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ATD Blog

Key to Designing Successful Digital Learning? Begin With the Middle in Mind.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

You may have heard of a habit that dedicated people often cultivate to succeed in the workplace. It is often said that one must “begin with the end in mind” when starting a new project or setting a goal. The idea is that you need to intentionally set your direction then plan your next steps to reach your desired outcome with vision, purpose, and strategy. But does that apply to the process of developing a successful digital learning solution?

In general, this is good advice. You do want to set a goal and have a vision of your desired outcome. However, as a learning and development (L&D) professional, there are times that another approach is more likely to make your project a success. When designing corporate training, onboarding solutions, or other e-learning and development initiatives, it is important to begin with the middle—the management team between leadership and the employees that will receive the training—in mind.

Taking a middle view is essential to create the engaging, effective, impactful solution your team needs.

How Middle Managers Will Affect the Success of Your E-Learning Initiatives

Consider this: Your middle managers, team leaders, and supporting staff will have a tremendous influence over how your L&D initiative is received and used by the employees within your organization. Management is often part of initiating the training process, setting schedules for learning, and directing employees to the digital learning resources used in your training, whether as onboarding, ongoing skills or compliance training, or for limited company-wide initiatives.

When you think about all of the potential contact points, you can understand how your management team’s attitude toward the training, as well as its ability to implement the process, influences the perceived value of your training. In the end, managers must provide a consistent message of commitment to the skills and measures contained in the training.

So, how do you get support from your managers to ensure the success of your training?


Steps to Increase Management Compliance and Support for Digital Learning and Tools

Step 1: Consult With Your Managers

To get buy-in, you must consult with and include your management team during the early development of the e-learning course. How can you do this? By asking them for their pain points. Gain support by having them participate and asking them to provide information through surveys and in soliciting ideas and feedback.

Not only will you increase buy-in, but management is a great source of design inspiration. They are on the front lines and are a great source of information that will make your training successful.

Step 2: Train the Trainers

Does your management team know why the e-learning initiative is important? You must let your team know the reasoning behind your decisions. As much as you may think the need for training is self-evident, it may not be. For example, you may need to improve workflow processes with skills training. If you can demonstrate to management that you want the training to reduce the time management spends answering team questions, you may gain automatic support.


Do your trainers know how to implement the training? Will management need skills training to learn how to use the digital learning tools? Do they need support to add new technology? Will they know where to direct your staff with questions? You’ll want to provide your management team with these resources.

Step 3: Leadership Development

It may be that you need more formalized training for your management team. Devoting those resources as professional development will gain the support of your management team as they gain a clear path to advancement if desired.

Finally, we suggest that it might be wise to use a performance consultant. Another helpful option is to bring in experts with knowledge of how best to design your training solution to get the behavioral and performance changes you desire.

Don’t hesitate to invest in expert advice that will improve the return on investment of your training solution. It will increase the chances you have for successful outcomes, which is worth the cost, time, and effort you invest.

About the Author

Director of Learning Solutions Marty Newey loves working with AllenComm clients who quickly become his friends, and does all he can to make sure their projects are successful. He holds a MS in instructional design (BYU). He is an avid skier and backpacker and based on the inspiration of “City Slickers” has gone on his annual adventure trip with his old college buddies for 28 years now and counting.

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