Why Are Face To Face Interactions Dying Out?

When I was recently talking to a client she mentioned that their learning strategy would not be including face to face training anymore and instead they would be adopting more digital learning.

 “Why?” I asked…

Her answer was this: “We don’t see quick results from face to face interactions. They are too costly and we can’t really afford to have people out of the business for a couple of days. We should be adopting more digital tools, making it slicker for the learners and for the organisation.”

When I asked what type of face to face training she was talking about, my client answered “traditional.”

So, what is meant by traditional?

I asked myself the question but I really already knew the answer. I use the word ‘rational’ to describe learning interventions we once used but which are now tagged as ‘not effective’.  I can’t speak for anyone else but when I talk about ‘traditional face to face training’, I am referring to one or two days out of the office, going through a series of modules (taking into account learning styles) in an inclusive and collaborative environment.

I personally love facilitating this type of event, helping learners to have those ‘lightbulb’ moments gives me a real buzz. Equally, for the delegates, the debate and discussion that workshops like these create, fosters real learning that can be replicated back in the workplace.

Traditional Learning

Negative connotations

That said, I am also aware of the negative connotations attached to the traditional face to face:

  • How can we make sure that the content is relevant for everyone?
  • How can we keep delegates engaged and keep them away from the day-to-day when their email inbox is filling up?
  • How do we justify the budget required to host delegates in a central location (also considering that people are not at their places of works, being productive)?
  • How much do we actually retain from a face to face workshop (probably the biggest question).

Seeing both sides of the argument

As an L&D professional interested in providing the most effective solutions to my clients, I can certainly see both sides of the argument. We live in a digital world, one that has enhanced our lives in so many ways. So, why wouldn’t we want our team members to embrace the same learning tools to enhance their careers? After all, the ‘Towardsmaturity’ study, 2016, told us that the number one driver of online learning is our desire to do our jobs better and faster. So, the big question is, “are we all jumping on the digital bandwagon and discounting the traditional face to face altogether?”

Well, this depends on two main factors.

  • Content: What do we want our learners to take from face to face interaction? Is there content that can be best utilised and discussed in a classroom environment?
  • Behaviour, skills and knowledge: We can certainly learn about all three of these digitally but what about their application? Are we discounting the classroom environment as optimal practice for a skills application?

The Towardsmaturity study supported digital as a driver for doing our jobs better and faster. It also showed that top-deck learning organisations use digital means to enhance classroom learning.

Now, blended learning is nothing new of course. That said, I am wary of phasing out face to face contact and going completely digital. I see the advantages;  after all, it’s quicker, slicker, cheaper and relevant for learners; this fits the bill for organisations who want to empower their workforce to meet the challenges and demands of the modern world. But, let’s not forget the human element here. We also learn from people, from discussion, from debate, and from being challenged. Nothing really beats the collaborative environment of a classroom (when set-up well).

Striking a balance

As an L&D professional who fully embraces both face to face and digital in terms of achieving an optimal learning experience, it is useful to consider  the following points when designing and developing your next learning solution:

  • Flipping the classroom: Promote digital means, such as short videos and interactive experiences, so that learners come to the classroom with sufficient background knowledge. This allows the classroom experience to be impactful and optimises application practice.
  • Map-out learner journeys: Encompass 70:20:10 and spaced-learning theory. Make sure learning assets are bite-sized and engaging where necessary, but don’t be afraid to implement a face to face element to maximise impact.
  • Don’t entirely abandon the traditional: Remember, the most effective learning solution may be a post it note! As we have already said, we live in a digital world but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should use digital for everything.

Prioritise people

The future of learning is exciting. As digital changes the business world, people will be the differentiators for organisations in the future – not processes or technology. We must make sure that our people are developing in the right way – with the right learning – at the right time. Be careful not to discount the human element and the face to face interaction that the classroom brings….traditional or not!