Learning organizations are implemening virtual learning methods for a new generation of Millennial workers, and one of the key hurdles to successful employee development is achieving buy-in—not only from learners, but also from their managers.
This can be a real challenge, since many company leaders were trained using dramatically different methods from the learning solutions being leveraged today. In many cases, managers may not be able to related to the learning journey their reports are experiencing.
Diana Thomas, McDonald’s Corporation's Vice President of U.S. Training, says leadership’s general lack of comfort with nontraditional learning methods has been a significant challenge for expanding McDonald's corporate education programs.
How Employee Development Has Changed
At a panel discussion during the recent Chicagoland Learning Leaders Conference, Thomas explained how the traditional model of employee development has evolved and why some managers find this evolution troubling:
"Traditionally—20, 25 years ago, 30 years ago, 50 years—when our key leaders went through the training, it was very much, 'Here's the study guide, then you go through the class.' Now that's not how we do the training,” Thomas said.
“Now, we do online learning, eLearning, there's virtual collaboration sessions where you're engaging and talking to other learners, and there's not as prescriptive of an agenda. And probably our challenge was getting the leaders who need to coach their people to feel comfortable that it's done differently. Like, 'What do you mean they're not going away for one week? That's how I learned—I want them to learn how I did!'"
How to Handle This Disconnect
In response to that pushback, McDonald’s emphasized Level 3 evaluations that show positive employee behavioral changes through corporate training. The company packages that information alongside testimonials from workers and leaders explaining the proven successes of the new nontraditional learning methods.
Thomas believes that when leaders and learners can get on the same page concerning the evolution of workplace learning, the training initiatives become much more effective: “Your best champions for training are your learners—if you can get them jazzed about what you're teaching, and the ability to go back and implement it, they help sell it."
She offered straightforward advice for other firms facing similar leadership buy-in challenges: “It's really finding out what your learners need to support the training, and go after that. Don't make it too comprehensive that it becomes overwhelming. Make it as easy as possible for your leaders to get on board."
Watch the video to see the full discussion between McDonald's VP Diana Thomas and other learning leaders.