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Dear Digital: It’s not you, it’s me

For many organizations that want to migrate to a digital leadership development strategy, making the move is like breaking up with a longtime love. You know the relationship has run its course, the romance is gone, and you aren’t learning anything new, but a comfort is there that you can’t quite let go of. And so you stay.

But it’s time. It’s time to take the bold leap to try something new and believe that it will be successful. It’s time to at least dip your toe into a digital learning experience and see how warm and inviting the water can be. It’s time to look at what you’ve put up as obstacles to digital and discover if they are truly obstacles, or just excuses that keep you in a place of comfort.

Let’s debunk the top five challenges from those who are leery of jumping into the digital leadership pool:

  • Our people are just used to learning this way. It’s what they know. Yes and no. While engaging in a digital learning experience at work may be new for many, your learners already exist in a digital world. Across all generations, watching short videos, reading quick articles, and viewing infographics on a computer or phone are the norm. Regardless of generation, your people are already there and increasingly expecting the information and education they receive to be delivered anywhere, anytime, through any device.
  • We can’t teach leadership skills without people. Yes. True. Leaders lead human beings, at least for now, so figuring out how to interact with human beings is important. What’s also true is that those people are accessible in a digital experience. Fifty-one percent of learners in GP Strategies’ Voice of the Learner Survey indicated they prefer to learn with a peer, mentor, or friend who teaches them new skills and knowledge. It is possible to create community, get input, and feel supported by others even if you are not in the same room with them. Through the thoughtful use of discussion boards, collaboration platforms, video, and same time sessions, you can create a network of supportive colleagues your learners will rely upon, but not only during a learning experience. These colleagues will become a part of your learners’ network of support beyond a one-time learning experience.
  • I don’t think they will really do it on their own. They will – if they have the motivation. Learners don’t lean in to an in-person learning experience because they are physically located together; they lean in when the content is relevant, they see something that is in it for them, and they feel the presence of their colleagues and a facilitator who supports them. When learners are presented with highly relevant content served up digitally, they click. When that information or education helps them personally, they watch. And when they are participating with others who hold them accountable for their contributions and help them along the way, they stay. You can be present in ILT and mentally “check out.” Seventy-three percent of learners we surveyed said personal development is what most motivates them to learn at work. It’s not the physical nature of training that causes learners to learn; it’s the relevancy, the WIFMs, and input of others that create the motivation.
  • We’ve done eLearning before. If we do it this way, our learners will click on the video and go do something else. Let’s face it: we’ve all done that. But that’s not what we are talking about here. Yes, there are videos and podcasts that you can click on and then multi-task. But when you are then prompted to share your insight about that video or apply something you heard in the podcast, you’re going to need the information that you glossed over while multi-tasking. By constructing an experience that draws the learner in and asks them to share their insights, apply what they’ve learned, and tell others how it went, we create a sense of accountability in our learners. This accountability helps drive motivation, engagement, and participation in digital leadership.
  • Our managers need to be connected to what their people are doing. Agree completely – without them, you will have limited success. The role of the manager in supporting learners remains a critical success factor. Seventy percent of individuals surveyed in GP Strategies’ research Tomorrow’s Leaders, Today indicated that mentoring was a development opportunity that would increase their effectiveness, followed by sixty percent who named coaching as desirable. Leaders want their manager to be a part of helping them learn and grow and want that feedback in real time. Manager awareness of what their learners will be experiencing is critical, but even more important is manager support in helping their people apply what they’ve learned on the job. By providing access to the virtual classroom, managers can share their stories, including how they’ve dealt with their own leadership challenges, in a way that helps them connect with their people and increase the relevancy of the learning. The manager’s role in supporting their leaders remains pivotal.

If you’re waiting to embrace a digital leadership experience until next year, consider this. Fifty-seven percent of learners want to be able to access their learning anywhere, anytime, through any device. Capture their attention where they live and breathe – in a world of online communities with engaging and snackable bites of learning. Get them to engage wherever they are with learners across the globe in a digital environment. They are already there, and you’re missing a big opportunity if you don’t keep pace with them.

Perhaps, then, there is but one insurmountable obstacle in migrating to a digital leadership journey. And it’s one I’ve heard before – my learners like the free lunch and afternoon cookies. For this obstacle, well, let me just say, yeah – I got nothing.


About the Authors

Leah Clark
Leah Clark is a leadership development professional with over 28 years of experience in her field. She has a unique perspective on the mindsets and skillset that are critical to leadership success and brings that perspective to her coaching and consulting. Leah’s clients benefit from her collaborative approach to crafting a well-connected and thoughtful leadership development strategy. Her company, LeaderConnect, makes meaningful connections for leaders and leadership development professionals around the issues that matter most.

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