An APPetite for Learning
“There’s an app for that” seems to be a standard response to just about every challenge or issue these days. And that includes managing, developing, coaching, and training employees. Apps for training and career development have taken on even greater importance in recent months as the Coronavirus continues to take its toll and more and more companies turn to remote and mobile solutions to help employees boost their knowledge and hone their skills when and where they want.
Here is how several companies are using mobile apps—both internally developed and vendor produced—to enhance learning environments for employees and help them progress in their career journeys.
Archways to Careers
At McDonald’s, a new app offers employees more options to plan their careers. The app gives restaurant employees a way to see beyond their day-to-day responsibilities of what often is their first job and focus on building a long-term plan. “Our new career exploration mobile application, Archways to Careers, will help restaurant employees nationwide maximize education benefits and take the next step in their professional journey—whether at McDonald’s or elsewhere,” says McDonald’s Director of Education Strategies Lisa Schumacher. “Built with our long-standing partner, the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), and with support from national success coaching organization InsideTrack, the app enables McDonald’s to offer all restaurant employees a real-time career advising tool that connects them to InsideTrack’s professional and credentialed advisors to support, coach, and help them chart a path to achieve the future job or career they desire.”
This effort builds on McDonald’s successful Archways to Opportunity program (https://c212.net/c/link/?t=0&l=en&o=2698579-1&h=162684846&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.archways+to+opportunity.com%2Fabout_archways.html&a=Archways+ to+Opportunity), which enables restaurant employees to learn English language skills, earn a high school diploma, benefit from education and career advisors, and receive up-front college tuition assistance up to $3,000 after just 90 days of employment.
Since its inception in 2015, Archways to Opportunity has given out $90 million in tuition assistance and supported 50,000 restaurant employees. Archways to Careers is available to employees at McDonald’s U.S. restaurants and franchisees.
The app has a range of content promoting career growth and the exploration of educational opportunities. There is a workingstyle quiz, a listing of career pathways within McDonald’s and in other industries, the ability to set goals for college or high school plans, and a chatbot for questions about the Archways program, Schumacher says. The app also provides the opportunity for users to connect to professional and credentialed advisors to help them chart a path to achieve the future career they desire.
The Archways to Careers app enables McDonald’s to maximize the coaching opportunities provided to restaurant employees, says Dr. Marie Cini, president of CAEL. “We saw a real need to design an app that enhanced our coaching benefit, acknowledged the unique needs and interests of restaurant employees, and enabled crewmembers to take full advantage of the innovative Archways to Opportunity education program,” she says, noting that CAEL will learn a lot by how McDonald’s employees access and benefit from the app. “We expect that the lessons learned from how crewmembers are accessing learning and coaching through their mobile devices can inform our national conversations about how we more closely connect learning and careers to ensure that today’s students/workers have the support they need to advance their careers.”
Mobile Opportunities for Development
Training Top 10 Hall of Famer Deloitte is using mobile technology to give employees additional ways to grow in their careers. “We have a mixture of vendor-provided and homegrown apps that host development content and provide development experiences,” says Mel Plett of Deloitte’s Development Strategy & Innovation team. “Our apps support development planning, continuous learning, collaboration, and the creation and sharing of content. Some of our apps that focus on delivering content include Podbean—a podcasting platform that hosts Deloitte thoughtware—and FLIP—a dynamic learning app that reimagines the learning method of flashcards.”
Deloitte also leverages apps to promote learning engagement and gamification. “These include DLearn—our internally built learning gamification and networking app—and Poll Everywhere, which we use for discussion-generating activities and live surveys,” Plett says. “Some of our other apps support adaptive learning and are leveraged to support development planning, such as Growth Quotient—an internally built application used to assess learner competencies and design a development plan, as well as Navigator, which allows practitioners to gauge their readiness to respond to client situations in the role-appropriate ‘Deloitte Way.’”
She adds that the internal DU Event app “is used to support the delivery of our live learning events at Deloitte University by sharing real-time agendas, program materials, and networking activities, and by promoting social learning activities. Lastly, we recently rolled out our learning experience platform app, Cura, powered by EdCast. This app brings the full experience of continuous learning and collaboration to the palm of your hand, and enables users to consume personalized content, connect with peers around the globe to collaborate, and share content with others.”
Plett says Deloitte is focused on apps that facilitate the overall development experience, and that the firm is selective in the content it makes available through mobile technology. “Although we have apps that host content for learning, one of the challenges is ensuring the content is mobile ready and is a good user experience for the learner to consume in that format,” she says.
Part of the L&D Ecosystem
At Training Top 125er Best Western Hotels & Resorts, mobile technology is giving hotel employees many ways to learn through their smartphone or tablet. For example, an app provides easy access to the company’s required compliance training modules. “Our learning and development (L&D) ecosystem consists of a variety of learning delivery platforms. For our compliance training, we use SumTotal, which is mobile responsive, as well as ‘app-ready.’ The app is available for learners should they request access to the app,” says instructional designer Ricky Haro.
As valuable and wide-ranging as the ability to complete training by apps has been, Haro says there are still no plans to make all learning content available via an app. “One challenge within Best Western Hotels & Resorts is employee use of company assets, like a mobile app, on an employee personal device. Although we encourage self-guided learning, we also have to respect management policies at each independently owned and operated property. Another challenge in using a mobile app is based on the L&D ecosystem concept,” says Haro. “Our learning content is housed in a variety of locations online depending on the type of learning the module or content is facilitating. For informal and easy-access learning, some content may be hosted on YouTube and other social media platforms. Our compliance training is on a formal learning management system (LMS), and we are implementing a content management system- or CMS-type platform for other non-compliance training, but for topics that are considered in-house.”
At Training Top 125er TWO MEN AND A TRUCK, the creation of a new app, XCELERATE, stemmed from the company’s private employee Facebook page. “Our Facebook page has proven to be beneficial by increasing employee engagement and recognition. However, we wanted to have more capability and ease of access for our team members and weren’t able to have that, among other things, by using only Facebook,” says Training and Development Manager Denyse Berkeypile. XCELERATE gives trainers at TWO MEN AND A TRUCK a way to have greater connectivity with learners.
The company is still in the pilot phase of the rollout process for its XCELERATE app, but use of it is picking up steam. “More than 500 users currently are using the app. The focus of our content is employee recognition and communication,” says Berkeypile. “Our goal within the year is to integrate with our LMS to provide our users with training materials. As we increase the usage across our system, we will increase the rate at which we post content to drive discussions, recognize high performers, and share best practices and achievements from team members.”
XCELERATE isn’t the only mobile-friendly learning TWO MEN AND A TRUCK offers employees. Berkeypile says the company’s LMS also offers mobile technology. “This gives our users access to any of our 200-plus courses from any mobile device, thereby allowing them to be in control of their learning.” The company also uses a mobile app to house its videos. “We have an app located on all tablets, called the Content Locker, that houses our training videos,” Berkeypile says. “This allows our employees to access those videos while out in the field for on-the-spot instruction in a variety of topics. It currently houses 49 videos.”
Apps to Come
For some companies, mobile apps that facilitate learning may be coming soon. At Training Top 125er Hackensack Meridian Health, learning can be accessed via mobile devices, but an app does not yet exist specifically for smartphones and tablets. However, that soon may change, says Vice President of Talent Development Patrice Ventura. “Our technology and e-learning available on the LMS can be accessed on a variety of devices, which is essential in a 24/7 operation. Currently, we are exploring the use of a holistic team member app that provides one interface for team members and connects easily to the varying technologies we optimize throughout the team member experience,” Ventura says. “A holistic team member app will bring together all the technologies team members may want or need to access each day, such as our learning and development e-learning programs.”
- Create or offer an app that gives employees the ability to map out their own development plans. Show them the resources you have available to help them build their careers.
- Offer videos and podcasts through mobile technology on an app for smartphones and tablets, so employees can use a free minute here and there to catch up on important information.
- Make it easier to complete compliance training. Give employees the ability to complete required compliance training on their mobile device, so they can fill an extra half-hour outside the office with the completion of modules.
- Use a mobile app to create greater connectivity with learners, and spur conversations about coursework or issues impacting the company or industry.
- Strive for an app that can integrate with learning management systems, so employees can access all training on their smartphone or tablet.
Real-Time Mentoring App
By Dr. William Seidman, CEO and President, Cerebyte (https://cerebyte.com/about/)
Great mentoring is one of the best ways to improve employee performance. It’s just too bad great mentors can only mentor a few people at a time. That limitation, plus the overall lack of truly great mentors, means the impact of any mentorship program is inherently limited.
But what if you could use technology to simulate the mentorship experience? With the use of cloud and mobile technology such as an app, it’s now possible to give everyone a great mentor any time, any place, even if you have thousands of people to mentor. Here’s how it works.
Studies show that great mentors do three primary functions:
- Provide expert content
- Motivate engagement
- Guide practical application of their content
Each of these areas stimulates a powerful neural response, creating intense engagement and accelerating adoption of new skills, attitudes, and behaviors.
Content: Great mentors have distilled a vast base of experience into “wisdom.” Since this wisdom has a consistent structure, software can be structured to “interview” the expert and quickly produce a surprisingly complete model of extraordinary performance.
Motivate Engagement: Great mentors use specific cues to guide mentees into visualizing themselves as making a meaningful contribution to a “compelling purpose.” By incorporating these cues into an app, mentees are guided to release the neurochemicals of passion and confidence and seek engagement with others.
Practical Application: Great mentors give specific practical tips that guide mentees to handle real situations. They then tell the mentee to “go try…(something practical)…and talk to me about your experience.” Once these cues are coded into an app, they drive application of the wisdom and rewiring of neurons (aka, learning) at an accelerated pace.
Measures of performance of mentoring apps show that users quickly demonstrate 90 to 98 percent of the desired attitudes and behavior, giving thousands a great mentor at the same time.