Seven out of 10 UK organisations have increased their use of digital and online learning and development solutions over the past year, according to research by the CIPD. Despite this pragmatic response to Covid and its upheavals, many companies may be struggling to organise such expanded learning methods and fully embed them into employees’ routines to help them retain their new knowledge and apply it in their daily role.

Delivering effective learning content for employees has become a more complex task, given seismic changes in the workplace. Even before the pandemic upended traditional working models, the Internet had fired people’s desire for more learning and discovery ‘on-demand’ to suit their individual needs.

Meanwhile, working methods have become ever more fluid and lacking in traditional structures in a digital age. And L&D programmes must recognise the needs, skills, and different learning expectations of five different generations – traditionalists, baby boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z – as well as changing cultural norms in a diversifying UK population.

As a result, the modern workplace has more distractions and is a more complex environment for people to acquire and perfect skills and knowledge. In a revealing study by the Resolution Foundation, nearly half (45 per cent) of UK employees said that they work at a very high speed for most of the time. Forced to work remotely for 18 months, many line managers routinely report working longer hours and feeling excluded from senior management and teams alike.

Practical help

In these testing environments, effective L&D programmes need practical ways to deliver and then reinforce key learning points. Equally importantly, they must recognise the daily pressures on line managers handling bigger workloads while retaining responsibility for colleagues’ growth and development.

So what are the practical ways that line managers can ensure that learning messages are being absorbed and retained by their colleagues? How can new knowledge and skills acquisition be reinforced as we work from home or in hybrid environments where we have more limited contact with colleagues than before?

To rev up your digital (and face-to-face) learning sessions and while boosting colleagues’ retention of core messages, organisations need to take these five practical steps:

  •  Keep learning bite-sized: organise L&D programmes that only give employees small amounts of knowledge in repeated sessions – as quick rule of thumb, three short sessions are proven to be better than a longer, more complicated one
  •  Help your managers out – a true learning organisation needs to provide practical support to its line managers, by ensuring they deliver short, focused L&D sessions, based on tailored learning materials that don’t take too much time to deliver. This real-world, ‘little and often’ approach is far better than hard-pressed line managers having to prepare food and run lengthy learning sessions
  • Build repetitive learning into your workplace – encourage your employees to keep returning to their learning assets and practise new skills day by day. Practical help is at hand with today’s collaboration and communications platforms: they enable line managers and HR professionals to embed learning sessions and refresher sessions in your organisation’s daily workflows
  •  Schedule learning spaces between sessions – this space in between L&D sessions is when our minds commit new learning to memory. It’s also when we begin to make connections between new skills we learn and how we might apply them day-to-day. Give this natural process space to work and help to properly upskill your teams
  • Nudge your line managers to strengthen learning – line managers will reinforce key messages more effectively if they build in reminders for learning sessions in Microsoft Teams calendars or Slack messages; then managers can more easily reinforce learning points with repeat sessions as part of their weekly workloads.

Effective L&D

This five-point approach is helping organisations L&D in different ways. In a retail organisation, customer-facing line managers use repeat learning to communicate subtle but crucial details – such as how to approach customers in the store or how to engage customers in conversation – through regular hands-on demonstrations. They reinforce this vital skills acquisition with regular video clips for junior colleagues to view on their mobiles or laptops and run quickfire, repeat tests to check what they’ve learned.

A leading training organisation is harnessing self-directed learning to help its employees achieve individual L&D objectives, realise career goals, and ensure their wellbeing. Specially curated learning content sessions are backed up by on-demand learning resources and repeat exercises such as video demonstrations and quizzes. As a result, learning content is being continually reinforced across multiple formats, helping different teams, job functions and demographic groups to learn and progress while supporting their wider wellbeing.

Covid and all that followed it has disrupted so many organisations’ working models but focused, bite-sized learning, suitably spaced and embedded in workflows, is proving crucial to helping line managers and teams grow and deliver stand-out performance, whatever the recent disruptions and the uncertainties ahead.