Taking The Right Road When It Comes To Design Thinking

Employees today are dealing with more demands on their time and attention than ever before. New behaviors, job roles, habits, and preferences have produced employees that are overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated that the average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950, so this trend is nothing new. However, the dawn of the internet and smartphones means employees are rarely switched off and are overwhelmed with information in a way they never were before. Corporate training is no exception as it is moving to more digital formats, and it's competing for space in increasingly shorter learner attention spans. So, how can L&D create exceptional learning experiences for today's time-starved learners? One answer lies in the concept of Design Thinking, which focuses on empathy and the end-user is the basis for all decisions during the design process. L&D can leverage Design Thinking to produce training that meets the challenges of the modern learner head-on.

eBook Release: How Design Thinking Is Transforming The Learning Experience
eBook Release
How Design Thinking Is Transforming The Learning Experience
Establish increased learner engagement and a more effective training program.

Focus On The Facts, Not The Trends

It's easy to get caught up in buzzwords and trends, hoping that a radical change will answer all your problems when it comes to designing training that engages learners and produces results. That may be true in some cases, but it's essential to focus on the unique needs of your particular organization and employees. Training should not be a one-size-fits-all approach, so take caution before spending time and resources adopting popular trends. Research any new software purchases or significant changes carefully before implementation. Examine the hard numbers and statistics, preferably in organizations or industries comparable to your own. Turn that analysis inward, too. Check that the necessary infrastructure and support is in place. Make sure there is buy-in at an executive level. Most importantly, make sure you have the resources in place to change tack if the adoption of new technology or practices doesn't produce the expected results.

Listen To Your Learners

Running the numbers is one thing, but there are qualitative aspects to the success of training design, too. There is no better place to collect qualitative feedback than directly from employees—the consumers of your product. Leveraging the central concept behind Design Thinking (empathy) should not be done through guesswork. No one understands their day-to-day challenges and grievances better than the learners themselves. Spending time collecting qualitative surveys across all levels of the organization will help you build training that meets learners where they are, solves performance-based challenges, and produces bottom-line results for the business. Qualitative feedback shouldn't be a one-time occurrence, either. Design Thinking is an iterative process, so learner feedback should be collected (and acted upon) frequently to make sure your training program is hitting the mark. It's also possible to invite learners into the Design Thinking process, particularly during the Empathize, Define, and Test phases. Crowdsourcing training requests and leveraging Subject Matter Experts as part of the training design phase can ensure your courses maintain the level of empathy required for effective Design Thinking.

Foster A Collaborative Environment

While there's no going around the fact that learners are increasingly distracted and impatient, many tactics and technology are becoming available to combat this new age of learning. One of these tactics is including employees in the training design process. This is becoming a necessity for many organizations as training development increasingly moves out into other business functions, but there are considerable rewards to be gained. As we  have stated earlier, employees understand day-to-day challenges much better than L&D ever can, simply by virtue of living it themselves. By inviting top performers to collaborate with L&D over training design, employee engagement with the end result will increase for two main reasons:

  1. Invaluable insight 
    It keeps the realities of the learners' world top of mind through a spokesperson (SME) and leads to a more effective training design.
  2. Cultivating a champion
    Employees (particularly Millennials and Gen Z) value top performers in the organization far ahead of seniority or experience. Careful selection of the right SMEs means creating a champion for your training that will increase adoption and engagement rates when the program is rolled out to others.

The Modern Learner And Design Thinking

When it comes to Design Thinking, this kind of collaboration with employees and SMEs can help to elevate your training design in the following ways:

1. Empathize And Define

Although it's a central part of the overall Design Thinking concept and should be observed at every stage of the process, the Empathize phase ensures that you specifically focus on the needs and experiences of the end-user before defining the problem or coming up with any solution. As the needs of the modern learner are continually evolving, the Empathize phase keeps L&D in tune with employees and the challenges they face.

2. Ideate

The Ideate phase of Design Thinking is especially beneficial when you bring employees into the process, whether that's through training requests, survey feedback, or crowdsourcing content that resonates with your learners.

3. Prototype And Test

While L&D may make the decision on which concepts to bring through to the Prototype phase, the Test phase will help you ensure you're meeting the needs of the modern learner, which elements to keep, and which elements to scrap completely or improve. Design Thinking does not have to replace any existing models or processes; rather, it can be utilized to improve the way training is currently designed and developed. This benefits both L&D and employees, especially in the context of the modern workplace and competing priorities for today’s learners. Incorporating Design Thinking in a collaborative way and keeping learners in the loop is a surefire way to increase adoption rates and engagement rates for your corporate training program.

If you would like to go beyond the phases proposed in this article and really have an in-depth look at the subject matter, download the eBook How Design Thinking Is Transforming The Learning Experience.

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