After more than a decade in the L&D industry, I’ve heard it all. Learning platform providers’ claims really do vary when it comes to the unique selling points of their technologies and their raison d'être.
Some claim they are advancing skills, careers, employee engagement and company culture. Others yet stand by formal learning and a vision of competence amongst their mass workforces, with an emphasis on course and training-based certifications and a heavily managed learning process.
Beyond this, there are others that are still making a mistake noted in one of our recent blogs based on a conversation between Fuse founder Steve Dineen and well-known learning and organisational performance strategy expert Charles Jennings: they design learning solutions purely for learning, rather than designing them to improve business performance.
It’s an important distinction, and one that often leads to an even more important question frequently asked prospective Fuse customers. It usually goes something like this: “your platform is great, I love your content framework and your ideology, but how do I actually make sure all this learning is boosting the bottom line?”
You can hardly blame a budget savvy Chief Learning Officer or HR Director for asking, right? After all, if anyone’s aware of the gap between learning and business value, it’s these leaders, in these roles.
If you can relate, you should keep reading, as this checklist will provide you with a guide to what you need to know to design for learning performance - and how to implement learning design so that it is measurable.
1. Learning needs to be relevant to your business
Learning has to be relevant, and it has to solve the issues that may arise with immediate tasks and goals associated with any particular role in a business.
In looking to build habits that support higher performance, it’s important that businesses can understand knowledge requirements for employees, and then work to enrich knowledge for each individual. This is likely to end up as a blended learning approach, a bit of skills training - including reskilling to equip people with skills they can apply in the future and upskilling focused on driving performance in the here and now - and lots of good digital learning resources like we have in Fuse.
Regardless of what makes up the magic combination for any one person, each approach has to satisfy the micro need for very role-specific knowledge, delivered at the point of need, to help solve problems and build habits that support the performance of each individual.
And, while it may sound over the top, size definitely matters when it comes to relevance. Learners don’t need 10,000 pieces of knowledge. Two hundred highly relevant and applicable pieces of knowledge is a better starting point, because this is all that’s likely to be relevant, and it’s all we want our learners to select from when conducting searches. This is where our customers really see the value of Fuse every time they interact with it.
It’s also important to note how useful AI can be when it comes to collecting and presenting relevant knowledge and creating context. Fuse can mine content and create intelligent links and tags within that content. It helps us to understand, for example, more about the subject type and category, and where it might sit within an industry.
2. Learning needs to be embedded in the flow of work
Fuse has invested a lot of time in understanding the user learning experience and its associated workflow. When we say “in the flow of work,'' or ‘knowledge at the point of need’ - we are talking about how you need to learn during work, so that you can apply what you’ve just learned immediately.
It’s how most people like to learn - it’s really that simple. You hit a snag or you need some information, and if you’re a Fuse customer, you look up the answer in Fuse and get a spot-on result that only takes minutes to consume (thank you, concise content - see point three) and execute on.
Our customers illustrate exactly how important this is all the time. Steve Dineen’s post The Power of Knowledge at the Point of Need will show you exactly how Hilti, Vodafone and Avon are harnessing the power of knowledge at the point of need to drive business performance.
One other point on why learning needs to be embedded in the flow of work: if you leave all learning to the classroom, it’s unlikely that your workforce will apply it and most likely that they’ll forget the vast majority of it.
This isn’t news. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus pioneered experimental studies of memory in the late 19th Century, culminating with his discovery of“The Forgetting Curve.” He found that if new information isn’t applied, we’ll forget about 75% of it after just six days.
A 75% loss over six days is not a metric that is going to drive business performance.
Here, you will learn that in order for learning content to drive business performance, it must be based on essential practices, techniques and strategies that will get tacit knowledge outside of the heads of company subject matter experts, and into the flow of work to turn skills into habits that support higher performance.
You’ll also learn the importance of content that is concise, mobile, compelling, shareable….the list goes on!
4. Learning needs to be continuous
Like social media platforms, one of the biggest challenges in L&D is creating engagement beyond that first visit, or making a platform ‘sticky.’
The role of corporate learning isn’t just to ‘do’ learning once and then go away. The goal isn’t achieved until there’s an environment that develops people to become continuous, self-sustaining learners.
One of the key principles in establishing engagement is to make new learning available frequently. If people are enjoying the creative, compelling content, and if they feel it offers them value, why wouldn’t they come back for more?
Learners also need to be able to recognise value, and they need to do it quickly, or they will lose interest. And that value needs to be consistent over time - when a resource stops being valuable, people stop using it.
Think of performance-based learning design as aligned with the very YouTube-esque principle of micro-influencers. Just as a person may have influence on YouTube, if you can find and create those individuals in your company who have great knowledge and who are seen as experts, you’re winning.Tapping into their tacit knowledge may be critical to your learning platform’s success, just as micro influence is on a social media channel.
Case in point, whenVodafone launched its Fuse platform in the UK, it featured content from top retail performers from the business, which employees immediately recognised and followed on the platform. In fact, the engagement was so entrenched that Vodafone had 100% of its retail management team and 95% of its retail associate team engaging on a weekly basis, frequently outside of office hours as well. Over the past five years, Vodafone has maintained an 80% engagement with its Fuse platform consistently - you won’t find many learning platforms that hit those numbers.
Guess What! There are Five More Points Coming Your Way
In keeping with our commandments of good content, we’re going to give you a break so that you can digest this knowledge and follow some of the links we’ve included. However, hold tight as part II relays five more important points on how to design learning for business performance. If you’re curious about why learning should be social and measurable, and what key things are needed in a learning support environment, this next blog is for you.