Keep Employees Learning by Accelerating Your Shift to Virtual Instructor Led Development (VILD)

By Jade White | April 9, 2020

Key Takeaways:

  • Organizations who utilize virtual tools are able to educate team members when they can't be together. 
  • Virtual Instructor Led Development (VILD) programs are NOT webinars, but truly interactive learning experiences that approximate (and in some ways surpass) in-person sessions.

In the context of where we sit today, every business is questioning how to move forward during a time of social distancing. As a response to circumstances beyond their control: restauranteurs, and even craft brewers, have shifted to curbside pickup and delivery; television shows are taking to interviews from home with less complex recording devices; and teachers across the world have completely shifted to online learning modules. These examples demonstrate creativity and use of resources in ways that may not have happened if they hadn’t been born out of necessity.

We are in a time of necessity. In times of necessity, learning new ways of doing things and quickly sharing, discussing, and applying those ideas with colleagues provides competitive advantage. There are two different starting points for a business attempting to maintain forward motion during this time, those who had experience learning virtually and those who had limited/no experience learning virtually.

For companies who have been working toward virtual training options, they are now able to leverage their tools and cumulative know-how into greater capacity. In general, I’m not talking about the more static learning platforms/subscriptions. Those curated libraries are helpful for building foundational, base knowledge when learners pull that content off the virtual “shelf”. However, these times require a need to accelerate the trend toward bite-sized, or microlearning modules and/or immediately topical Virtual Instructor Led Development (VILD) programs.

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Microlearning modules, are rapidly designed to push out a targeted lesson: How to properly wash hands; Quick tips for launching a Zoom Meeting; “10 Tips in 10 Days”. These are incredibly helpful to deliver very targeted messages, and can be consumed quickly across a variety of platforms. We worked with a leading athletic footwear and apparel company to launch their new competency model via this method. Leaders have even used microlearning modules, during the COVID-19 outbreak, to deliver personal messages about how they are adapting to working from home, while tending to young children’s virtual schoolwork questions. These small windows of humanity go a long way toward building culture.

VILD’s are a concept that RBL has been actively building out over the past few years, as a deeper-dive into more complex concepts and content. The benefits of the virtual instructor led training in general, but especially in this moment, is it’s an immediately adaptable platform to inject just-in-time discussions about applying that content in the current and, sometimes rapidly evolving, future context. Participants engage with thought-leaders and each other in real-time, entirely virtually! Some of the world’s leading organizations, across industries, have worked with us to deliver VILDs to global cohorts focused on accelerating leadership, strategic HR, talent and organizational effectiveness capability. Note: VILD’s work best for cohorts of less than 20. This ensures robust dialogue amongst all participants with the facilitator and each other. This is vey different than one-way webinars, where large audiences listen passively to an info share. This is why at RBL we have branded our VILDs as: Facilitator Led. Participant Owned.

With those two platforms (microlearning and VILD), among others, already in place our clients have been able to continue to deliver relevant learning to maintain continuity and/or more rapidly shift to address the challenges brought on by the global pandemic.

For companies who had not previously worked extensively with virtual learning, we understand! The old adage, “If it ain’t broke…” comes to mind, but things have shifted greatly. Additionally, there are many benefits to going virtual that you’ll come to appreciate. Some benefits to virtual instructor led training include:

  1. Continued forward movement: Whether you’re carrying on business as close to usual as possible, rolling out a new business strategy, or realigning the team, none of these things need to wait until offices reopen. A client, with whom RBL partners had been planning a training session for months, had to quickly adjust from a face-to-face training to a virtual instructor led training in the face of travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19. We worked closely with them to ensure that their important messaging was delivered on-time, as planned, but shifted to a virtual delivery method. In partnership with the client leads, we adapted from a fully in-classroom program to a fully virtual program over the weekend! When reviews came back, the training was described as “engaging” and the client was “delighted” with the outcome.
  2. Global Learning and Networking: Virtual learning programs more easily remove barriers of cost and travel to enable participants across geographies to learn together. This powerful sharing of best practices and ideas, carefully managed through effective learning technology (i.e. virtual breakout rooms) enhances team-building and networking.
  3. Cost efficiency: Many companies love getting all their people into one space, but it is an expensive endeavor. Travel, accommodations, and food for teams are all costs that add up quickly. When training takes place virtually, people sleep in their own beds and eat their own food while still taking part in the content as a group. The key here is to not just shift the classroom design to a death by webinar/PowerPoint. VILDs need to be an interactive, engaging session where the bulk of “live” time is spent in dialogue. Concept and content foundation building happens in bite-sized chunks outside and around the live sessions.
  4. Time Efficiency: Travel days take a large cut of productive work time, even for the most productive and savvy travelers. When companies switch to virtual learning that time can be utilized much more effectively.

Virtual Instructor Led Development (VILD) sessions are different from virtual meetings; but once they become familiar, you’ll wonder why you waited so long to try them. The best part of virtual development sessions is that they provide a path forward even amidst the most uncertain circumstances. As you get going on these, RBL is here to provide you with expertise in business strategy, leadership development, and maximizing the potential of HR whether in-person or virtually. If you'd like to learn more, reach out.

Jade is a Principal with The RBL Group and has over 25 years in the strategic HR, talent management and leadership development fields.

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© April 2020 The RBL Group. All rights reserved.