Blended learning – A Leading Trend in Leadership Development Today
In our last post, we talked about the various ways in which you can Ensure Success in your Leadership Initiatives. We talked about embracing the change in Leadership Development today and how new techniques in leaning can pave the path for the leaders of tomorrow. In this article we dive deep in the ocean of Leadership Development initiatives to seek a new pearl in the shell called – Blended Learning.
A recent Mckinsey research conducted on a group of over 5,560 executives across 47 companies found that leadership quality plays a critical role in revenue growth. Most organizations today understand that certain competencies have a more significant impact on growth strategies than others, and thus are looking to invest in cultivating the right skills in their executives, in a scalable manner.
Scalability, especially in the recent years has been an issue addressed by the use of blended learning. As the annual survey report by CIPD stated, three in four organizations today are using learning technologies. The use of these technologies becomes increasingly relevant as the company size becomes larger. However, it is still at a relatively insignificant proportion vis-à-vis the face to face development interactions. The survey also states:
“One in three of those who use blended learning currently deliver more than three-quarters of their L&D activities completely through face-to-face experiences”
Blended learning clearly continues to be a more palatable option vis-à-vis an approach that is completely technology driven. People still need to be and want to be connected with – in person. In-person interactions have their merit in terms of creating a deeper impact and becoming forcing devices for some actions. While technology mounted learning provides for convenience of time, space and pace and also sustenance of learning, besides the more tactical aspect of keeping track!
Organisations, therefore, are opting for initiatives that use both traditional learning methods along with the use of technology-based learning. Blended learning programs allow an organization to break down a large amount of information into smaller chunks that can serve the participants better through delivery methods that appeal to the best.
Continuous innovation was a business critical competency for a media industry client. Additionally, though, having the right talent in place was never a challenge, the challenge was the lack of collaboration and teamwork in this innovation process. Finally the young leaders at the company were highly skilled at their roles, however, they had little inclination to spend time building capability in their teams. Thus, the need was two-fold:
1. To build the capacity required to innovate in a collaborative manner
2. To instill the desire to develop own team
Designing the intervention
We designed a 12-month journey for the participants with multiple short interventions, which were designed to keep them engaged throughout the year. This was done mainly by
1. Using technology as a binding force. Starting right from the assessments used in the individual diagnostics process, to the integration of the journey through mobile application and technology support.
2. Ensuring each intervention had a tangible output that could be displayed, ensuring a visual reinforcement of the needs being addressed. We did this by designing the entire intervention as a movie where each participant played a character. This was converted into a coffee table book capturing the entire intervention in the theme of a movie. The idea of being featured in this book added a sense of privilege for the young leaders
The young leaders were divided into cross-functional groups of 10 and were provided with a challenge to solve (a challenge that the organization was facing in real life). They were instructed to think outside the box and think of a creative solution. Since the challenge was very real in nature, the participants could see the impact of their potential actions as well.
In order to make the output of this intervention highly visible, the participants were asked to present their solution to the CEO of the company. Having the CEO actively involved with the process added a sense of legitimacy to the intervention and increased the level of commitment to it.
‘The cherry on top’, so to say, was when the solution created by the participants was eventually implemented in the organization. This output in the initial few months of the intervention itself, helping us build momentum for the remaining journey.
Each young leader who participated in this journey got certified, thus creating a 100% improvement level.
The culture of this organization, as well as the need, was such that demanded the use of creative and innovative methods in designing the journey itself. The young leaders would not have enjoyed a traditional journey of training and coaching sessions. There was a need to engage them and recognize them in a unique and innovative manner.
The use of technology in such cases becomes paramount. Having webinars, learning portals, mobile-based learning, artificial & virtual reality-based learning etc. are no longer a thing of the future as they are all part of blended learning umbrella. These when also aided by in-person events and interventions create a real link to the workshop participants do and enhances the level of application. Thus organizations today need to evaluate their own need, culture, and requirements and move towards designing journeys that will be best suited to meet their strategic goals.