Transformation - from thriving to surviving

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Carole Bower

5 minute read

Digital Transformation (DT) is a hot topic, especially as businesses strive to achieve pole position in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment. The global pandemic has accelerated existing (and non-existent) plans for DT, driving it through at pace in order to cope with the “new norm”. We have seen this from our own and our clients’ perspectives.

Over the last few years, DT has become a top priority for some clients, with a focus on creating learning and comms to support people to become “digitally fluent” and help client-facing teams navigate the changing digital landscape. We saw a trend. Businesses needed to not only boost their offerings but futureproof them and drive new opportunities. DT was essential but meant so many different things to different people - from supporting new services to the creation of new working approaches.

What Does DT Mean For L&D?

The L&D industry, too, have been grappling with their own transformative learning approaches, so it’s no surprise that DT (of Learning) has now retaken the top spot in Learning Live’s top five list of challenges for L&D Leaders in 2020. The pandemic is the reason for “forcing” L&D to adapt to Digital Learning.

It’s interesting to consider, though: who would have thought about “Digital” as a strategy for coping with the life-changing consequences of a global pandemic? Businesses have adapted quickly, and digital technology has played its part (QR code ordering in some restaurants is one example of this). L&D’s DT is also driven by a need to adapt quickly.

An Example Of L&D Digital Transformation

There appears to be a shift in how our clients are addressing some of their learning delivery methods. For example, face-to-face classroom sessions are being replaced by virtual instructor led training (VILT). Not surprisingly, we have seen a lot of interest in developing VILTs from clients – as they say, “needs must”!

The VILT approach was predicted to gain massive adoption over the last 10 years (Towards Maturity flagged this as a trend a few years back) but we never really saw it take off until now. We observed more of a preference for sticking with learning solutions at the two ends of the spectrum – via face to face classroom sessions or through mass distribution of digital learning and comms.

What we have noticed is that some of these “need-driven” digital approaches have not just transformed, but improved the learning experience, and despite L&D having to adapt very quickly we are seeing some amazing examples.

Our clients have really been mixing it up, for example, we are working with some to redesign classroom sessions in virtual environments, bringing in other elements too (everything you would expect to see in a standalone digital learning production). It’s been a cleansing activity – breaking up the different elements and bringing the pieces together to create the “best experience”. Classroom lectures (and slides) have been replaced with short videos, animations, information hubs and live discussions to encourage questions and debate. Breakout sessions are also being used for group problem solving with facilitator drop-ins, and there is an appreciation that people do learn better when the learning activities are spaced out over time, rather than taking a classroom “sheep dip” approach. Holistic, dynamic learner journeys are being designed.

Efforts to keep people engaged have been a key consideration, and there does seem to have been a shift in how comfortable people feel in a virtual setting – that phrase “the new norm” may have a place here!


Businesses have been striving for years to achieve the sort of agility and transformative responses we are currently seeing – it has happened within a very short space of time, and with very little planning.

Is it just about survival?

Whilst we would all love a bit of the “old norm” to come back soon, it will be interesting to see how many of the transformative approaches will stay around – a couple of large organisations we work with have said they are likely to stick with new digital approaches, like blended VILT sessions, rather than return to previous practices, such as F2F classroom sessions. After all, if it is an improvement, then why not keep it?

I certainly prefer to pre-pay for food in a restaurant if I don’t have to wait ages for the bill!