Not your parents' LMS:
The new-normal is the new-now
Even before the pandemic businesses were experiencing significant change. This was largely brought on by digitization and evolving employee expectations. The pandemic accelerated these changes with hyper-speed and with this acceleration organizations are now turning to learning and development (L&D) as a critical player to support an ever-increasing number of initiatives.
While we know this great experiment in new ways of working will continue to evolve and shift in the coming months and years, a number of new employee experiences are finding a home in L&D. These include:
- Creating future work paths
- Fostering communities of practice
- Establishing a culture of coaching and feedback
In many ways, these developments couldn’t be more exciting for L&D. Many L&D professionals have waited an entire career to move beyond traditional domains like legal & compliance and performance improvement to take this more holistic view of the learner and their needs. However, in most cases, the existing learning technology in organizations isn’t up to the task of meeting these emerging needs and has become a bottleneck for change.
In this Deep Dive, we look at the critical elements of the modern employee experience and the role learning technology play in delivering them.
Creating future work paths
At the heart of most of these initiatives is a new urgency spurred on by the challenges of remote work. Alongside this, there is the great resignation to consider and the everyday challenges to engage and retain talent. L&D teams are expanding their playbook beyond the traditional role of L&D to meet employee demands for more development, more coaching, more feedback and more ways to connect.
In fact, in a 2021 survey by Training Magazine respondents gave their current LMS an average Net Promoter Score (NPS) of +9 (-100 to +100) which while considered a “medium” NPS, and a significant improvement over past scores are still well below a “good” score of 30+.
This is an area where the needs of the employer and employees could be perfectly in-sync.
Employers are struggling to fill jobs and are rallying around to combat the need to upskill current employees to close the skills gap.
For employees, developing new job skills is about keeping themselves relevant and marketable in a fast-changing world.
So why have organizations struggled to respond to this need?
When you carefully unpack the vast issue of solving the future work challenge - Seven key requirements and gaps emerge.
Establishing relevant and up-to-date job descriptions
Most organizations struggle as they don’t have job descriptions that are consistently written and centrally managed (and updated). These descriptions must include clear detail of the skills and behaviors expected in the role. For a large organization getting job descriptions in order can take months if not years.
Working with an organization that has pre-defined competencies and job mapping can significantly accelerate an organization’s progress. While technology isn’t critical to developing job descriptions it is the foundational building block to everything else.
Nurturing and promoting opportunities with differing career paths
According to SHRM, Career paths are how an employee can understand all the various types of career progression available to them within and external to an organization. This might include traditional vertical career ladders, dual career ladders, horizontal career lattices, career progression outside the organization and encore career.
These frameworks can be created at an organization level such as FedEx’s Career Path framework at FedEx and also on an industry level. A great example of this is the partnership between City & Guilds and WorldChefs association called Global Hospitality Certification. Working together they created an industry framework for the entire hospitality industry. Job roles can be mapped at an organization level and all role competencies are standardized across the industry, making it easy for individuals to move within the sector.
Developing career path frameworks can again be a time-consuming task for any organization. This is especially true the further organizations move away from the linear career progressions that were more typical a decade or more ago.
Technology plays a critical role in creating an effective user experience for an employee to explore potential roles in the organization and quickly assess how their skills align.
Making the most out of assessments
Now you have well-written job descriptions with clear expectations for behaviors and competencies and have made connections between them. How do employees know if they are performing to expectation for their current role or how their skills align with expectations for future roles?
Assessments are what make competencies actionable. Assessment methods can include self-assessment, Manager or peer assessment, simulations, work-based reviews and more. Getting these assessments in place and executed can be a challenge. To do assessments at scale, an organization needs technology to easily gather feedback, conduct 360s or link to online assessments.
10 Assessment Methods
- Manager Assessment
- 180° assessment
- 360 Assessment
- Field Observation
- Role Play
- Validated instrument
- Quiz / Test
- Work Review
Enabling continuous development
The next step is to map competencies to learning resources. This can include curated resources utilizing a tool like Anders Pink, links to libraries of off-the-shelf content like LinkedIn Learning and custom content. Alternatively, you can approach a manager or Trainer to provide support and coaching.
Technology can play a critical role in this process. Once an assessment is completed, there is a clear link to development activities. It’s essential that the employee feels like they have support and guidance to move forward in their career.
Start small and then scale up as you see success
We recommend that rather than try to tackle every role at once, start small by picking a company-critical role and going through the process.
Learn from the process and roll-out - then move to the next role and the next role. Pick a handful of company-critical roles.
Remember, employees leave organizations when they do not see a developmental path, and they go to organizations where they can see a clear future. - Gallup
Foster communities of practice
There are few topics that should get more attention in organizations than engagement.
Gallup’s annual survey (which in 2021 said only 36% of employees are engaged) is a regular siren call for organizations. Skyrocketing turnover in many organizations is only fueling the panic.
At the core of engagement is having trusted relationships. At work, these relationships center around having connections to learn from and being trusted by others as a source of expertise or learning.
Especially in today’s hybrid work environment, Learning technology is critical to facilitate these relationships by unleashing knowledge to connect people. Examples of this in practice include:
- Empower your organizations, SMEs and best performers to share their knowledge by starting or contributing to workspaces.
- Create a forum for employees to post questions and surface organizational expertise they probably never knew existed.
- Make all of the user-generated content that is produced from the above accessible through search and AI-based recommendations.
- Curate content into playlists.
To meet this challenge, L&D departments need to reach beyond ‘courses’ and start partnering with the business to understand what information drives the business. The role of the Trainer in a social setting isn’t about delivering content, but instead, it’s about connecting people and tapping into tacit knowledge and SMEs.
According to a Brandon Hall survey, 43% of companies say learners are not sufficiently engaged. We shouldn’t confuse this with employee engagement. Learner engagement is a measure of how invested the employee is in the learning, isn’t it?
In L&D, we often use a measure like completion rates, smile sheets and time spent as indicators of engagement. While these metrics all have value, they actually are far better indicators of interest and attention.
Establishing a culture of coaching and feedback
Employees are desperate for feedback, but they aren’t getting it.
According to Gallup, an astounding 19% of employees receive feedback only once per year (or less) and an additional 28% only receive feedback a few times a year.
In the face of growing disengagement, it’s no surprise that once again coaching and feedback are top of mind. The only difference is now many L&D departments are being asked to be part of the solution.
This should be great news. As a model like 70:20:10 highlights - most of what we learn, we learn on the job.
Most of us know from experience, that if we have an effective Manager who is there to encourage and provide feedback as we learn that the learning on-the-job process is much more effective and efficient. This is good for employee – who learns new skills and can contribute in new ways and their managers – who have a more skilled team that can move faster and get better outcomes.
So why aren’t coaching and feedback spreading like wildfire?
The answer often comes down to fear. Fear of confrontation. Fear of failure. Fear of exposing their own knowledge gaps. Fear is hard to overcome. Overcoming this fear requires three conditions:
- Condition 1: Set Expectations
All of the factors, in this case, managers and their employees, need to understand their roles and responsibilities. In other words, managers need to be clear that part of their role is to coach and provide feedback and employees need to be prepared to receive coaching and feedback. (Note: this is the easy one – most organizations get this far).
- Condition 2: Put Measure of Success in Place
The organization sets key performance indicators or KPIs. KPIs are simply concrete indicators of progress toward a result, so in this case, this could be holding a coaching and feedback session with an employee weekly or monthly for example. Of course, we don’t only want coaching and feedback to happen weekly or monthly, but we won’t get there overnight and the KPI is a great indicator of progress.
- Condition 3: Put People in a Position to Succeed
The final piece of the puzzle is to provide the training, resources and job aids managers need to perform effective coaching and feedback session. This is where a healthy dose of performance consulting comes in. Spend some time with managers and understand what the blockers are to providing feedback – is it skills then provide some training, is it motivation, then create a video that highlights the value of coaching and feedback, etc. You probably get the idea, but if you want some more detail on performance consulting, check out our Design For Results eBook.
It’s only when all three of these conditions are present that you can expect success, but there’s still an element missing and that’s visibility. As the old saying goes, what gets measured gets done. That’s where technology comes in. A robust performance platform will provide the ability to schedule check-ins, capture notes and other information and then report against activity and the details. These reports can be used for both carrot and stick approaches. For example, an organization can recognize the manager with most check-ins, or they can hold managers of managers accountable when check-ins fall below a target.
Where is your organization on its journey to meet the needs of the modern workplace? Each of the experiences described in this deep dive requires a significant change program for an organization. In fact, many of these ideas have been around for decades and failures in achieving them litter many of our pasts. At the risk of sounding crass, as L&D professionals we shouldn’t let a crisis go to waste. We have an opportunity to significantly increase the impact we make on organizations, but this impact won’t be achieved by simply buying technology. Technology is never more than an enabler of change. Real change will require resources, a clear implementation plan, executive support AND technology.
Want to bring your LMS into the future and transform your learning?
Not your parents' LMS Sections:
- Creating future work paths
- Establishing relevant and up-to-date job descriptions
- Nurturing and promoting opportunities with differing career paths
- Making the most out of assessments
- Enabling continuous development
- Foster communities of practice
- Establishing a culture of coaching and feedback
- Final Thoughts