how particular online behavior can lead to a certain result in an interactive way. This is much more engaging than if they would be presented with a list of rules on paper. Moreover, by adding a leaderboard with a scoring system based on time and answers, a competitive element is added which makes this E-learning solution fun.

What’s next?
On the modern work floor we encounter a mix of various generation groups. In the year 2012 knowledge is not the ultimate goal, because knowledge is just a few mouse clicks away. It is about how one is able to apply this knowledge and provide an added value. There are several ways to make learning more interesting for both young and older workers. Except for games, there are also simulations, e-coaching and online peer-to-peer learning. Below we provide some advice to accelerate learning within the organization:

1. Keep it simple
A game or simulation does not need to be one ready-made module. By adding several layers, the tool remains relevant and challenging for each employee. Keep it light by a combining video, images and text. Humor can be a good way to keep E-Learning fun, but beware not to go overboard. Not everyone has the same sense of humor. Encourage employees to share experiences and let them contribute to the improvement of e-learning, so that they experience the game as one coherent experience.

2. Work with real-life cases
Real-life cases are recognizable and will therefore be motivating. Employees should be encouraged to collaborate and share knowledge and ideas. This can be reached by integrating a familiar environment. Many employees love to learn if this will assist them to execute their daily work.

3. Mirror reality
Learning is most effective when simulations are as closely related to reality as possible. Amsterdam RAI has designed their game as if the employee is actually working on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. While playing the game, the employee is challenged and stimulated to make certain choices. These are the most concrete experiences one can gain.

4. Make progress visible
People must be motivated to continue to learn. It is important that one can measure their progress in adopting new ideas, knowledge and behavioral changes. By acknowledging progress, the incentive to continue grows. By creating a competition element, one adds value. The employee can measure the success of the decisions made in the game when they lead to a comparable and competitive result.

In many organizations, there is much to improve in terms of development and training. While everyone knows that knowledge, development and involvement can make all the difference for a company to increase performance. Developing an E-learning tool such as a game alone is not enough. A good tool is only the first step. The implementation is equally important and should be balanced to reflect other corporate communications, so they reinforce each other. Let’s get to work!

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