Enabling learning in the flow of work—A new lens for the learning technology market

Posted by Mackenzie Wilson and Julie Hiipakka on June 20, 2019.

As organizations seek to help their people adapt, learn and succeed for the new world of work, it has become clear that traditional career management and learning and development approaches need to evolve. Misconceptions abound: microlearning is a delivery method, not a panacea; placing content into a video-library like content engine won’t solve for content that doesn’t meet learner needs. So it isn’t surprising organizations are confused about how the various elements of learning, talent, and work technologies fit together, and therefore what to buy. BersinTM has been publishing research to explain the leading practices high performing organizations are using to embed learning in the flow of work, and we see an opportunity to apply this lens to the learning technology market.

Historically we, and the broader HR technology analyst community, have published research on the learning market using distinct categories to support organizations as they make buying decisions. This includes categories such as Learning Management Systems (LMSs), Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs), Content Libraries, and more. This approach helped to provide market definition but has also created confusion. Solution provider capability-sets regularly extend across categories, with larger vendors adding to their solution suites and niche providers becoming increasingly competitive by building out additional areas of competency. An example of this blending across solution-types can be seen in the rapid incorporation of experience-focused features and capabilities by traditional LMS platforms historically focused on content distribution and utilization tracking. At the same time, technologies that weren’t built for learning are being used to enable performance, such as workplace collaboration and communication tools. Meanwhile, buyers aren’t seeing the outcomes they were expecting from their learning technology investment given the range of technological capabilities available.

Our conversations with our corporate members and solution providers confirm that buyers seek resources that help them decide what tools can help people perform in their current role and develop themselves for future roles. In other words, what technologies, learning and otherwise:

  • Provide meaningful information without pulling people outside of their day-to day work?
  • Provide more information to workers on how they’re actually performing?
  • Recognize, support, and encourage the organic and natural learning that happens every day outside of courses, classrooms and curricula?

Organizations want to know how to anticipate the needs of their learners, support performance in the current role, and help people prepare for future projects. We’ve found in our High Impact Learning Organization and our subsequent Learning in the Flow of Work research that these practices benefit workers and correlate with better business and talent experience outcomes. For example, our research has found that “Organizations that practice Designed Growth at the highest levels are 5 times more likely to have strong business outcomes and 10 times more likely to have strong learner experience outcomes than organizations that are less mature with regards to this factor.” Understanding what solutions can help to enable these approaches with capabilities like out-of-system activity tracking, visibility into performance and business data, and access to content at the point of need can therefore create a direct link to the realization of organizational value. Given the current preferences of workers and overlap in solution categories, our examination of learning in the flow of work capabilities will help create a clearer analysis of how technology supports these learning practices. It moves us all past categorizations that are overly-dependent on functionality; instead this approach focuses on the worker experience and ways to enable worker performance. If organizations are looking to support learning in the flow of work, solution providers can succeed in the market by building their tools to facilitate it.

Organizations need a guide to navigate the landscape of solutions enabling learning in the flow of work—to help identify the best vendors given the needs you and your workers have. At Bersin, we are exploring platform capabilities to help illustrate the link between technology and learning in the flow of work practices and methods. Our research will help organizations understand which capabilities enhance this model and how solutions that enable learning in the flow of work can help support broader shifts in organizational approach towards learning and development.

If you are a vendor with capabilities that support learning in the flow of work, participate in our Learning Solution Survey today for consideration in our market research.

Mackenzie Wilson is a senior research analyst at BersinTM, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Julie Hiipakka is a vice president and the learning research leader at Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

1 High-Impact Learning Organization Maturity Model: An Introduction, Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Dani Johnson, 2017.

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