While helping with Jane Hart’s “Modern Workplace Learning” track at LearnTec 2020 in Karlsruhe, Germany, I was delighted to make the acquaintance of keynote Brian Murphy, global head of learning for AstraZeneca. During his time as head of learning and leadership at CITI EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), he made a name for himself via his oversight of a successful continuous learning campaign.

Hart has been writing about learning campaigns for years now, usually in the context of the 70-20-10 (real workplace learning comes more from experience and less from formal training) approach. I had some success with campaigns in my past life as a workplace training coordinator. I was surprised to realize I’d never written about this approach, so I thought a recap of my recent experience would be a good place to start.

What is a continuous learning campaign?

A continuous learning campaign is a bit analogous to a marketing campaign, with spaced messages sent to specific target audiences in a variety of formats via a variety of mediums. Campaigns can be especially useful for those interested in:

  • Encouraging a ‘learning culture’ or attitude of everyday learning
  • Advancing the understanding that learning is a process, not an event
  • Getting learning moments into the workflow
  • Building non-‘course’ alternatives to workplace learning
  • Extending formal instructional activities with memory jogs, additional tidbits of information, opportunities for additional conversation or reflection, quick skill practice, etc.

A draft campaign

Our conference program culminated in groups choosing goals and quickly sketching out 30-day learning campaigns, with elements building from easier to harder, to support them. Here is one group’s draft campaign.

Goal: Formulate a habit of giving feedback
Subgoals: Practice giving feedback, experience and reflect on receiving feedback
Technology: Learning experience platform with an open forum discussion that allows for posting documents and media

1. Go for coffee with someone and ask about a big challenge they are facing. Really listen to their situation.

2. Notice one great thing someone else does. Tell them what you like and appreciate about it.

3. Think of someone in your network you appreciate. Share why you appreciate them.

4. Post a story about a time you offered feedback to a family member/friend. What was the reaction? How was the feedback received?

5. Practice listening without interjecting; share your experience.

6. Express yourself with only facial expressions—no words—and record the positive and negative reactions.

7. Ask a peer for feedback and wait one day before responding to it.

8. Approach three people in your network and ask them about your reputation. How do others really perceive you?

9. Develop a list of behaviors you believe would make working with you easier for your peers. Validate it with peers and ask for additional input.

10. Record a role play with a peer of a situation you find difficult. Post the video.

As this was just one quick activity, and as I haven’t worked on similar endeavors in the past couple of years, I reached out to L&D specialist Craig Taylor for some additional conversation. He’s been using Dave Tosh’s Sparks product and provided a few additional insight about the effectiveness of campaigns to support learning, especially as the idea is supported by research around spaced learning, nudge theory, and behavioral economics. He is especially interested in using campaigns to provide or extend learning experiences around activities like compliance training.

  • As much as you can, make the experience personalized and adaptive. If you’re following up/nudging people about, for instance, some past compliance training or maybe a topic like workplace wellness, give them options of how they want to receive nudges (eMail? Slack? Something that does not require them to give out their phone number?) How often do they want to receive them? And recognize when enough is enough: Give people the opportunity to opt out of some tasks or whole campaigns.
  • In designing the nudges consider ways to support your greater goal: What will help people think, reflect, and act on something?
  • When designing a campaign read up on the EAST (Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely) methodology for influencing behavior.

Continuous learning campaigns can be an excellent way to support ongoing workplace learning and performance—from adding more information and context to embedding, extracting, and encouraging sharing as everyday habits.

For more on CITI’s continuous learning campaign, see Murphy and Jennings’ white paper.