Sector Report: Your Training Program Is Not Enough

By Sarah Fister Gale

Jul. 30, 2018

The way employees learn has changed dramatically in the past decade. Today’s learners want just-in-time, relevant, chunky content that is available any time from any device. And for the most part, learning leaders have fallen in line, providing vast libraries of content that can be consumed quickly and easily by anyone on an as-needed basis.

So why are learners still so disappointed in their options?

“Learning professionals feel like they are doing a great job, but learners are not feeling it,” said Michael Griffiths, U.S. lead of the learning practice for Deloitte Consulting in New York. The problem: Old learning models aren’t providing employees with the knowledge they need to achieve their ambitions.

Deloitte’s 2018 “Human Capital Trends” report found that even though most employees no longer follow a traditionally defined career path, almost half of companies surveyed still base their development program on skills designated to these paths in their learning management systems. Learning leaders know they are falling short. Just 18 percent of respondents said they give employees the ability to actively develop themselves and chart new pathways for their careers.

“The LMS has failed,” Griffiths said. “It doesn’t create a point of need, it’s just a big record-keeper.”

Part of the problem is the lack of guidance. Companies provide lots of content, but learners don’t know what to do with it, said Stephanie Neal, research associate in DDI’s Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research in Pittsburgh. DDI’s research shows that attracting next gen leaders is the top challenge for today’s CEOs, but companies aren’t providing them with the guidance they need to mature into these roles. “Organizations that rely on a self-directed, insular approach to learning are failing to engage leaders in meaningful development,” she said.

Today’s learners want personalized training that gives them the core skills they need to move up in the organization, and guidance on what courses they need and when. They also need motivation, said Tanya Staples, vice president of learning content for LinkedIn.


LinkedIn’s 2018 “Workplace Learning” report found more than half of employees said they would spend more time learning if their manager directed them to complete a specific course, and 49 percent would do it if it was tied to a promotion. The message is clear, she said. “Learners will engage in learning if they feel it is worth their time.”

Learners also want the LMS to reflect the consumer-focused experiences they have become accustomed to, with user friendly interfaces, and recommendations for courses based on their past learning history or current job title. “They want their content curated the same way Netflix curates their movies,” Neal said.

Content providers and LMS vendors are paying attention to this shift. While the curated content approach to learning is still new, content providers like Degreed, Intrepid and LinkedIn’s already provide learners with customized content suggestions, smaller bits of learning and social features to allow for ratings and reviews to help shape what content gets recommended.

And on the LMS side, vendors like Cornerstone and Workday are adding layers to their systems that provide individualized learning paths and a curated content experience that links to their tracking and management systems. These platforms also allow administrators to track who’s using what content, and to look at global user trends to what knowledge their people may lack.

Experts are also excited about the growing nanodegree trend which is helping employees become lifelong learners, and keep up-to-date on skills for the future of work. “Millennials know that getting a college degree won’t set you up for your whole career,” Staples said. “They know they have to keep learning to keep their careers moving at the right pace.”

Nanodegrees and microcredentials can help them keep their skills fresh, though Griffiths worries that these programs are too focused on technical rather than soft skills. “The workforce of the future needs to be innovative, creative and empathetic,” he said. “Those skills are harder to certify.”

This approach to learning requires learning leaders to transition from developers to marketers, Staples added. “There is so much great content out there already,” she said. The challenge learning leaders face is choosing what to put in front of them, and making sure managers and executives encourage them to use it.

Sarah Fister Gale is a writer in Chicago.

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