Corporate Training: How to ensure employees embrace digital

Paul Boag

Does your corporate training program include a digital stream? Are you teaching your employees how to operate in a world of social media, apps, websites and connected customers?

Most organisations I work with have a somewhat lack lustre attitude towards corporate training. But there has been a radical shift in consumer behaviour and the work environment. That is a change that has left many employee skill sets and thinking are woefully out of date.

Many organisations are undertaking programs of digital transformation to make digital as ubiquitous to company operations as electricity. But that doesn’t just mean installing some new software. It means a significant change management program that requires staff to work in a radically different way.

Why corporate training in digital is failing

Unfortunately, the level of training most staff receives in digital is wholly inadequate and the result is concerning skill gaps.

It is focused on software, not skills

For a start, most of the corporate training I see in the field of digital focus primarily on software training. It teaches employees how to use the content management system or CRM. What it tends to be less good at is teaching people the skills they need to make full use of digital within their daily work.

For example, those within marketing teams don’t typically receive much in the way of training regarding how to fully utilise social media. Equally, content producers receive little guidance about how to write effectively for the web. Sure, they might have a basic introduction, but that is hardly enough.

It is rarely remembered

The problem is that attending a one-off workshop on writing for the web or social media is hardly likely to stick. That is especially true if the person receiving the training isn’t practising what they have learnt on a daily basis.

Take, for example, content creators. Many of those who create copy for websites do so on an infrequent basis. It may be months before they have a chance to put into practice what they learnt, and by that time they have forgotten it.

Even if they do remember what they learnt, typically those lessons do nothing to challenge their current thinking or working practices.

It doesn’t challenge existing thinking

Digital transformation is about more than introducing a new tool set and providing the skills to utilise it. Digital transformation requires behaviour changes and for employees to think differently.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Many marketers come from a pre-digital era of mass marketing and mass media. When confronted with the decline of traditional marketing channels, most of them transitioned across to digital channels fairly seamlessly. But in doing so, they didn’t change their mindset. They switched from an old channel to a new one. A print ad that became a banner ad, and so on.

Example of Coca-cola adopting digital marketing channels.
It is not enough to adopt digital channels. You must adopt digital thinking.

Digital marketing training should encourage different thinking, not just an introduction to new tools. It should teach those marketers that maybe they should be creating a viral campaign or nurturing recommendations through better customer service. That a blogger engagement program might be more efficient than emailing journalists press releases in the same way you used to send them in the post.

Organisations need to start seriously investing in their corporate training if they want to encourage this kind of change in employee behaviour.

How to invest in your digital corporate training

How then do we create a corporate training program that helps the organisation through digital transformation and adequately equips staff for the digital age?

A significant component is to ensure our program does more than just teach. It needs to reassure too.


Most people are afraid of change because it means taking risks and staff worry that they will get into trouble if they take risks. Also, digital is an unknown factor to most staff. They are not familiar with it and that in turn creates anxiety. They feel out of their depth, and that can make them resistant. It is easier to ignore it.

Corporate training needs to work hard to make people feel comfortable with the digital mindset and technology. It needs to reassure them that the company will be forgiving when they make mistakes and that it wants them to take risks and try new things. In short, it needs to create a safe place from which to learn.


Training should inspire people. After all, you are asking people to invest a lot of time and energy, effort way beyond the training itself. You are asking people to change the way they work, to challenge every familiar working habit they have developed over the years.

The only way you are going to convince people to make that kind of investment is if you sell the benefits of digital to them. You need to inspire and excite them, not just about the advantages to the company and its customers, but the long term benefits to them in their role.

Corporate training needs to sell the benefits of digital to staff.

Make it personal

Training plans will need to be specific to employees individual circumstances if you want them to understand the benefits to them personally. It won’t be enough to simply roll out the same training program to everybody in the company. What you teach those in marketing will have to be different to what you cover for those in compliance or finance.

You will need to create a training program that provides employees lots of opportunities to ask questions about how digital specifically applies to them. That means at least some face to face training sessions will need to be a part of the mix. It cannot all be self-learning.

Encourage self-learning

That said, self-learning should be a crucial part of any training solution. As I said earlier, people often forget what they have learnt in workshops, and sessions try to cram too much information into people’s heads all in one go.

Alongside any in-person or online workshops, there also needs to be self-learning resources too. From video courses to service manuals, a good corporate training program should allow people to learn at their own pace.

Self-Learning platforms like Skillshare show us that people like to learn at their own pace.

It should also be seeking to encourage employees to keep learning too, beyond what the business training spoon-feeds them. That should manifest itself in all kinds of ways, from providing a digital training budget that each employee can spend, to regular email updates featuring great articles on digital best practice.

Integrate it into employee workflows

Finally, it is important that training shouldn’t be a standalone activity, separate from day-to-day work. The company should weave it into day-to-day operations. After all, the best way to learn is by doing. The best time to teach somebody how to write good web copy is when they need to sit down and write some.

Advice and training can be built into the tools staff are using

The company should integrate training into the tools people are using. For example, when writing content in the content management system, staff can be shown tips and advice on how to make that content better. Or when they are composing a social media update, there could be a link to a video that takes them through the process.

A mix, accommodating all learning styles

In essence, if we want our staff to embrace digital we need to change our approach to training development. We need to do more than a few workshops and some dry documentation buried on the Intranet, and instead create a rich learning experience. An experience that makes use of a range of different approaches and accommodates different learning styles.

Fortunately, digital itself offers the ability to do just this. A well-designed slide deck can dramatically improve training delivery. Webinars allow trainers to run sessions remotely. The use of video, animation, and audio can enrich self-learning material. Even that dull documentation on the Intranet can become an interactive and informative learning platform.

Fitness apps show us that we can motivate staff to learn using gamification and data.

We can even draw upon some of the lessons learned from mobile apps like Fitbit or Swarm to motivate user behaviour through gamification. Corporate training no longer needs to be a painful experience that staff have to endure. It can be inspiring, exciting and personal.