The 2020 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the business and organizational landscape, with remote or hybrid work becoming the most popular approach. This shift has not only affected work but also learning. In general, learning shifted more towards digital and many organizations started providing self-paced online courses to their employees to acquire desired skills. However, research has shown that even massive open online course (MOOC) completion rates hover in the single digits, despite major platforms’ ongoing efforts to retain students.
That’s why, Learning & Development experts have had to devise new strategies to enable learning and they came up with cohort based learning to foster continued learning for online training sessions. The power of Cohort based learning can be realized by any organization.
Unlocking the Power of Cohort-based Learning
Initially associated with academia, cohort learning quickly gained recognition for its positive impact on employee training. Brandi Hytower, Director of Learning Operations & Technology at GP Strategies Corporation, identifies four key benefits of cohort learning from participants point-of-view:
Increased Accountability: Cohort learning cultivates a sense of accountability among employees, as they are answerable not just to supervisors and managers but also to their peers within the cohort.
Added Value through Diverse Perspectives: Cohort learning encourages employees to gain insights from their colleagues, facilitating the exchange of ideas that may align with or differ from their own viewpoints, thereby enhancing learning outcomes.
Spontaneous Learning and Productivity: Engaging in cohort discussions often leads to spontaneous "a-ha" moments and the generation of innovative ideas, making the learning process enjoyable and productive.
Collaboration and Growth: Cohort learning fosters collaboration at its core, enabling employees to learn, share experiences, and grow together.
Researchers have also concluded that while cohorts have a higher rate of completion, they also positively and strongly affect an employee’s career development.
Moreover, organizations also benefit from Cohort Learning. According to Walmart, employees who completed the cohort-based storefront training showed a 10% improvement in sales, underlining the impact of cohort-based training on performance.
Home Depot has a "Leadership Development Program" which prepares high-potential employees for leadership roles through a series of cohort-based training sessions. These employees are 2.5 times more likely to receive a promotion and 2 times more likely to stay with the company, suggesting that such training not only aids in business continuity through effective succession planning but also contributes to reduced turnover.
Overall, organizations get multiple benefits out of cohort-based training. A few of them are highlighted below:
1. Improved Teamwork and Collaboration
Cohort training involves grouping employees together for training, allowing them to learn together over a set period of time. This can foster a sense of community, promote teamwork, and enhance collaboration. In the retail sector, where coordinated work between different sections and teams is often crucial for smooth operations, this benefit can lead to more effective workflows and improved customer service.
2. Uniformity in Knowledge and Skill Sets
Through cohort training, all employees in a group receive the same level and quality of training. This can ensure uniformity in knowledge and skills across the retail organization. In turn, this uniformity can lead to a consistent customer experience, which is an important business goal for many retailers.
3. Reduction in Training Costs
Cohort training allows organizations to train a large number of employees simultaneously, which can be more cost-effective than individualized training. Reduced training costs can lead to better allocation of resources, thus improving the financial health of the retail organization.
4. Increased Employee Retention and Engagement
Cohort training can make the learning process more engaging for employees as they can learn from each other and share experiences. This shared learning experience can foster a sense of belonging and engagement, which can reduce employee turnover—a significant concern in the retail industry.
5. Accelerated Onboarding
With cohort training, new hires can learn together, getting acclimated to the company culture and processes more quickly. This helps to bring them up to speed rapidly, enabling them to contribute to the organization's goals sooner.
6. Better Succession Planning
Cohort training can help identify potential leaders among the group, as their leadership skills often become apparent during these sessions. Retail organizations can use this insight for better succession planning, thus ensuring the continuity of business.
7. Enhanced Innovation and Problem-solving
By training together, employees can share diverse perspectives, experiences, and ideas, leading to innovative solutions and strategies. This can greatly enhance problem-solving capabilities in a retail setting where unforeseen challenges are common.
8. Enhanced work culture
Cohort learning promotes a learning culture within the organization. When employees engage in learning together, it sends a message that continuous learning and development are valued. This can foster a culture of curiosity, growth, and adaptability, which are essential in today's fast-paced and evolving work environment.
How Cohort-based training can be made more effective?
When running cohort-based training in an organization, there are several key points that should be kept in mind:
1. Clear Objectives: Each training session should have clear, defined objectives that align with both the individual's job role and the broader business goals. This ensures that all training is relevant and targeted.
2. Participant Engagement: Ensure the training is interactive and engaging. Use a variety of formats and methods to cater to different learning styles. Incorporate role-play scenarios, group discussions, and hands-on activities relevant to retail operations.
3. Group Composition: The composition of the cohort is crucial. Try to mix employees from different roles, departments, or locations to encourage a variety of perspectives and enhance team collaboration.
4. Real-life Business Scenarios: Use case studies and scenarios based on actual situations that may occur in a retail setting. This will help employees better understand and apply what they're learning.
5. Periodic Assessments: Regular feedback and assessments can help track the progress of each participant and the effectiveness of the training program. It also allows for adjustments to be made as necessary.
6. Support and Mentoring: Encourage experienced employees or leaders to mentor the cohort. This not only aids learning but also strengthens bonding within the team.
7. Flexibility: Be open to adjusting the training program based on feedback from participants. Each cohort may have different strengths and weaknesses, and being flexible allows the training to best meet their needs.
8. Consistent Learning: Learning should not stop when the training program ends. Encourage continuous learning and development through follow-up sessions, additional resources, and ongoing support.
9. Evaluation of Training: Post-training evaluations should be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the training and its impact on performance. This can provide valuable insights for improving future training programs.
By keeping these points in mind, retail organizations can ensure that their cohort-based training programs are as effective as possible and contribute significantly to their business goals.
Cohort learning is a dynamic approach that harnesses the power of community, collaboration, and accountability in the learning process. It builds stronger communities, fosters engagement, and drives efficient learning outcomes. Moreover, cohort learning contributes to a positive work culture, enhances talent development, and generates cost savings for organizations. By embracing cohort learning, organizations can cultivate a culture of continuous learning, maximize employee potential, and thrive in the evolving business landscape.