Agile Learning 101: From the basics to successful training
Interviews / Opinions

Agile Learning 101: From the basics to successful training


No, it’s not your idea: the world is, indeed, changing at breakneck speed. Yesterday’s hot new tech release is today’s old news — and today’s shocking new development is tomorrow’s normal.

It’s not just about playing catch up with technology and investing in the latest tools. There’s an internal shift as well: from the way we work to the way we communicate and learn, our daily habits also change along with the times.

Faced with all this change, how can you make sure your company remains relevant? How do you keep your employees engaged and ready for what tomorrow may bring? Sure, you could drive yourself (and them) insane by trying to offer training about every little new thing that pops up… Or you can focus on how they train instead.

You can focus on promoting and nurturing a culture of agility.

Agility is about being able to adapt and move quickly in the face of change. It’s about taking risks; about implementing first and asking questions (or doing Q&A sessions) later. An agile team is able to operate even within a constant state of flux — think of it as a “startup mentality” on steroids.

How do you get this super-stretchy, ready-for-everything, agile team?

Simple: you make sure your employee training process follows agile learning.

What is agile learning?

Agile learning is basically the adoption of agile methodology in the realm of employee training. You may have heard of things like Kanban boards, work sprints and daily scrums: these are all project management tools and methods used within an agility framework.

Originally, the agility framework existed solely in the tech world, where teams of developers have to work in constant iterations while ensuring nonstop feedback and testing. It was very effective — but it was also a closed circuit, reserved for specific teams or projects. As far as the rest of the company was concerned, the agility framework might as well be a mystic ritual, of no use to “muggles”. And that’s the problem right there. This Gallup article explains how the agility framework falls flat without a broader environment that supports experimentation and fast decision making. A game-changing tool can’t really change the game if only a small minority of people are using it.

Instead, agile learning is all about taking the premises of agile methodology and opening them up for the whole company to use. Specifically, it’s about implementing those premises in employee training. As senior vice president of CGS’ learning division Doug Stephen writes at Training Industry, it’s about driving innovation by creating an environment of continuous learning. Within that environment, your employees can work as a team to test, adapt and evolve along with their learning content.

Curious exactly how agile learning can push your company forward? Keep reading.

What are the benefits of agile learning?

Agile learning has many, company-wide benefits. Because by definition it’s not so much bound in rules and lengthy processes, agile learning promotes a mindset of flexibility, adaptability and receptivity. And this mindset manifests in all sorts of good things.

Good things like:

Adaptability to change

This breakneck speed that we mentioned, with which things keep changing? Agile learning makes sure your employees will be fast enough to catch up. It helps them build different skills and capabilities, sure, but most of all it teaches them to take risks and stay open-minded. To learn from their failures as well as from their successes. As Aon’s Global Head of Learning and Talent Development Linda Cai points out in this Training Magazine article, these qualities will become even more important post pandemic.

Better cross-team cooperation

According to a Gallup study, only 30% of U.S. and 36% of European workers strongly agree that their coworkers share knowledge. In case you were wondering: no, that’s not good.

The time when companies could afford to operate in a vacuum, one branch totally unaware of what the other was doing, is long gone. Agile learning promotes knowledge sharing and cross-team cooperation, diminishing the chances of vital information ever falling through the cracks.

Increased customer focus

Agile learning goes hand in hand with customer focus. After all, the goal is to create an environment where the decision-making process is sped up and there’s a constant feedback loop. In this environment, agile teams base business processes on what customers value the most, as Allego’s CRO George Donovan explains in a Forbes article.

Making use of interactive media and virtual training, agile learning keeps employees on their toes for every customer service scenario. It goes without saying that this increased customer focus has a strong, positive impact throughout the business.

Which brings us to our next point.

Improved overall efficiency

An employee training approach that focuses on agile learning makes companies more successful. Why? Because it teaches employees that it’s okay to make mistakes and try out new ideas. It creates a company culture where knowledge and experimentation are more important than sticking to the straight and narrow out of fear of failure.

This kind of company can only be more efficient.

How to build an agile learning culture

So we’ve established that agile learning is good for your company. But how, exactly, do you build an agile learning culture?

Start by implementing the following in your employee training strategy.

Continuous learning

Employee training shouldn’t have an expiration date. Instead, you should create a culture where continuous learning is not only encouraged but celebrated. It’s the only way to keep your employees engaged, fulfilled and striving for brilliance in the long run.

A way to promote continuous learning is to develop upskilling or reskilling programs. It will help your employees feel more fulfilled as they learn new skills — and can also make promotions from within easier.

Continuous communication and collaboration

You want to avoid different branches within your company operating within a vacuum. Agile learning boosts cross-team communication and collaboration and that, in return, boosts cross-team trust.

But how do you practically achieve that, since every department will inadvertently need to be trained in different subjects? You can take a leaf out of agile methodology’s book and establish daily scrums: quick meetings (or quick updates on a designated Slack channel) where everyone shares what they’re studying and what their roadblocks are. Co-founder and CEO of CoSchedule Garrett Moon, explains in this Inc. article why daily scrums are a good idea when you need to break down barriers between different teams.

Peer learning

An extension of continuous cross-team communication is peer learning. Peer learning can translate to bringing in experts from other companies as guest educators. In a truly agile company culture though, peer learning takes stock of your own employees’ untapped potential and allows them to become educators on subjects they may have unique expertise in.

Microlearning

Similar to the agile methodology’s quick sprints, microlearning delivers learning in short bursts. Think between three to six minutes in length. This type of content “nuggets” can be produced and consumed quickly, making them ideal for an agile learning environment.

Microlearning is an ideal solution for difficult training subjects like compliance: these bite-sized pieces of knowledge will make retaining crucial information easier.

Flipped learning

Flipped learning consists of delivering core content before a hands-on classroom session, using your videoconferencing time for active, peer-driven learning rather than lecturing. The idea is that your employees can make better use of their live sessions by diving deeper into a topic and engaging in conversation, if they’ve already studied it on a basic level beforehand.

Team learning

This is an extension of the idea that the best learning happens when people engage in conversation. Team learning means setting up training tasks your employees will need to come together to solve. It allows employees to learn with and from each other.

Ultimately, it creates a culture where they can reach out to one another when they need to for work matters, later on.

Mobile learning

Agile learning is all about flexibility. You need to deliver your content in a way that’s easy for your employees to consume — and mobile learning does exactly that. The vast majority of your employees, especially if they’re training remotely, will prefer to consume content on their phones. Plus, mobile learning allows you to use everything from social media to cloud computing in order to make the most out of a session.

Over to you

Agile learning democratizes and demystifies agile methodology.

Using an agile learning process makes your employee training less rigid, more fast-paced and a lot more effective. More importantly, it helps you build an agile company culture from the ground up. A culture where employees feel seen, appreciated and brave enough to attempt new things. It’s the kind of culture that helps companies not only survive but thrive in this crazy, ever changing world.


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