Virtual Learning Experiences: A GreenHouse Team Pivot

Our experiences in the past few weeks have probably been similar to yours – like we’re all part of a giant experiment. From one day to the next our reality changed, and our entire band instantly started working from home. And just like that, our biggest challenges became finding the best ways of working in a totally remote setting, at the same time as feeling the threat of Covid-19 and its consequences, and for some, also learning how to adapt to too many family members at home at the same time. Not at all dissimilar to so many other companies.

Spotify is a global company with many distributed teams – we have teams in many offices around the world, and also some Spotifiers already working from home as their norm. So we’re used to meeting over video conferences and chatting via Slack, Hangout, WhatsApp, Workplace, and what have you. This is helpful when pivoting to a fully remote setting, but it’s still a very different reality for the majority of our workforce, who are used to meeting some of their colleagues in the office on a daily basis. It certainly changes the way most of us learn, or maybe not so much the way we actually learn, but the way we experience learning. Therefore, as L&D professionals, we must adapt to the way we design and present learning experiences.

Making a quick pivot

When we design learning experiences we always think about blended learning, with a goal of creating experiences that are interesting, varied, efficient and long-lasting. We’re no strangers to blending elements of live-in-classroom, live-virtual or online-on-demand. That said, we have an audience that loves face-2-face interaction, so just a few weeks ago, we had a ton of live instructor-led initiatives, including shorter skills training lasting a couple of hours, recurring language classes, onboarding sessions, full day training sessions, and multi-day leadership training. But within the first week of working from home, we managed to pivot many of our offerings to a fully remote setting.

Part of our success lies in how the GreenHouse (Learning & Development) team is organized. It’s clearer than ever now that the team’s way of working, where in normalcy speed is crucial and change constant, has been an underlying factor allowing us to make this pivot smoothly.

Working within the GreenHouse Team at Spotify means having a very broad role – we don’t have dedicated instructional designers, dedicated facilitators or dedicated e-learning specialists for example. Instead, each member of the GreenHouse team does all of those things. That makes us more flexible and able to adapt to changing needs. In this case we were able to gather the team, and take an approach where everyone could focus on transforming classroom training to live virtual training. Organizing this way helps us respond to sudden changes with speed, allocating resources where they are needed most. And just as important – it’s more fun and rewarding, as there are so many different areas for each of us to develop within.

When we turned our face-2-face training into live virtuals, we knew that we couldn’t do each training in exactly the same way – there were design elements that needed to be changed. We’ve understood this during the past few years in our journey to expand our offerings to all of our locations around the world.

How to re-design learning experiences to be totally virtual

So what exactly should the redesign take into consideration?

To start with you have to make the session shorter as very few people will stay engaged for hours and hours behind a screen. Preferably you have some prerequisite, like some reading/watching/reflecting to do before the virtual session, which cuts down on time but has the added benefit of allowing the trainer to focus on the interaction during the virtual session.

Use the possibilities of break out rooms and virtual whiteboards, live polls and more, that a good and modern video-tool can offer.

Sometimes people wonder why we have a limited number of participants in our sessions. This question becomes more prevalent as the common assumption is that it would be just as easy to have hundreds of people calling in now that the physical space restriction has been lifted. But to make it a good experience and a learning that sticks, we need a set-up where we can interact, have break-out rooms, share reflections and “see” all the participants.

Another thing we did within that first week, was to create a ‘Working From Home’ hub in our learning portal, where we quickly shared learning resources for individuals, teams and managers, specific to this situation. Having a learning portal (LMS or LxP) that is built to your requirements is crucial to speed and relevance – you can surface the most relevant materials, information and resources in a timely manner.

Virtual Experiences for Innovative and Passionate People

Right now, we have more signups to our sessions than ever. Working from home has emphasized the need for connection. Our learning sessions are now recognised as more than ‘skills training’. They’re also an opportunity for attendees to meet colleagues, connect and get a break from the usual day-to-day. Taking part in a virtual training really is win-win.

And this approach is being reflected across the larger HR-team at Spotify, where we’re lucky to have great colleagues to collaborate with. For example, the Heart&Soul team are offering virtual guided meditation and have curated conversations about the situation for those who needed the extra support in these stressful times.

The People Experience (Px) team have pivoted Spotify’s social events (typically live events), into social virtuals. After Works with team ‘pub’ quizzes, online work-outs, and an amazing “Spotify’s Got Talent” – a global gathering of inhouse stars performing from their homes.

All this together sets us up to succeed in our joint mission of having innovative and passionate people being able to be and do their best – even in unsettling times like these.

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Global Head of GreenHouse - Learning & Development at Spotify