Invest ‘use it or lose it’ budget into an opportunity to innovate

Posted on Dec 05, 2016

It’s approaching that final quarter for most businesses.

Holding a proportion of budget to cover unexpected or fluctuating costs is prudent, but it often leads to unspent budget in the final weeks of the year. All too often, the rush to off-load those remaining funds means they can result in lower returns. Using data from the US Federal Procurement Data System Research, economists Jeffrey Liebman and Neale Mahoney found that not only was there a surge in spending at the end of the year, but this spending was of lower quality. So, instead of ordering some add-ons or default to repeat-purchase options, invest in next years’ aims and objectives with some strategic review and planning methods. This will ensure the next budget achieves even more for your learners and your business performance.

A great digital learning programme is based on two things:

  • aligning it with your business goals
  • designing the learning experience from a user perspective

All too often though, projects are placed under pressure to deliver ‘the stuff’ to a deadline that is probably shorter than everyone would like. In this scenario, the solution has usually been defined and the project becomes about getting it created and getting that delivered as quickly as possible. The most common aspect that gets squeezed is time at the beginning to consider new perspectives. And yet, it is in these early stages where the opportunities for meaningful reflection and innovation sits. Losing that space to rethink is a potential factor in why 90% of L&D professionals want to play an active role in supporting business innovation, but only 17% report they are succeeding.

Having enough creative time in every project might be unrealistic, but making some space on an annual basis means that the rest of the year can run more smoothly and deliver better results. So, where to begin? Here are some of the strategic and creative tools we use before the design and delivery phases take shape:

Learner surveys

Feedback and the data it provides is critical to improving your digital learning. If you aren’t collecting any meaningful information from your staff on how they rate their progress you need a well-designed approach to capture constructive feedback. If you already capture feedback, is it being put to good use? Structured audits and analysis form the springboard into tailored design solutions.

Learner observations

Alongside quantitative feedback and analysis methods, observational insights provide a deeper qualitative approach to understanding what learners really want. When was the last you really spent time amongst your learners in their own environment? Not just make assumptions or check the stats, but actually observe them to investigate who they are and what they want? Structured observational studies have the ability to reveal insights that can lead to entirely new ideas.

Learner mapping

Workplace learning no longer happens in set places at set times, but when does it take place? This will be dictated by short-term daily or weekly routines, but also the longer-term journeys that employees take as they develop in their career. Mapping the learner pathways for onboading, ongoing compliance, product launches or leadership development reveals the key stages, touchpoints and opportunities to better manage the ebbs and flows of knowledge sharing.

Empathy paths

Workplace learning is an experience, and how we feel during an experience is critical to whether it is positive or negative, constructive or worthless, engaging or mundane. So whilst the way we design learning effects the engagement, the emotional perspective of the learner when they receive it is also critical. Capturing the learner perspective, not just from a process point of view but an emotional one, has the ability to boost the effectiveness of learning programmes.

What if…

Learning technologies are evolving all the time, with the latest discussions focusing on 360 video, augmented and virtual reality. These are here to stay and will become more common, but quite how you might apply these new options for best effect takes some considered and creative thinking. Sessions to learn, imagine and rapid prototype ideas helps to bring everyone on board and spark a shared vision of new possibilities for modern learners.

At Sponge, we work with our clients to explore the possibilities for integrating emerging technologies, as well as running structured workshops to facilitate fact gathering and idea generation. Investing end of year budget to explore in this way could be one of the most effective ways to set you up for the coming year.

Monthly newsletter

Join 1000s of learning professionals who receive the latest inspired learning news from Sponge

You may also be interested in