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5 tips for better leadership training using e-learning

Organisations need leaders at every level giving direction and managing and motivating staff. Contrary to notions of ‘natural-born’ leaders, Leadership is a skill that can be learned and developed through training.

There are programmes which are designed to produce leaders, but how do we determine which are effective and how do we develop and support the kind of leader modern organisations need?One effective way is the use of flexible e-learning training catalogues.  The modules cover a range of skills leaders require such as leadership styles, communication, decision-making, managing teams and so on.  

But it’s not just about providing content, however good it is.  You need also to ensure that the way the training is delivered and presented ensures it’s applied where it’s needed: in the workplace.

Let’s look at 5 tips on how your organisation can use ready-made, but adaptable e-learning to establish better leadership in your workplace.

1. Make it relevant

Too often leadership training is about following the leader.  Textbooks abound with stories of great industry leaders applying their own style of leadership to bring about dramatic changes in an organisation or even across an industry.  

While these tales of derring-do make for a good read and leave an otherwise dull enumeration of what leaders need, they are frankly inadequate as a guide or aid to would-be leaders because they don’t correspond to the reality of day-to-day leadership required by your organisation.

E-learning modules not only provide coverage of the key skills all leaders (at various levels) require, but they do so in a way that shows how that knowledge can be applied to a particular context.  

They are self-paced and organised in a way that allows learners to pick up what’s relevant to their job roles. Because they are produced by experts, they give you the benefit of industry-standard content and the latest thinking.  At the same time, they are also customisable so that the content is tailored to your organisation.

This customisation may be as simple as altering graphics to ensure that learners associate the training with a recognisable environment.  Or it may involve including tasks and scenarios that apply specifically to an organisation or job function within that organisation.

Training that is credible is more likely to be taken seriously by the learner and therefore more likely to be retained and applied.

2. Use scenarios

What you want most from your leaders is to show leadership in times of difficulty and challenge.  An anecdote about the behaviour of generals on the eve of battle may be entertaining, but not particularly transferable.  You’re not employing Shakespeare’s Henry V. Rather you need to train people to recognise certain situations and give them the skill sets to resolve the problems that they bring.

Scenarios and stories that reflect the type of challenges that leaders face at work make training relevant.  The use of narratives that reflect real-life situations emphasises the practice over the theory of leadership.  

E-learning leadership training offers scenarios that challenge learners to think and act to resolve common workplace problems.  This maybe a question of setting out a strategy to a team or resolving a conflict between team members. Scenarios hone decision-making skills by offering learners the opportunity to make decisions and understand the potential consequences.

We learn from our mistakes, but we equally can’t afford to make those mistakes at critical moments.  E-learning scenarios allow you to practise and learn in a fail-safe environment. By enhancing the sense of relevance these scenarios increase the likelihood that learning is retained and makes it applicable to the workplace.  

E-learning leadership modules privilege practice over theory.  Rather than have a list of leadership styles, you can see in the training which leadership style works best where and when and which elements of those styles you need to adopt.

3. Make learning accessible

There’s always a danger with any training programme that learners start to forget it as soon as it’s over.  To retain relevance training needs to be applied, but in the world of work it’s difficult to say where and when a particular aspect of training or a particular skill is needed.

Digital content helps here.  Training Catalogues are not confined to the classroom or LMS.  Their material can be repurposed and re-used to bring it into the workflow.  The material from a module can be re-configured to produce a library of resources.  Assessments and scenarios can form the basis of quick-reference FAQs or job aids.  

Modules can be sub-divided into smaller chunks of learning that can be quickly digested when needed – both as a kind of refresher training or as a piece of additional training.  Microlearning has been shown to be an effective way of getting knowledge to a learner when and where he or she needs it: i.e. in the workplace.  Remember that those looking for leadership training are generally valuable employees and cannot be easily taken out of work to attend lengthy-training sessions.

The second aspect of accessibility is adapting your e-learning content for mobile connectivity.  We need to make use of the fact that we’re all connected via our smart devices. If you don’t provide training that is accessible on a smartphone or tablet, chances are your employees will still use their devices to find what they’re looking for on Google, Wikipedia or YouTube.  Better to make your own content accessible in a similar way so that you both allow them access to the resources they need and make sure the resources they access are the appropriate ones.

4. Encourage collaboration and sharing

Even if your e-learning content situates the learning in a workplace context, you also need to bear in mind how people generally learn within that context.

Much of the knowledge we acquire is transmitted informally. It comes from colleagues and peers as much as from formal training sessions. It’s a feature of the way that we look for information today that we ask questions and expect (instant) responses.  This is particularly true in the realm of Social Media.

We need to recognise this behaviour amongst modern learners and adapt our training accordingly.  The creation of resources, based on the Training Catalogues, is a first step, but we can go further.  

Delivering e-learning through an LMS or similar system gives us the possibility of tracking what is accessed, by whom and when.  This allows us to identify gaps and points to the need to update our training resources to cover any gaps.

While Training Catalogues are constantly updated, we can also use the customisation feature to tweak content to make it more relevant and applicable.  

Equally we might want to share more widely what’s working and we shouldn’t neglect the opportunity given by ICT to capture knowledge from employees themselves.  

Rather than have one colleague pass on advice informally to another on a one-off basis, encourage that colleague to document that advice and add it as a comment or recommendation to your bank of resources.  This information can then be incorporated into the more formal training programme.

5. Keep learning active

This last tip concerns a feature that’s often missed in training design and delivery: the evaluation.  Too often training remains static: it’s built, delivered and maintained.  But learning is a process not an isolated event.

This is particularly true with Leadership Training where new skills are required as leaders develop or move up the organisation.  This is not just about gaining CPD points, but a consequence of change being a constant in the modern workplace: whether it’s to personnel, processes or the working environment.

E-learning systems allow for notifications and recognition of attainment.  These can be used to motivate leaders to maintain and update their skills as they progress.  

They can be used to create a training programme designed for individual learners to progress on their own path, recommending updates or additional training modules or resources.  This makes for personalised learning that reinforces the relevance of the training to the individual and closes the circle.Employees often acquire leadership experience on the job while they’re doing their own work.  E-learning leadership catalogues make that possible by bringing high-quality, well-designed, self-paced, targeted, relevant, and adaptable training into the workflow.

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