How We Did It: How to Use Blended Learning in Leadership Development

The Need

One client was looking for leadership development content for frontline leaders to address specific challenges that could also be completed virtually.

The Solution

With DDI's leadership development subscription and partnership, the company built a blended learning journey for its frontline leaders, with content and tools that made the experience personal.

The Result

With data about specific leader needs and challenges, the company offered personalized development with opportunities to practice skills back on the job, leading to behavior change and increased leader engagement. 

We had data to show the specific areas where leaders were lacking confidence. And that allowed us to select the right topics to support them. It also said to leaders, 'We hear you, we understand your challenges, and we're here for you.'

Nick Razzette, Business Development Manager - US Operations, DDI

In this How We Did It video, Nick Razzette, business development manager, explains how one company partnered with DDI to create a blended learning journey for its frontline leaders. With DDI by their side, they discovered how to use blended learning, a combination of digital learning content and live learning sessions, to help leaders close skill gaps and then apply new skills back on the job, which helped the learning to stick.

Find out how this company worked with DDI to craft its frontline leader learning journey using content from DDI's leadership development subscription. Plus, hear about how leaders kicked off their development journey with a personalized assessment experience to better understand themselves as leaders and fuel the content for group learning sessions. 

Learn how you can design a blended learning journey that's proven to get results. 

Transcript:

Beth Almes:                        

Hi everyone. Welcome back to How We Did It, which is our series where we talk about the great work we're doing with companies to develop their leaders. And today, I have Nick Razzette with me. He's going to talk about a company that is doing just an incredible job of combining digital learning content and live learning sessions to really bring their frontline leaders into a whole new generation and thought process with their leadership. Nick, welcome.

Nick Razzette:                   

Thank you, I appreciate it. I'm happy to be here.

Beth Almes:                        

So, tell me about the business challenge that this company was facing that really prompted them to change the direction for their leadership development program.

Nick Razzette:                   

Absolutely. It was actually a couple of things that they were dealing with. So I was working with an L&D individual that was with the company for a little less than five years, and it was a very small team, so lean and mean. They've done leadership development in the past within the group, and ultimately they just never really got the traction they were hoping to get from any of the initiatives they were rolling out.

He came to us really looking around specific content. There was specific challenges they were looking to address around coaching, managing conflict, just little things that were kind of rearing their heads, and there were additional complications as this was happening right as COVID was starting to take place. This whole switch to virtual, just trying to figure out how are we going to be able to do this, but also overcome the challenges we already saw around that traction within the program.

We started having conversations about kind of the blended approach to make sure that you're able to address specific topics, but how do you reinforce it and fill in any gaps leveraging the digital assets available and the different ways that we can approach the entire engagement?

Beth Almes:                        

So Nick, you mentioned that they had been doing some things that really hadn't gotten traction for them in the past. What were they doing that was causing them to struggle and not really see the results they were looking for?

Nick Razzette:                   

Yeah, there are multiple factors that came into play there, and really reinforce this pendulum swing we've been seeing in leadership development that we're having a lot of conversations with our clients about. You have this one side where it's very episodic, single event-driven, where the individual would go to a session, learn the skills, go back, but then there's a lack of reinforcement to help them apply it back on the job and really drive towards that behavior change side.

They were doing those around these certain topics, but to help with that gap, they started looking at these content libraries. How can we just have something available where if somebody needs something to continue their development or new challenges come up, they could just kind of go find it within the thousands of options available to them?

The feedback they were getting from the group is where the sessions themselves were really relevant and helpful for the development of specific skill sets, it was too self-driven where they didn't feel like they had any guidance going back. Once that frustration set in and lack of guidance, they would revert back to old behaviors and then really everything they were doing on the front-end was being lost. Then because of the frustration, they weren't engaging with that self-guidance aspect as well.

Beth Almes:                        

So, it was kind of all or nothing with one side being they tried to do all group-based learning and then they went way the other direction to do all digital.

So, tell me then about the approach that we used with them and what was innovative about that.

Nick Razzette:                   

Absolutely. So we actually launched with them and they were one of our earlier clients in this area, our new subscription approach. What that does, is it really, around that pendulum swing again, it's about settling it in the middle, where we focus on creating a common leadership language and really unlocking DDI's content, but around curated content to the max of the ability of both in-person virtual classrooms, which is led by a facilitator instructor. At the same time, curating content and giving guidance of how do you continue to build on those skills you're learning within that session?

So at the end of the day, our client had everything they needed to actually launch it to group cohorts, have those live learning sessions, but then still have some guidance on how do I apply it back on the job? Additionally, they were one of the early adopters of a new program we launched called "My Pathway: Leadership Core," which allowed for a little bit more guidance and personalization to help them during that struggle of identifying what are the core topics and areas we need to continue to work on?

What My Pathway is doing for them is it's giving each learner their own self-assessment opportunity to understand some of their personality traits and confidence areas or gaps they have in their leadership capability. This program actually curates these specific challenges around their least confident areas to engage that learner in that digital learning experience. But it's very personalized and it's setting the stage for them to get into larger group development, and also give the organization more insight into across our group, what are the least confident areas? Is that something that we need to lean into a little bit more?

So that really satisfied a unique challenge that we're having on both sides of the plate, but really giving them that final solution that gave them all of the guided access, but also just as the personalized component for each person.

Beth Almes:                        

So they start with a kind of personal assessment understanding themselves as a leader a little bit more, moving into some of the recommended digital content and then it sounds like that feeds into some live learning events that a lot of them are engaged in. So, how does that process kind of work? How are those live learning events going?

Nick Razzette:                   

It's going really well, because really we're using the data from My Pathway to really influence what courses we're selecting for group development. So what we did with them is, there was some hesitation, not really hesitation, challenges in identifying what are the initial areas we need to start in. We knew coaching and managing conflict were early challenges, but what else?

So as we started going through and launching this digital approach, we got insights into very unique confidence challenges their leadership was having, and we picked upon some interesting trends that we were able to leverage and make selections and say, "Instead of just going down these paths or selecting through a survey, what courses do we think we should take?"

We all of a sudden had data to say, "Our leaders are really lacking confidence in these specific areas of inspiring individuals within the organization and not just doing things themselves." So all of a sudden, it allowed us to have the data to select the right topics to continue to support their leaders, and it made it feel much more personal for the leader as well to say, "We hear you, we understand these challenges. As an organization, we're here to support you through them."

Beth Almes:                        

So, that's a really cool way to do a needs assessment. So instead of either just kind of sitting in HR and saying, "Here's what I think they need," which happens, but this was a great way to engage them to do that. Then the alternative too of to try to send out a survey or do another needs assessment of how might this go for you? This is a great way to just get them learning, get them involved, and then use that as fuel for the group learning sessions.

So tell me then as they rolled this out to their leaders, what did they do to help make that successful and really try this new approach?

Nick Razzette:                   

So, there are a couple of things that we do with them or that they did also themselves. So your point around that survey, you see that happen all the time. Let's send out a survey, let's collect data and they'll make a selection. But the challenge is with that, not all the learners always get exactly what they need, or I had my top priority that didn't make the final selection.

One of the things that My Pathway actually brought to the table was each person immediately gets their own personalized learning experience, and it solves that, well, what about this? What's in this for me? You go through this and we're giving data to the organization, and boom, here's your personalized recommended areas, now we can use that data to continue build on it.

So being able to communicate it in that way, that we're not just asking you for something, but no matter what, we're compensating your time and doing the survey and this self-assessment by giving you something back immediately, I felt it generated a lot of excitement and engagement with whatever's going to happen next, because all of a sudden they know it's about them.

The other side is the communication of what we're doing for you and what's going to be available coming down the line. We actually worked with our marketing team internally to look at some of the ways that they were communicating what's going to be available in their leadership program. Some of the marketing materials could use a little refresh or a little guidance, and we were able to actually pull forward the entire strength of our marketing team to put together beautiful visuals and communication strategies to help them continue to build on that excitement and engagement.

So you didn't just fall off after you got this initial shiny thing of, "Hey, I got this personalized learning, but then I feel like I'm falling back into old routine." But all of a sudden there's communication things that are going out that have incredible visuals to them, but adding value and giving guidance over what's happening next and how we're going to continue to build on the experience. 

So all of a sudden it was not just, "Hey, we have the content. Hey, we have the partner." It's, "Hey, we have this entire execution strategy to continue to develop excitement and engagement and work with them ongoing." And really that's been a huge success already early on.

Beth Almes:                        

That's so great to hear. This is such a fantastic story of how they've really gone from, well, I want to say start to finish, but I guess they're really not finished, right? That's the point of their ongoing program, right?

Nick Razzette:                   

Absolutely right. We have a lot of exciting things that are happening here soon and we're excited to continue to build on it.

Beth Almes:                        

That sounds great, Nick. Thank you so much for sharing the story and being on How We Did It.

Nick Razzette:                   

Thank you. Thank you for having me.