What is a Talent Experience Platform?
The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the already rapid transformation of learning and development (L&D) occurring in many organisations. Over the past several decades the relationship between employees and employers has been evolving from hierarchical, command and control structures to flatter, people-centered organisations of today. In addition, the rapid digitisation of work has left most organisations with significant skills gaps that they struggle to fill. With these changes, the scope and responsibility of the L&D team has expanded from a narrow focus on technical skills and compliance programmes to expand to include onboarding and professional skills and to now embracing career paths, skills development and collaborative and social learning.
To meet these demands, we’ve seen the introduction of new systems like learning experience platforms (LXP), onboarding technology, collaboration tools and performance management systems. While many of these solutions are effective at addressing specific challenges, too often they suffer from low adoption and have limited impact. The major fault of these systems isn’t that they don’t perform important tasks or that they are bad at those tasks; the major fault of these systems is that they fail to approach these tasks as part of an integrated set of experiences that support development. This is the gap a Talent Experience Platform fills.
Talent Experience Platforms align to the employee’s view. These new, integrated platforms take a comprehensive view of employee development and growth in a single integrated user experience (UX). This article provides an in-depth overview of Talent Experience Platform or TXP.
What is Talent Experience?
For most organisations, talent management is a series of fragmented processes that emerge at key points of the employee lifecycle. Examples include onboarding, performance reviews and exit interviews. While these transactions are essential, to the employees they feel abstract and do little to influence their experience or the emotions and feelings they have toward an employer.
On the other hand, talent experience starts with onboarding and continues as a constant cycle until an employee departs your organisation. This takes place when an employee:
- Has clear goals and expectations
- Receives objective assessment of current strengths and weaknesses
- Agrees a role and career development plan with their manager
- Benefits from regular feedback and gets needed support
- And all of this happens in the context of Team and Organisational goals
The outcome of creating an effective talent experience is a sense of purpose, development, collaboration and strong alignment once an employee is settled within your organisation. This enriches the daily employee experience to boost engagement and performance.
What’s the Value of Investing in Talent Experience?
Getting talent experience right is more than an esoteric exercise, talent experience is at the heart of building your company culture and can enable new levels of productivity and engagement. Here are three areas talent experience will improve:
#1: Talent experience improves alignment and productivity
A study by Slack discovered a noticeable difference in the performance and engagement between what they describe as “aligned” and “unaligned” workers. Aligned workers connect their company’s goals to their personal career ambitions and carry a strong sense of purpose. As a result, they’re motivated to not only take action but also contribute their very best to your organisation. On the other hand, Unaligned workers are disconnected from their organisation’s objectives. They often feel disengaged, work in silos and “feel less empowered to seize business opportunities.”
Employee alignment is something organisations can actively improve and as this Gallup article describes performance management is one of the key tools. For many employers, this means embracing, or improving existing performance management practices (both are possible with an adaptable system like Totara Perform) to enable:
- 360-degree feedback
- Frequent check-ins
- Competency frameworks
- Employee goals
Getting this right means a more detailed picture of actual performance without enforcing the top-down, command-and-control structure that repels most employees. At the same time, it also ensures that your organisation’s goals align with your employees’ ambitions.
#2: Talent experience increases employee engagement
When choosing a company to work for, nearly 87% of the next generation of candidates (millennials) rank learning and development opportunities in the workplace as critical. According to an Udemy survey, 80% of employees said learning and development opportunities would help them feel more engaged on the job. The source of this desire is often misunderstood by managers and companies to be a level of entitlement but to the contrary this comes from a desire to be useful, and for their work and workplace to have meaning to them or to be “engaged”.
Engaged employees tend to have a passion for their work, go the extra mile and feel connected to the organisation. They also spend more time trying to improve their work performance through learning and development. These are the types of employees every company wants and needs. According to Gallup, highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. Engaged employees show up every day with passion, purpose, presence, and energy.
#3: Talent experience unites and empowers your workforce
When Mitchells & Butlers, the umbrella brand for over 1,700 pubs, cultivated a collaborative environment, it immediately improved engagement, performance and business outcomes. Compliance rates reached 89% and food quality scores increased by 5% across the board.
Mitchells & Butlers’ success shouldn’t come as a surprise. Collaboration creates a more motivated and engaged workforce because people are smarter together. In fact, Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies consistently finds that respondents value informal workplace learning experiences far more than they do corporate training and elearning, with 87 percent identifying social knowledge sharing among team members to be “essential” and only 37 percent perceiving formal company training to be similarly vital.
What are the Key Features of a TXP?
A TXP integrates the functionality typically dispersed across an LMS, an LXP and a Performance Management application this includes: Content Management, Content Delivery, Motivation & Engagement and Performance Management and Measurement & Reporting.
At the core of many learning experiences is content and in a modern learning ecosystem content can be both structured and unstructured. A TXP addresses both needs.
What is Structured Content
Structured content are all the experiences that can be inventoried and scheduled. The building blocks of structured content include a wide range of activities and resources which can then be organised into courses and as appropriate courses are organised into curricula or programmes and certification paths to create learning pathways or journeys.
Activities and Resources
Below are a partial list of activity and resource types:
- Assignments: Tasks or offline work for Learners to complete, either directly into the text editor or by uploading a file
- Blogs: Spaces for Learners to note their reflections and notes for others to read
- Certificates: A form that serves as proof of course completion
- Chat rooms: Online group discussions
- Choices: Polls consisting of a single question with results displayed in a graph
- Databases: A repository of resources that users can create and contribute to
- External tools: Incorporates content from external providers via LTI integration
- Feedback: Series of questions and text input fields allowing Learners to provide feedback
- Forums: Spaces for users to post comments and discuss topics relevant to the course
- Glossaries: Collections of searchable and browsable content
- Lessons: A series of pages or scrolling interface presenting learning content and questions
- SCORM packages: E-learning modules tracked using the SCORM standard
- Seminars: Face-to-face or virtual training events
- Skills Assessment: Workflow and forms to capture on-the-job observation of skills
- Quizzes: Series of questions that can be graded
- Wikis: Informative resources that Learners can edit and contribute to
- Workshops: Activities for Learners to submit work and peer review others’ work
- xAPI Content: E-learning modules integrated tracking using the xAPI or Tin Can standard using either an integrated or external learning record store (LRS)
When it comes to structured learning, courses are where your learners will spend much of their time. Courses structure the learning experience by presenting your users with activities and resources on a single online page. Once a course is populated, an Administrator will need to decide what set of actions in the course equate to completing the course and which are required and which are optional, if all learners will see every activity and resource or if the course is personalised and finally if some activities or resources are prerequisites for others.
Programmes and Certifications
Programmes and certifications combine courses into a defined pathway which learners can complete once, or at regular intervals. Programmes bring together sets of courses that already exist in your site and structure them into a logical order. Different sets of courses or individual courses can be revealed depending on prior learning, to create a personalised, adaptive learning journey for each user. Certifications are similar to programs, with the added benefit of allowing you to require learners to recertify after a specific time period.
Unstructured content is any content – text, videos, images, polls, etc. – created by the users of the system rather than stakeholders in the organisation. The demand for and subsequent proliferation of systems to facilitate the creation, sharing and collaboration around unstructured content is a reflection of broader trends of how consumers engage with brands. Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands. The same is true for how employees view learning content – they put more trust in user generated content than they do content from the organisation. In many ways, this is quite intuitive. Social or collaborative learning platforms are the modern-day water cooler for employees to connect and share intrinsic organisational and industry knowledge. TXPs provide a number of capabilities to facilitate the creation, sharing and collaboration of unstructured content.
Once content is created in a TXP, it needs to be made available or “delivered” to employee. A TXP has a number of approaches to delivery.
Learning can be assigned both manually and through automated process. Administrators, Trainers or Managers can all be given permissions to enroll a Learner in a course. While manual enrollment is workable for limited use cases, most organisations have the need to automate enrollment in learning based on data points including the user profile, organisation structure, roles, course completions and other data. Rules can be drafted to create workflows that automate enrollment based one or more of these data points. For example, a set of rules might be ‘an employee in California’ and ‘a Manager’ and that rule would be used to assign California Harassment Training for Managers in California.
For learning that is optional, self-enrollment can be used. For self-enrollment courses, the course catalogue is an important interface to help users find the right resource. Each course is represented by a title and description along with other supporting meta-data like topic, level, duration, medium, and more. Audience rules can be used to make courses visible to some employees and not others. For example, computer programming courses may only be visible to employees in the IT team. Users can search for items using the Search bar, and only those items available to the user will be displayed.
The catalogue can also be sorted and displayed in variety of ways:
- In Alphabetical order
- By the most recently added items (Latest)
- With Featured Learning items listed first
- By Relevance (available after a text search term has been entered)
Users can also browse the catalogue using filters to narrow what is displayed. Filters are configurable and displayed in the left column similar to browsing Amazon.
In our time of information overload, many employees don’t have the bandwidth to methodically seek out learning solutions. That’s where AI-powered recommendations come in. A recommendation engine can identify and suggest content relevant to an employees’ interests, skills and needs. To produce content suggestions, the AI or algorithm could consider a number of data points to curate a list for learning including:
- previously viewed content (plus, which format that content is presented in)
- learning objects saved to personal playlists
- “liked” content, either formal or learner-generated (social learning)
- content “liked”/consumed by others across the organisation w/ similar learner profiles
The output from the recommendation engine is typically displayed on the learner homepage or dashboard. To further leverage the curated list of content output by the recommendation engine, more and more TXPs provide an integration to display the list in tools like Microsoft Teams. This integration supports the aspiration of delivering learning “in the flow of work” or “at the point of need” to which many organisations are moving toward.
Using Competencies to Organise Content
As a business, it’s important to know that you have the skills and capabilities you need to be successful. Do you have managers with effective leadership skills? Do you have engineers with the capability to use equipment safely? Do you have customer-facing staff with the appropriate customer-service skills for your brand? This is where competencies come in. They offer a clear approach to mapping the skills and behaviors needed to perform effectively at work. Agreed at an organisational level, they standardise the way skills are assessed across your business.
And of course, there are benefits for your individual team members too. Competencies give managers and their team members a clear way to talk about the skills and capabilities they need in their role, and to assess whether they currently have them. If they don’t, an achievement path will identify activities to support achievement of the competency, helping managers define development needs and opportunities for their teams.
Each user has their own competency profile which allows users to view and manage progress against their assigned competencies. A competency profile provides an overview of how an employee is performing against their associated competencies. Each competency has an associated set of assessment criteria. This can include self or 360 ratings, formal question-based assessment tools, on-the-job observation, and other methods. These ratings provide a powerful link to learning resources. Each competency also has an associated achievement path. This is where both structured and unstructured learning can be associated with a competency.
Too often performance management is dumbed down to focus on the dreaded annual review. Both employees and organisations know that even the best executed annual review falls short of employee expectations and meeting the organisation’s needs. Performance management, when done well, is an ongoing process that includes clear goals and expectations, objective assessment of performance and skill level, access to resources and support to improve performance, and regular feedback on progress. The building blocks of the performance management process includes goals, assessments, performance activities and development. Some of the tools in a TXP include:
Allowing everyone to perform to the best of their abilities in any organisation is a constant challenge that requires a range of performance management tools. Setting clear goals for individuals, teams and the organisation as a whole helps to drive an organisation towards success. As deadlines approach and the day-to-day of work occupies people’s focus it can be easy to lose track of whether individual and team goals are being met. A TXP can be used to more effectively set and track goals.
Performance activities are tools that inform and structure regular meetings between a manager and team member to discuss performance and progress. These include appraisals, check-ins and 360 feedback.
Think of an appraisal like a container filled with useful data on an individual’s performance. An appraisal can include elements such as competencies and objectives. Appraisals can also include a range of questions or ratings scales to gain quick, measurable insights from an employee, their manager or other stakeholder. Managing the timing of appraisals and maintaining consistency is also important, so a TXP will provide tools to manage appraisals alongside daily work. Appraisals can be scheduled as frequently as needed such as start, mid and end of year reviews by using stages, additionally, notifications are used to remind users that an action is required.
Check-in conversations offer an alternative to the pressure and infrequency of the annual appraisal, and are focused on performance and/or development. They are a great opportunity to discuss a team member’s ongoing performance, goals and aspirations, and for managers to identify opportunities for development. They provide business insight, and foster support and connection between managers and their staff. They are also an early warning system; allowing issues to be identified early and corrective action taken, as well as identifying and cultivating high performers. A TXP provides functionality to regularly schedule and record check-ins.
It can be hard to give and receive feedback at work. But it’s crucial to individual and business success. We all have areas of strength and areas we could improve. Knowing what they are helps us to continually improve our performance at work. But in organisations where there is no accepted or structured way of providing feedback to those we work with, these valuable insights are lost. In traditional performance management models, feedback is usually given by a manager to their team member. While this feedback is still important, it’s just one person’s view. The team member might also interact with peers, suppliers, and customers too. Aren’t their opinions equally valid? This is why 360 feedback is so important. Feedback is used to source opinions from a range of people about a user’s performance. Rather than relying on just the employee’s Manager, feedback allows you to request feedback from peers, team members and others, and then compare this feedback to get a well-rounded view of someone’s performance.360 feedback is also a valuable input to wider performance management activities, helping managers to have constructive conversations with their team members and build a full picture of a team member’s performance over time.
TXPs go beyond the constraints of formal learning by bringing social learning, content curation and collaboration into the L&D experience. Collaboration features allow your organisation’s known experts to share their knowledge and for new experts to emerge. Replicate the way information is shared on social networks by capturing opinions through quick polls, rapidly creating and sharing content, posting links or uploading resources for others to learn from in discussion forums and workgroups. TXP features that support collaboration include content curation, playlists, workspaces and feedback.
In a TXP, you’re able to add a variety of resources that you can either save for yourself or share with colleagues. Resources could be anything that can be used for learning and can range from articles, videos and podcasts. As you can link to resources on the internet, you’re only really limited by your imagination as to what you consider to be a resource that can be used to learn from. Imagine if you wanted to learn more about leadership skills, you could create a resource that linked to an excellent TED talk or to an article that you thought helped you think about the topic in more detail. Another common way for users to engage on a TXP is through simple polls that are used to collate users’ opinions or preferences.
To organise content, a common feature is playlists. Anyone can curate a set of resources and save the set of resources for personal use or share that list with others. This is called a playlists. Playlist typically can include both unstructured and structured content. Think of a playlist as a container filled with ‘greatest hits’ grouped around a topic such as coaching or product development.
We know that ‘the most powerful and memorable learning actually occurs when we talk with other people’ and that’s where workspaces come in. Workspaces are collaborative areas where social and informal learning can flourish. Workspaces are a feature that provide an area for users to collaborate, discuss, and find curated resources. Workspaces can be created for the different departments and teams in an organisation, or be created based on skills, interests, and more.
Workspace members can easily communicate with other people in a space. When posting in a workspace users can upload internal or external resources, use emojis to get a point across in less words and add images and diagrams to explain something. Users can also @mention other users to ensure they never miss a post. Workspaces can also help to boost productivity and save time by organising and structuring resources. Workspace members can add resources directly into the conversation thread to help support a discussion. It’s also possible to add learning content from elsewhere on your TXP such as playlists, surveys as well as structured content like courses and programs.
As noted above, the dominant attribute driving demand for user-generated content is its perceived authenticity. Like many social media platforms, this authenticity is reinforced or amplified through user feedback in the form of ‘likes’ and comments. Users are able to “like” content to signify that they enjoy, appreciate or find the content interesting, and users are able to comment to validate, challenge or add to content. These simple gestures tap into some of the very elements that make us human, our desires, anxieties and joys. The net effect is to increase our learner’s engagement and sense of belonging.
Motivation & Engagement
Building in competition, rewards and recognition into your learning platform has been shown to improve learner motivation, engagement and performance. By offering challenges and rewards, competition and recognition, users are more likely to engage with the platform and enjoy their development learning journey. For this reason, a TXP will include a number of features including leaderboards, badges, and digital credentials and rewards.
Leaderboards track points earned by completing courses, contributing user-generating content, passing a quiz and more. By implementing leaderboards, you can improve learner motivation by displaying performance for all to see. You can do this for individuals, groups, with the effect of pushing competitive learners to succeed while inspiring stragglers to do better.
Badges are verifiable, digital awards, issued to individuals for learning or displaying skills or knowledge, or successfully undertaking a specific task or activity. Badges can also be issued for belonging to a certain group or sharing a common interest. Badges can be issued, earned and displayed across a range of different systems including learning management systems, social networks, and dedicated badging applications.
A badge is an image with a range of ‘built-in’ information or metadata. This metadata is added to a badge by the issuing system and includes details such a description of the badge, the issuer and recipient of the badge, the criteria for earning the badge, whether the badge expires etc. Badges are awarded to an individual - either automatically or manually - when they have met the required criteria or provided the required evidence. An individual may collect badges from different issuers and choose where to store and display these badges. When an individual displays one of their badges, the metadata can be viewed and verified by others simply by clicking on the badge. Learners are motivated in different ways and for different reasons; however most people find encouragement from recognition of their achievements. Badges are a simple, yet effective and visually appealing way to recognise these achievements, as well as for learners to share and compare their development of skills and knowledge with their peers. Training is most effective when individuals are motivated to learn, share, interact and collaborate. Badges can be issued to learners for actively participating within a course and displaying certain soft skills - thereby encouraging these behaviors. Badges can also advertise knowledge, skills and qualifications for new roles within an organisation or to prospective employers and can add a level of gamification to your learning environments.
Messaging and Notifications
For those who’ve watched the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, you have an appreciation for the role notifications play in engaging and keeping users active. While we hope not as potentially nefarious as their use on social networks, notifications and messages are an important tool on TXPs as well. TXP capabilities can range from simple embedded notifications and messages that have standard triggers and text to robust messaging engines that support ad hoc messaging based on almost any action in the system. It’s this latter approach that can be a powerful tool for engagement. They can be used to reengage learners who have started but not completed a course, to recommend additional learning based on a course completion, to remind users of completion deadlines and more.
Measurement and Reporting
Do any of these situations sound familiar?
You’ve been called into a meeting at short notice, and the team wants to know about your completion rates and engagement statistics since you rolled out a recent blended learning course.
Perhaps you work in a regulated industry, where your regulator or other interested parties can request detailed reports about the competence and compliance of your staff at any time.
Does your organization offer training to other organisations who each want their own bespoke reports?
Or maybe you are simply inundated with requests from managers across your organisation who want to be able to monitor their teams’ learning quickly and simply.
Like other functions in the organisation, data is becoming foundational to the learning function and a TXP provides tools to capture, organise and visualise data. Below are some of the tools you may find in a TXP.
Standard reports are pre-configured reports in a TXP. These reports reflect common needs of all Administrators and their primary benefit is to simplify access to high-demand data. Some standard reports allow for tailoring through filters, column selectors and sorting.
The demands of modern business have in general out grown the needs standard reports can meet so many platforms have introduced custom report builders. With report builder, a report can be built by a site administrator and made available to other users based on the role that they have been assigned on the system. Building a report allows an administrator to select:
- The columns of data that will be available
- The filters with which a user can use to search
- Content controls that restrict the records that are available when a report is viewed
- The user role(s) that will be given permission to access the report
- Performance settings such as restricting reports to run with search criteria entered and caching versions of the report
As well as producing reports from the report builder you can also produce graphs to visually represent the data, which can sometimes make it quicker and easier to digest. Graphical reports are great for sharing data with the organisation and they can also be included in blocks and dashboards on the site to enhance the experience of administrators, managers trainers and users.
What If I Want to Learn More?
There are a number of well-respected organisations that track trends and insights in learning technology. Below are several to get you started.
Brandon Hall are a preeminent research and analyst firm, with more than 10,000 clients globally and more than 20 years of delivering research-based solutions that empower excellence in organisations.
Bersin by Deloitte delivers research-based people strategies designed to help leaders drive exceptional business performance.
Fosway Group is Europe’s #1 HR Industry Analyst focused on Next Gen HR, Talent and Learning. Founded in 1996, they are known for unique European research.
Josh Bersin is a world-known industry analyst, educator, and thought leader in all aspects of HR, leadership, and HR technology.
RedThread's mission is to cut through the noise, and amplify what’s good. They look for the connections (or red threads) between people, data, and ideas – even among seemingly unrelated concepts.
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