Are we entering a golden era of technology solutions that enable lifelong learning and development? From the emergence of learning experience platforms, virtual and augmented reality courses, and on-demand mobile content to data analytics, it seems that every aspect of learning technology is taking a massive leap forward with a goal toward “always on” lifelong learning–and creating an experience that places the learner front-and-center and becomes learner-led rather than organizationally driven.
Learning and business leaders are taking note—the fastest-growing segment in HR technology spending is now the adoption of new employee learning systems, as explored in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report. What’s your plan to “boldly go” into the next learning frontier?
Once limited to highly structured corporate learning catalogs, employees now have access to unparalleled development options inside, and more commonly outside, of formal Learning & Development (L&D) offerings. Despite rapid advances in learning technologies, many L&D organizations have yet to gain benefits beyond traditional learning management systems (LMSs). While existing learning systems provide much-needed internal content management, scheduling, delivery, and reporting capabilities, the emerging needs of the modern learner for high-quality digital HR experiences require more, creating true disruption to a domain that has been relatively stable for many years.
Given such dynamic disruption, how can L&D leaders take best advantage of the current abundance in digital learning to optimize the value of precious investment dollars? Our recent conversations with learning leaders demonstrate an increasing pressure to revise strategies and deliver a differentiated experience. Figuring out where to begin can be overwhelming in itself. A three-step plan can help L&D leaders rapidly advance toward digitalizing the learning experience.
Step 1: Assess the current learner experience and state of enabling technology.
Objectively assessing your current-state learning experience in the context of enriching in meaningful ways through digital solutions can be difficult given the significant pace of change in the marketplace. This is why we advocate starting your ecosystem assessment by looking at the four broad facets of the modern learner below:
- Does your digital platform or suite of tools facilitate high quality educational outcomes sourced from both internal and external content?
- Can your ecosystem identify, suggest, and track learning experiences that occur through on-the-job projects and assignments as well as formal courses?
- Can your technology provide easy exposure to interaction and relationships with colleagues, professionals, and thought leaders?
- Does your infrastructure provide a connected learning environment that facilitates on-demand learning and proactively suggests interventions based on role, location, milestones, and projects?
There are mature or maturing learning technologies focused on each of these facets, so if you answered no to one or more of these questions, you may want to look at modernization. As our colleague Josh Bersin puts it, “The learning technology market is undergoing more disruption than I’ve seen in a decade. New learning experience platforms, mobile learning tools, micro-learning tools, and video production and distribution tools are now ready to scale. It’s time to seriously consider a migration plan from your legacy LMS.”
Learning Management Systems are no longer the single solution; they are a node in an ecosystem deployed to engage and empower your learners to be skilled, knowledgeable, and productive.
Step 2: Identify learning moments that matter.
The second step for L&D leaders is to dig into what their employees need to grow capabilities and experiences by identifying learning moments that matter. Identifying learning moments is not like a typical training needs assessment focused on task-specific training content. Instead, learning moments are important events, milestones, and opportunities that can help employees to be more successful on the job and in their careers. With the learner at the forefront through a design thinking approach, identifying a moment isn’t about the content associated with the moment—just the moment itself. And, in a departure from traditional content-focused L&D approaches, you may never create content for some moments. You may instead use technology and experiences to support learning, opening new pathways to external content, facilitating social learning, or curating information in a way that meets the needs of the modern learner.
To better understand moments and how they translate into learning technology, L&D teams should consider:
- Creating learning personas. Personas allow learning teams to segment their employee populations to better understand their learning needs, preferences, and how to engage and connect with them. Personas vary by organization and can include executives, sales managers, engineers, frontline employee, new hires, and other “categories” of employees with similar needs in the context of learning. Segmenting employee groups using personas aligns with the successes marketing and sales teams have proven over many years in segmenting customers to align with their unique needs.
- Prioritizing learning moments that matter. Moments that matter may correspond to an individual’s current role(s) and long-term career or relate to stretch assignments and projects. Gathering insights directly from the people across personas in your enterprise will guide the identification and prioritization of the experiences and learning pathways needed to make individual moments count.
- Building employee journey maps. Journey maps capture how personas move through moments that matter throughout their career. They allow learning teams to facilitate creation of longer-term development plans and cohesive curriculums that both deliver impactful training and also help build the employer brand, creating an environment that supports employees’ career development.
Identifying moments that matter is more critical than ever as employee expectations about learning and development rapidly shift and evolve. Deloitte 2017 Human Capital Trends report noted that the “ability to learn and progress” is now the principal driver of a company’s employment brand. Yet only one-third of Millennials believe their organizations are using their skills well, and 42 percent say they are likely to leave because they are not learning fast enough.
Step 3: Define a roadmap for technology to support learning.
A prioritized roadmap aligns priorities and investments in learning technologies to guide thoughtful sequencing for execution to deliver both immediate impact and long-term value. It should connect to the broader priority roadmap for investments in people and related digital enablement to maximize investments and benefits across the enterprise. Personas, moments that matter, and journey maps should inform the selection, prioritization, and timing of initiatives in your roadmap. Informed by its business priorities, culture, and specific persona-driven needs, every organization will have a different vision and resulting roadmap. Of course, collaborating with IT colleagues to leverage existing technology platforms and augment where there are gaps is important as well.
Some organizations may invest more heavily in integrations to outside learning sources that open new on-demand learning pathways, while others may focus on developing high-impact virtual reality capabilities specifically focused on critical roles and tasks. Other roadmap elements may include next-generation learning management solutions, learning experience platforms, learning record stores (LRS) to support deeper learning analytics, or enabling social and collaborative learning.
With the breadth and maturity of learning technologies available in the market today, the sky is really the limit for how an organization can modernize its learning ecosystem. While certain platforms might excel in one purpose, there is often overlapping functionality, driving the need for a clear vision of how to position and govern the various components to meet your learning needs to simultaneously create high-impact and efficiency.
The journey is likely worth it
Starting a learning technology modernization campaign can be daunting, expensive, and confusing at first. Yet, it doesn’t need to be if you apply a structured approach that starts with the learner as the central focus. Modernizing learning technology is a very real opportunity with tangible benefits for organizations and an important component in realizing High-Impact Learning. New learning technologies can enhance learning experiences and outcomes, helping enterprises succeed in the digital age.
What’s your plan? Join the dialogue and share your perspectives.