Digital facilitation, honing skills online through practice and feedback

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Digital FacilitationIn these unprecedented times, organizations worldwide are having to rapidly adjust to new ways of working. How is this working out for you and your team? If you are less busy, are you getting the most from the time and online opportunities available?

Take a look at what the world’s elite athletes are doing. With little chance to compete this year, they are finding innovative ways to train hard and maximize performance. They are honing their skills to come back stronger when the time comes to compete again. Likewise, when your team is operating fully again, how will their environment have altered? Will they be ready? Are their skills up to the task? Or will they be rusty?

Does the performance of your team depend more on knowledge or skill? This is often hard to define, but rest assured most roles require articulation, communication, negotiation, persuasion, problem solving or indeed motor skills for fixing, mending, installing and alike. What we find interesting about the current situation is how quickly people have embraced digital not to increase their consumption of content but to learn or practice skills such as yoga, cookery, music etc. In other words, as a mechanism to develop and hone physical and mental skills via digital facilitation. Josh Bersin captures the phenomenon well here.

What does this mean for working with your team at present?

In the second part of our blog series, Employee Engagement in Isolation and Beyond, we look at digital facilitation; the process of using digital to facilitate skill development and how you can use it to hone the skills of your team.

Online role-play

Skills are best taught face-to-face, right? Well maybe, but by using digital facilitation we can use techniques such as role-play to help our teams practice inter-personal skills in a variety of scenarios. Online role-play provides the perfect platform to develop these essential skills online.

How can you get this working for you?

Next time you are using a web conference tool such as Zoom, Webex, or Adobe Connect, instead of simply discussing and exchanging ideas, use it as an opportunity to challenge your team to practice some pre-prepared scenarios. This might be an engineer dealing with a difficult customer, a salesperson conducting a sales call, an agent dealing with an insurance claimant etc.

Most web-conferencing tools offer the features you need to create breakout rooms so that groups can role-play in small groups or pairs. As the digital facilitator, you can jump into any breakout room to check on each group’s performance and help guide the session. Then, bring everyone back together so each group can share their insights and feedback. This is sometimes best done using the chat or whiteboard function to capture everyone’s learning points. By replicating real-world training dynamics online, skills can be effectively developed through practice, feedback, and peer perspectives.

Video uploads and self-reflection

Developing skills online does not need to be limited to live training sessions either. Our client, Comcast, routinely use a combination of video upload and self-reflection to sharpen the skills of their sales and customer service teams.

This is how it works:

• an activity is created as part of their online program; for example, “How would you promote product A in a sales pitch to customer persona B? Record your pitch.”
• Salespeople record videos of their pitches and upload them to an online platform. In the case of Comcast, they use our mobile learning and coaching platform, On.Board. You could use Sharepoint or other shared folder platforms
• Salespeople are prompted to reflect on their submission using a customized self-reflection form. This encourages them to break down the thinking behind the choices they made and consider how they might improve next time.
• Manager and/or sales coaches review the submissions and provide structured, specific feedback on what worked and what would benefit from improvement.
• In some cases, submissions are reviewed and discussed with peers too.

You can also use existing networking or collaboration platforms to recreate this kind of employee engagement and feedback. For example, Slack enables the easy collation of feedback on a task (such as a video challenge), while Facebook Workplace allows your employees to quickly post videos and solicit feedback with some handy features you won’t find on the consumer version of Facebook.

Here is short video that demonstrates how video upload functions in our On.Board platform:


Only perfect practice, makes perfect

One of the key differences between digital content consumption and digital facilitation is feedback. While practice is important, it is only part of the equation, encouraging self-assessment and providing specific, timely feedback will give you the fastest results when developing skills.

Not everyone in your team will respond to digital facilitation in the same way, just as many of us love to watch TV, so too will learners say they want to watch others demonstrate the skills in question. You will need to spend some time diffusing anxiety. Don’t forget to also encourage people to get involved. You’ll soon find they adapt and even feel empowered by opportunities presented. Furthermore, keep sessions short, —video-recorded submissions need only be 2-3 minutes and role-plays need not last longer than 10-12 minutes.

Humor is always a great way to dispel tension and help people engage. So, don’t take every moment of your practice session too seriously. After all, you are having a conversation with your team, people you know and likely respect. If there are technical glitches, laugh about it, fix it, and move on.

Keep the momentum and positivity up and your digital facilitation will yield great results both in terms of skill improvement and engagement. Most importantly of all, your team will be better prepared and ready for the next normal.


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