Great design, great content, the right tools, even great technology are necessary components of your e-learning program. But they are not sufficient to ensure your success, whether you focus on them separately or together. Your success depends on your ability to engage your learners, motivate your managers and energize your organization. When it comes to e-learning or any technology-enabled program or change success, it's really all about the people.
E-learning represents a change to your learners, their managers, and your organization. Whether it's the replacement of an instructor-led class with an online course, or a training management system with a fully functional learning management system (LMS), it is still a change. Learners used to scheduled, instructor-led courses often resent having to learn "from a computer" and "on their own time." Trainers who are experienced in front of a class often feel insecure delivering online Webinars. Managers who have always controlled access to training opportunities often feel undermined when their employees can learn at any time and from anywhere. And the organization as a whole often goes through an adjustment period as the old cultural norms are challenged, and new norms are developed and accepted.
Change implementation is the overall process for guiding people through the change process and ensuring the change is adopted. It is about ensuring your organization and the people within it are ready, willing and able to embrace the changes that e-learning represents.
Change Implementation: Awareness, Engagement, and Commitment
To ensure the success of any e-learning initiative, all of the people impacted must be informed and aware, and involved and engaged, and the organization as whole must be committed to its ongoing success. The I3 Change Implementation model is a process-based, inclusive, and always two-way approach that draws upon change management and organizational development, and communications and consumer marketing principles and practices. It focuses not only on ensuring individuals think and act differently, but also on the development and reinforcement of new individual and organizational attitudes and behaviors.
The I3 Change Implementation model consists of three phases, which form a never-ending cycle:
Phase 1. Inform—Generate Awareness
Through information and messaging activities (i.e., marketing communications), employees, managers, and the entire organization are given simple and clear answers to the "what, why, how, who and when" questions. And, most important, in this phase, the answer to the "what's in it for me?" question begins to be addressed, as well. The communication of the brand (i.e., logo, colors, fonts, palette, and tagline) begins and is repeated and repeated and repeated. The goal of this phase is to make sure the messages the organization wants heard are heard and are heard in ways they will be recognized, recalled, and remembered. Examples of specific activities during this phase might include: newsletters, presentations, e-mails, Webcasts, voicemails, documents and speeches.
Phase 2. Involve—Generate Involvement
Just giving all the individuals in the organization who are impacted by and involved with the e-learning answers to "what, where, when, why, who and how" questions, though, is not enough. For your e-learning to be successful, there must be a change in their attitudes and behaviors. Attitude and behavior change seldom happens based solely on the passive receipt of information, a cool logo and tagline, exciting colors and graphics, or information and giveaways. The key to this type of change is engaging everyone while paying particular attention to the important influencers within the organization, the 20 percent of the people who represent the "tipping point." Organizations must provide a first-hand experience of the e-learning to give learners and managers and even executives the opportunity to take it for a "test drive," ask questions, and form their own opinions. The goal of this phase is to have them internalize and personalize the benefits of the e-learning so it becomes theirs, not just the organization's. Specific activities during this phase might include: videos, department meetings, lunchroom fairs, hallway expos and traveling "road shows."
Phase 3. Integrate—Generate Commitment
The long-term success of your e-learning is dependent upon more than just great marketing and communications, and the degree to which people are engaged. It requires that your e-learning become interwoven into your organization’s culture, fully integrated into the work life of all of the employees, supervisors, managers and executives. In this stage, the ongoing organizational processes and systems—as well as any critical business initiatives—e-learning can support and enable must be identified and targeted for full involvement. The purpose of this phase is to ensure e-learning becomes well accepted as the "norm," critical to the success of individuals, as well as the organization as a whole, and recognized as the platform of choice for ongoing learning and development, as well as the enablement of important business processes. Specific activities during this phase might include: integration with the performance management process, supporting a new key business initiative and launching and tracking all leadership development and management training.
It's All About the People
To ensure your success with e-learning, you must pay as much, or even more, attention to engaging your learners, motivating your managers and energizing your organization. You must plan for it. You must spend time and money on it. You must work at it. You must be diligent about it. You must be committed to it. And you must understand that, bottom-line, your people are the critical ingredient for ensuring your success with e-learning.
Lance Dublin is the chief solution architect and founder of Dublin Consulting. He has worked in learning and change management strategy, design, and implementation for more than 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.