This is part one of our interview series with a highly experienced practitioner of organisational change, Will Blott. Will spent close to a decade at Google, in various roles spanning talent attraction and development, latterly as Head of Team & Organisational Development APAC as the Australian team grew from 100 to 1400 employees. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has catalysed a global movement for virtual learning and development. Around the world, L&D consultants and internal L&D are scrambling to move to virtual learning spaces. We spoke to Will about his experience and advice for practitioners adapting amidst the present uncertainty. 

I’ve been fortunate to have had a career spanning all areas of People and Culture but with deep expertise within People Development. 

After client discovery, I’m often asked to design and deliver custom learning programs for companies to drive effectiveness around managers, leadership and teams to drive culture and performance.  

Prior to the Covid pandemic, I often utilised a blend of in-person approaches, incorporating experiential learning and case-in point facilitation to spark curiosity and insight, which can be more impactful to drive behaviour change than virtual or remote learning. However, as it relies on in-person interaction, the experience and impact is obviously harder to replicate online.  

Given the noticeable shift to virtual learning spaces in the present crisis, here’s a few tips that will help. 

Use tech wisely

Think creatively about how you can adapt activities and experiences using technology that lets you replace in-person experiential activities with virtual ones.

For example, let your learners use collaborative software (eg Google Suite, Miro etc) to replicate in-person real-time collaboration whilst using virtual breakout rooms to replicate smaller group activities. For example, Zoom’s breakout room feature allows the same continuity of large and small group work with seamless switching, though you could easily achieve the same by setting up dedicated breakout URLs if using other videoconferencing platforms.

Offer short programs

Attention spans and energy levels dip faster virtually than in person, so consider designing shorter modules and build in hourly breaks so learners have a few minutes to recharge.

I also recommend limiting the length of a virtual session in a given day to 90-120 mins. Be intentional about when it’s scheduled. It’s best on average if you can aim for the morning or immediately after lunch when people’s energy levels are typically higher.

Rethink your program

Running a virtual workshop is a great opportunity to rethink the design of your program.

Start by being more selective with what you cover so the key takeaways don’t get lost in the noise.

Consider how you can extend learning through the duration of your program For example, cover some of your content in advance through pre work reflection or learning. Post workshop, deploy behavioural nudges and timed content delivery to help learners’ recall and motivation once they are back at work.

Consider your audience size

Finally, consider your audience size and ensure you have the right technology and processes to deliver effective virtual learning.
For example, if your model is to favour live training at scale for hundreds of people, make sure to drive audience engagement by asking periodic questions received via chat or polling. Include live demonstrations of the techniques with pre-identified volunteers at certain points only, with optional breakout rooms afterwards for participants to practice in small groups.

My style is more heavily facilitative so I typically recommend smaller groups (<16 learners) to ensure I still give everyone my full attention and have sufficient diversity of perspectives to leverage learning from the group and build a learning community. 

About Will

Will Blott is the founder of IfHowNow, a specialist people and culture partner that supports organisations’ success by helping them grow high performing people, cultures and teams.

With experience at some of the world’s most recognised brands and Australia’s fastest growing companies, IfHowNow knows how to spark people, possibility & performance.

Find out more

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