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Here’s What It Really Takes To Create Good Recommendations For Learning

Rhys Giles
Jul 08 2021

In 2021, companies have been all about skill-building at scale, with PwC’s key findings on talent research revealing that 80% of CEOs say employees need new skills for today - particularly digital skills. 

But let me ask you this: how often do you actually need to learn a new skill at work? It’s unlikely to be daily. It may be quarterly, or even once or twice a year. And even when you do need to learn new skills, do you really have the time to take the online (and often generic) courses used to teach them? 

Now, let me ask you this: how often do you need new knowledge to do your job? If you’re anything like me, it could even be a few times a day. I am always looking for knowledge on how to do things better, or how to perform the next step in a task that I am unfamiliar with. 

We’re not talking skills ‘versus’ knowledge here, as both have their place. But the L&D industry has been far too focused on skills alone for some time now, and it’s time to make a change. Knowledge is what is needed for that boost of productivity that businesses are crying out for, and in this blog, we’re going to give you several examples that show exactly why. 

Skills Alone Are Not Enough To Improve Performance

No one wants to be the Netflix of learning, and here’s why: its recommendation engine is geared towards media consumption (which it does fairly well.) 

But to delve a bit deeper, think about it this way: if I love Westerns, Netflix recommends me more Westerns - great! The more I rate, the better it gets - also great. But if I need to understand how to, for example, how to create a pivot chart, I need that knowledge now to complete the task at hand. I don’t need generic recommendations just based on what I have done previously. 

The problem is, most learning platforms take an approach that is not dissimilar to the Netflix media consumption model, and, more often than not, the approach is centred around courses and skills, rather than knowledge.  

Skills by themselves don't do much. They are just one of many different data points that may go into making a great recommendation engine. Other data points may be your historical positive engagement (likes, shares, comments) or what people like you in similar job roles are accessing. They could be what your manager assigns you and your team, or what they themselves like and consumes. Or, they could be simply areas of interest based on activity and memberships, or competencies you’re working towards. A great recommendation engine takes a lot into consideration on a user-by-user basis. 

We are continually experimenting with what makes good recommendations, and we don’t believe that skills alone are the answer. 

Why do we need so many data points and why are we so dedicated to fine-tuning our recommendation engine? It’s all about improving performance, something that skills alone struggle to do. If a learner is subscribed to a skill or shows interest in that skill, most learning systems will present that learner with more content based on that skill. 

But ultimately, that content usually ends up being quite generic - a lot goes into perfecting a skill! The other problem is that generic information contained in a skills-building-focused course doesn’t often solve a direct problem you may have in finishing a task at work. And ultimately, this doesn’t improve your performance. 

Community Is Everything

Another important part of the knowledge-centric ethos of Fuse is our communities. Unlike most learning platforms, we have communities that bring together people who have the same type of profile. 

Take our client Scandic, for example. Scandic is the largest Nordic Hotel chain with over 18,000 employees dispersed over many locations. The company wanted to move on from its ineffective intranet to modernise its learning and culture, reaching out to every employee to create deeper connections between Scandic hotels. 

With Fuse, Scandic was able to establish function and role-specific communities, like food and beverage. Using these channels on Fuse, experts from across the organisation can share their knowledge, including community managers, who can share specific knowledge designed to support their business goals. 

Some of the best community content Scandic has on Fuse is beverage and wine schools shared by bartenders, as well as chef schools, where chefs can share techniques. A bartender looking to make the perfect spicy Bloody Mary, or a chef looking to make a top omelette can find within their Fuse communities specific knowledge dedicated to exactly these tasks. 

This focus on community shows the importance of knowledge over what are just specific skills. Chefs already know how to cook, and bartenders already have the basic skills they need to perform the job. But knowledge is the key in helping them to perform better. And in curating the best tacit knowledge into communities, Fuse can help to recommend great content even within communities by tracking how learners engage with content. 

Knowledge Is The Future Of Learning

We won’t beat around the bush: having knowledge at the sphere of your universe is going to drive better performance and profitability than what you’ll see if you take a skills-only approach to learning. Skills-based learning on its own isn’t enough for ‘real-world,’ demonstrable performance improvement. 

Today, employees want to watch a quick YouTube video or read an article written by an expert who can deliver a very quick master class on specific knowledge needed. Skills are great, but they are only one data point amongst many, and if companies are going to use learning to improve performance and affect the bottom line, knowledge is key. 

If you’d like to learn more about knowledge in the flow of work, download our ebook Knowledge in the Flow of Work: 5 Ways to Power Learning. 

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