The omnichannel approach: 7 steps to connect learner experiences

We all want our learning to be successful. After all, plenty of budget, time and tears (it’s OK, we all get the feels when a long-term training programme has been delivered) have gone into producing it. But sometimes, we don’t get it right and our learning becomes the metaphorical falling tree that no one hears.

We want you to be able to avoid the heartbreak of training programmes failing or not achieving desired outcomes. So I’ve devised an approach that can help your learning succeed with your modern learners. It utilises aspects of an omnichannel approach that’s more commonly used in ecommerce, because I think it could have big stakes in the learning tech industry over the coming years and helps to futureproof your approaches long-term.

What is omnichannel?

Spot the parallels between this quote about an omnichannel approach and L&D: “Omnichannel is a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store.

Let’s apply that to a learning context:

“Omnichannel is a multi-channel approach to L&D that seeks to provide the learner with a seamless learning experience whether the learner is learning online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar office.”

Ok. Telephone reference aside, I think you can see the similarities here. So why could omnichannel be a secret weapon for L&D?

Fluid, streamlined learning

What distinguishes the omnichannel customer (read: learner) experience from the multichannel experience is that there is true integration between channels on the back end. Helllllooooo modern, multi-device LMS.

So, in an ecommerce environment customers’ information is easily accessible whether they are online, on a web chat or even in the store. Their preferences and previous purchases are visible to staff, ensuring they understand the customer. Equally, a customer could use a computer to check stock levels by store online website, purchase the item later on with a smartphone or tablet on their commute and pick up the product at the customer’s chosen location.

Why can’t we aspire to have this same fluid, multi-device environment in L&D. Why can’t a learner browse their learning at work, download it to their mobile phone and complete it on their commute home? Omnichannel learning creates a place where data helps to personalise and improve the experience of our learners, and makes access and training integration as easy and straightforward as possible. Here’s my seven steps to adopting this approach in your organisation.

1. Outline what success looks like

This is a big one, which is why I’ve put it first. We really cannot achieve our goals if we don’t know what they are, especially if you plan to reach omnichannel learners. You’d be surprised how many organisations aren’t clear on their training objectives before training programmes get created. Consider:

  • Why are you making this learning/what challenge are you trying to overcome?
  • What do you want your L&D strategy to look like in five years’ time?
  • Are there gaps in your training programmes? How can they be filled?
  • What are the desired outcomes of your e-learning and overall training?
  • What do we want learners to do/feel off the back of this training?

By taking a step back and asking why a little more, you will be much clearer on what you are trying to achieve with training modules, but also your overall L&D strategy. This will guide your design and development of training, so it should not be overlooked.

2. Unravel your data and leverage it

A data-driven L&D approach is absolutely critical in 2016. Your LMS harbours a wealth of rich data points that you could be exploiting to provide better experiences to your learners. Data helps to maximise engagement and long-term behaviour changes, and should lead the direction of both your strategy and your understanding of your learners.

Extricating the maximum value from your reams of data won’t be easy. But it’s important. Remember to start small and bear in mind that every step you take will improve insights and enable you to deliver an enriched, relevant experience, which leads to a more engaged learner.

3. Learn about your learners

To engage omnichannel learners, you must have a detailed knowledge of them. You need to understand who your learners are. This means knowing their age, job title, location, tenure in role as well as learning habits and where they turn off of learning. Many top retailers measure the influence of all touch points on a customer’s journey to purchase—online, offline, and across devices, using sophisticated measurement systems – so why can’t we use our LMS to do the same?

Ask yourself: do you know what your learners really want? The industry is telling us they want multi-device, media-rich experiences that are diverse and accessible anywhere. But what do your learners really want?

Each organisation is unique in culture and working environments, so don’t assume that what works for one business will necessarily work for yours. Take the time to get feedback from learners on e-learning, and maybe set up polls through your LMS and SurveyMonkey to allow you to understand how they really feel about modern learning technologies. Boots created a learning experience for their learners based on what they knew worked to drive interest. They knew their staff were competitive, so tapped into that nature by delivering a training game (complete with in-store leader boards) to improve their product training to great success; their completion rates doubled and they increased user reach by 200%.

4. Get smart with strategy

If you wanted to go one step further you could even build learner personas to help you guide and direct your learning towards different learner styles and approaches based on different learner types.

Do you have a strategic plan for training in your business? Again, this ties in with outlining your goals for training programmes very early on, but it also relies heavily on collaboration with your C-Suite and key business stakeholders. You need their buy in, they need to be behind a shared vision that is focused on learner-centric training environments. IT and marketing departments need to become your new BFFs.

Also, you must revisit your organisational models to maximise learner engagement, considering that today’s learners don’t want their learning managed; they want to be in control. Remember: learning technology isn’t a silver bullet. It’s an enabler and a facilitator and should complement a wider L&D strategy.

5. Make it personal

Now that you actually have some data extracted from your LMS, you can begin to provide your learners with more relevant, timely experiences in learning. You can push them appropriate learning via their LMS, or deliver specific modules based on knowledge gaps or preferences of the learner.

Maybe you can see that certain learners always complete learning on their commute, so why not give them an open badge declaring their commitment to training that they can showcase, or push them mobile content straight to their smartphone? To do this well, make sure your e-learning is multi-device.

Adding personal touches and creating an environment that feels bespoke to each individual learner can create a much more engaging experience for them, helping them to connect with learning and extract real value from training experiences. Learners are already overwhelmed with information overload, so by personalising their L&D experiences you ensure training doesn’t just become part of that pre-existing problem.

DFS ipad

6. Give your users a voice, and listen to it

Let your learners’ feedback behaviour guide your future decisions. Ensure you are constantly collecting data that you can later use to help you understand which learning was successful and why. This will allow you to replicate and template approaches that deliver excellent results so they can be effectively used elsewhere in your training programmes.Iterate and test, iterate and test….and never stop. EVER. (I’m serious.)

Our client DFS used feedback and data from their learners to move from traditional learning methods to e-learning. Their e-learning is now multi-device, supports BYOD and provides learning at the point of need.

7. KPIs and data metrics for the win

In order for your L&D department to move forward and utilise omnichannel fully, you must always ensure your are managing your organisational training without letting all this wonderful data completely distract from the bigger picture — driving business value.

To improve buy-in and alignment throughout the business, it’s critical to prove that your efforts are succeeding in doing that. With metrics as your cornerstone, transparency and accountability will be evident throughout the L&D function and beyond, helping you to prove value and maybe even increase future budgets.

Your learners are already omnichannel and finding excellent value in personalised, fluid experiences outside of the workplace, so it’s important for L&D to begin taking steps to replicate those experiences within the workplace, or risk being left behind.

The future of learning is here, is your organisation ready?

 

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