There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the effect that our on-demand, social-media-fueled culture is having on our collective psyche. It’s nearly impossible to escape being inundated with information about the lives of our network—new jobs, promotions, weddings, parties, concerts, trips. While these events may be carefully curated for sharing, they can lead to the feeling that everyone else is experiencing the glorious wonders of something you are not. This phenomenon, called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), not only arises in our personal lives but is also showing up in the workplace—particularly related to employees’ expectations to build and develop new skills and engage in new experiences. While careful curation may contribute to FOMO in our personal lives, it can actually help avoid FOMO in learning while improving learning effectiveness.
With the half-life of skills now only 5 years1, it’s no surprise that modern workers have an insatiable appetite for information and a yearning for continuous development and self-improvement. Research reveals that the No. 1 job benefit for Millennials is training and development and that it is 3-4 times more important than pay.2
Learning content options are rising to meet this demand. According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, with “tools such as YouTube and innovators such as Khan Academy, Udacity, Udemy, Coursera, NovoEd, edX, and others, a new skill is often only a mouse click away.”3
There has also been a continued shift and desire to move from e-learning and blended learning to embedded learning—where learning occurs as part of the natural flow of work.4 Listening to podcasts while commuting, exchanging videos and articles during the day with peers, and searching online for just-in-time answers, a how-to video, or a motivating talk have all become a routine part of work.
While the options are vast and readily available, employees may be overwhelmed and confused about where the line between self-exploration and true, recognized “development” occurs. And they are wondering if they might be missing out on the content most pertinent to their interests and career goals because there are so many places to go or they may not have access to the same opportunities as their peers. The learning function itself is also grappling with how to bring order to all this to (1) provide a compelling learning experience and (2) capture and analyze all the learning occurring within the organization. There is FOMO all around.
Curation can help
It used to be that that “curation” was thought of in connection with a museum or library. Now, everything is curated, from our shopping recommendations to our dining and vacation “experiences.” In learning terms, curation is a way of approaching the learning strategy and learner experience that recognizes the importance of personalization and drives toward business outcomes.
Curation involves empowering employees to seek and collect relevant, timely, and up-to-date content from credible sources to meet their specific needs at the right point in time, and then report back on what they found. It simultaneously enables them to help colleagues find that content in the future and tell the learning function which content is most useful. This makes future design and sourcing decisions more effective and can be used to indicate potential gaps in development offerings.
For employees, operating in this curated environment is almost second nature. From mixtapes to burned CDs and digital playlists, we have been curating for one another in our personal lives for decades. We are well versed in using social network features like ratings and comments to indicate the value and utility of specific items, and we are accustomed to having products or items recommended to us based on prior behaviors or the “wisdom of the crowd.”
For the learning organization, operating in this curated environment is not as natural and requires a deliberate strategy. The organization’s role is to define the structure, governance, enabling technology, and content mix to foster an environment where curation can occur. An effective learning curation strategy is one that incorporates both formal learning, such as for compliance and onboarding, and informal learning, such as self-selected readings and podcasts or mentoring experiences.
Context is king
Contextualizing curated content is essential, providing cues as to why the selection of content is relevant to the learner. Just as you wouldn’t randomly send a colleague a video or article link without an explanation, companies should not organize content without giving learners the context behind the selection. Effective learning organizations make the connection for learners by explaining why they have curated a specific set of content for them.
For example, imagine an account manager receives a curated list of content on Big Data and machine learning. She might feel it is irrelevant and possibly even a mistake. However, if you add a blurb or short video explaining the company’s new business imperative to become a data-driven organization and highlight the important role account managers will play in this transformation, she might think, “Awesome! I am part of this transformation, and I am going to develop as a result of it.”
Enabling curation through technology
Typically, the pursuit of a learning curation strategy is sparked by or part of an organization’s effort to optimize its learning technology infrastructure. In fact, research shows “the fastest growing segment in HR technology spending is now the adoption of new employee learning systems.”
Whole new categories of learning technologies have entered the mix over the last few years, many of them squarely focused on providing a high-end learner experience and curation capabilities—everything from social features to rate and promote the most effective content to gamification (i.e., badges and points for recommendations) to bespoke recommendations supported by machine learning and artificial intelligence. In response, many Learning Management System (LMS) platforms, often considered the “elder statesmen” of learning technology, are also rapidly incorporating a higher-end, learner-centric experience and curation capabilities.
The challenge of this exciting proliferation of platforms and features is that it is creating confusion about which platforms should do what and how they should all fit together—all the more reason to start with a sound curation strategy. This means aligning on the overall vision for learning and learner experience, planning for a shift toward employee-centric design, establishing a flexible framework for organizing content, bringing in the right stakeholders that will be impacted by and influence curation decisions, and creating a governance model for enacting and sustaining curation over time—it requires ongoing focus, and curation of the curation process itself!
Wait, but why?
Aside from guiding technology investments and ultimately alleviating learning FOMO, a learner-centric curation strategy can:
- Enable organizations to provide the most relevant, personalized, and up-to-date content.
- Anticipate and respond in an agile fashion to the rapidly changing needs of its workforce. Almost 90 percent of CEOs believe their company is facing disruptive change driven by digital technologies and 70 percent say their organizations do not have the skills to adapt.
- Reduce overall learning costs by allowing for more focused investment in external content libraries, minimizing overall volume, and reducing the need for significant investment in custom content.
- Increase employee engagement and investment in growing the content marketplace.
At a time when trends show the ability to learn and progress is now the principal driver of a company’s employment brand for Millennials, and 42 percent of them report they would transition to a new role because they are not learning quickly enough, the companies that enable personalized and relevant learning experiences will likely have a significant competitive advantage. The bottom line: If the organization is not constantly providing meaningful learning opportunities, retention may suffer.
Beyond retention, the visionaries see a learner-centric curation strategy paired with a learning experience platform as a fundamental element in enabling the workforce to rapidly obtain the information needed to support business goals. This is imperative for organizations that will be successful in today’s disruptive environment.
Where to begin?
Learning curation can be integrated as a component of the current learning strategy or serve as the catalyst for a full transformation of the learning experience. Here are some steps to consider to start the process:
- Collect data around employee priorities, trends, gaps, and current and future projects impacting the enterprise to align your curation strategy with organizational needs.
- Conduct a rapid assessment of your current learning technology ecosystem and content offerings, and define your target future state.
- Bring together the right leaders across your organization to evaluate your current learning strategy and determine the role you would like curation to play in it.
- Establish a prioritized plan for addressing the operational, curriculum, and delivery components needed to realize the learning curation strategy.
The future is one of constant change, but one thing is certain: L&D organizations that recognize the new future of careers, embrace these changes in technology, and become flexible content curators rather than rigid content “pushers” with aimless “consumers” have the potential to become highly valued business partners— who won’t be missing out.
12017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends: Rewriting the rules for the digital age, Deloitte University Press, February 28, 2017.
4Josh Bersin, The Disruption of Digital Learning: 10 Things We Have Learned, Bersin by Deloitte, 2017.
5Dani Johnson, The Contextualization of Learning Content, Bersin by Deloitte, 2016.