“Going digital” involves more than just familiarity with digital tools and environments. It refers to a culture that training departments must acquire if they want to play their part in corporate digital transformation.
Training is at the heart of this transformation, which works on the assumption that all staff must reach a “threshold level” of digital culture. Staff must know what they can expect from digital technology at a personal, professional and corporate level. In addition, they need the answer to essential questions including what forms it takes, how they are expected to use it, what impact it will have on their work, and others.
It is largely training that is tasked with building digital culture, which is gradually being seen to determine collective performance levels. Training isn’t the only factor involved, of course, and another challenge awaits it: that of “interfacing” appropriately and closely with the people and departments primarily concerned by digital transformation. Training has to be forward-looking, which is a challenge because departments often turn to training at the eleventh hour (“We’re launching this new product in a month, how do you suggest we should train our salespeople?”…) Training also has to be proactive: training managers will have to put out their feelers to identify both strong and weak signals relating to digital culture as it develops in their company, and make proposals to operational managers who find themselves in the throes of digital change.
Indicators of digital culture
Training will only be credible if it possesses this digital culture of which it is potentially one of the spearheads. The word “culture” is doubly meaningful here: it refers not only to knowledge of tools or techniques, but also to the appropriation of the values, ideas, goals, methods, and approaches that are embodied by, and define, a corporate digital environment. This can also be identified in the words often associated with digital culture: “agile”, “business”, “social”, “mobile”, and so on. A training department whose projects continue to be managed in the traditional way (based on the V-model or even the ADDIE model) without taking into account the benefits of an “agile” approach can hardly claim to have embraced digital culture. The same goes for “social” and “mobile” approaches, which are strong indicators that digital transformation—of both the company and its training—is well under way (social learning, mobile learning).
Stages of digital maturity in training
Digital culture in training matures in at least three stages (as does that of the company itself, with the two moving forward in parallel, although they are not always synchronized).
- First we have what we might call the “tactical” stage, which corresponds to what Paul Hoskins calls “digitally reactive”: we most often react under pressure, injecting digital technology into a solution that already exists, often with less than brilliant results …
- The second stage of maturity is when the digital approach is embraced at an earlier stage—there’s no paradigm shift in the training program, but the value created is much greater than before (“digitally strategic”).
- The final stage is that of training that has been completely reinvented using a digital approach: here innovation flows freely, in synch with that of technology and practices that are quickly appropriated by users, especially “digital natives” (“digitally transformational”).
In general, the company and its training program proceed step by step. Large organizations are starting to move from the “reactive” stage to the “strategic” stage (as seen at the Féfaur Digital Learning Strategy Seminars): this involves transforming fragmented experience, bringing it together and making it into a coherent strategy so that they can start reaping the benefits of digital learning. Many others remain stuck in the rut of e-learning or blended learning 1.0 (linear, non-social, non-mobile, non-optimized). Companies that have embraced true digital transformation in training are few and far between. It may be the case that such transformation would be unlikely to succeed in organizations that are not well on the way to transforming most of their other activities.
So can we skip the first two stages and implement “transformational digital learning” directly? Perhaps we can, but it’s probably less risky for companies embarking on digital learning to start with the strategic stage.