The Human Touch
The virtual learning craze has taken over. It’s completely understandable seeing as how it can be more affordable for businesses to run with virtual and/or self-directed learning. In addition, many businesses are attracting the Millennial and “Z” generations into the workforce. But what happens when the human connection no longer exists in the world of Learning and Development?
Business is about connecting with people. If you are dealing with people on any level, customers or co-workers, you must have the skills or at least learn the skills to interact with them. When we take the human element out of training, we lose that connection we desire as people.
Pros and Cons
There have been many studies and articles that speak to the pros and cons of both face-to-face instruction and virtual instruction. Kineo.com gave some insight to both sides. It spoke to the pros of e-learning, i.e., the learning material can reach many individuals at once and is consistent as everyone receives the same content. The cons are that e-learning can isolate the individual from his or her peers, reducing the overall value of a course. In contrast, the pros to face-to-face training are that it allows the opportunity for individuals to exchange ideas and provides a valuable learning medium that online environments cannot. The cons to face-to-face training are that dominant personalities can stifle learning by taking over the discussion and alienating quieter individuals.
There are great arguments on both sides, but if businesses err on the side of cost over effectiveness, we are doing our employees, as well as our customers, a disservice.
Many companies strive to create positive customer experiences rather than “interactions.” By definition, the word, “experience,” is a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something. The same then should hold true when it comes to training. As a learner, you are more likely to learn something through a personal encounter than through a computer screen. One can’t expect employees to be able to deliver an experience when they themselves don’t have an experience to pull from.
I could be old-fashioned, but I have to admit I miss the days of meaningful, thought-provoking conversation when learning something new. I personally remember taking some face-to-face training classes in which I learned a great deal, not only from the trainer, but from the other people taking the class with me. Another upside of face-to-face learning is the opportunity to network. In a sterile online situation, it can be much more difficult to focus due to distractions, such as your cell phone or checking e-mail. Don’t get me wrong, people can do this in a classroom, as well; however, I feel they are much less likely to if the conversation is lively and collaborative.
Focus on Blended Experiences
The question then is: How do we avoid losing the human touch when forced to go with the flow of online/self-directed learning?
According to an article titled, “Trends 2019,” Learning and Development organizations should start looking toward blended experiencesas opposed to blending learning. These experiences could include:
- Coaching—Collaborative coaching to be exact. Employees need to be part of the coaching plan by contributing ideas to help grow their skill set.
- Job shadowing—This is more than just sitting idly by watching what someone does in a day. A true job shadow is walking in someone’s shoes for a day. If someone is truly interested in what you do, teach them something. Give them a small project so they really get a feel for what the job entails.
- Role-play—I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, improv is the best way to conduct a role-play. Standard role-plays can seem forced and phony. Improv makes you think on your feet and allows you to be your true self.
- Game-based learning—In addition to the standards, like Kahoot, you can take games you see on television, such as Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy!and Password,to make fun, exciting and relevant games to teach employees new skills or uncover skills they didn’t even know they had.
- Classroom training—In and of itself, the classroom can be a great place to discover new ideas, share best practices, and be truly collaborative.
- E-learning—More popular with the younger generations, e-learning is quick, easy, and convenient, and you don’t necessarily have to be tech savvy.
If we can foster learning experiences, there is no limit as to what we can do for our learners. Whichever way we choose to teach or learn, it’s the human touch that keeps us connected.
Alaine Carrello is a senior trainer in Learning and Development at Verizon. She has been with Verizon Wireless for more than 20 years and has been in the Learning and Development organization since 2010. Carrello is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Bellevue University with a Bachelor’s degree in Adult Education. Creative writing is her passion and she recently published her first book.