For L&D to move forward, we have to solve a few familiar problems first

Let’s start with compliance, onboarding, content and engagement.

Donald Taylor just released his first thoughts on the results of his L&D Global Sentiment Survey (GSS). This annual check-in with the L&D community highlights the topics that industry practitioners believe will be “hot” during the upcoming year.

For 2020, the top three GSS spots are held by learning analytics, personalization/adaptive delivery and collaborative/social learning. These are certainly valuable topics. They have been discussed within the industry with increasing regularity for the past several years. However, while these may be the “hot topics” for 2020, there are plenty of L&D teams that just won’t have the time to dig into these ideas this year. Or next year. Or even the year after that. 

Like any business function, L&D has to balance its limited resources. This often leads to an unfortunate decision: keep the lights on or try to move forward? Many teams are stuck trying to solve old problems and, as a result, fall behind when it comes to the new, forward-thinking stuff. After all, how much attention can you pay to advanced measurement practices when you’re having a hard time getting your employees to complete any training at all?


Thought leadership moves a lot faster than corporate reality. While jobs are being redesigned and industries are rife with disruption, L&D still has to deal with a collection of historical challenges that will always be around. It’s a lengthy list, but there are four concepts that always seem to bubble to the top: compliance, onboarding, content and engagement.



Regulations are not going away. In fact, many organizations are facing more regulation with increased complexity. If you do business in the state of California or Germany, you know what I mean. How can L&D keep checking the growing collection of boxes while improving their reputation with employees and (maybe) helping people learn something along the way?


Companies always seem to be in the midst of revamping their onboarding process. Onboarding typically includes a lot more than just training, but employee preparedness is the key outcome. How can L&D get people into the operation as quickly as possible while meeting all of their stakeholder requirements?


How many courses do you have in your LMS? How much time, effort and money do you spend building and maintaining your catalog? Today, making a pile of courses available is not enough to solve complex business problems. L&D has to build better content faster without creating more long-term asset management headaches. 


How much content you provide doesn’t matter if employees aren’t completing training with any regularity. Agility and continuous learning are becoming standard expectations in most jobs, but L&D technology continues to see engagement numbers around 10% to 15%. How can L&D get people to engage in training and take increased responsibility for their own development?


These problems have been around for … well … forever it seems. So why can’t L&D fix them? It comes down to one word: time.

Time is the single biggest obstacle to employee development. People just don’t have time to complete all of their required compliance training. They don’t have enough time during onboarding to cover every topic before getting into the operation. They don’t have time to engage in training due to everyday work demands. And L&D doesn’t have time to build and maintain courses due to constant requests from their stakeholders. 

These four problems require a single solution. L&D has to overcome the fundamental limitation of time.


The Problem

L&D isn’t going to get more time. Business isn’t going to slow down. Management won’t expect less. There may be time to dedicate to high-value, high-complexity development programs. But L&D has to adapt to work within the constraints of modern business. Rather than tackling compliance, onboarding, content and engagement in isolation, L&D must go back to basics and build a new foundation on two fundamental principles: fit and focus. 

  • Fit: provide solutions that align with the everyday realities of the workplace
  • Focus: provide solutions that target specific, results-focused knowledge and skill needs

These principles are proven to help L&D teams overcome more than just the four challenges mentioned in this post. But here’s a breakdown of how they can be applied towards these issues. 

L&D teams can leverage two practical frameworks in order to introduce fit and focus to their solutions.

The Modern Learning Ecosystem (MLE) Framework™ helps L&D realign existing and new tactics based on availability to the employee. Solutioning begins at the bottom with shared knowledge resources and progresses towards structured, formal training only when necessary.

The Modern Learning Ecosystem (MLE) Framework


The Results-Focused Design Framework helps L&D teams improve their solutioning and measurement practices. It starts with the desired outcome (right side) and guides L&D pros through the challenging stakeholder conversations that will ultimately lead to an informed solution decision. Then, it introduces a host of mitigating factors, such as access, motivation and feedback, that must be considered to ensure the intended impact of the determined solution.

The Results-Focused Design Framework


These frameworks are proven to help L&D teams introduce fit and focus to their solutions and yield impressive results. 



Apply the Design Framework to determine the REAL compliance requirement. Then, use the MLE Framework to identify the best solution based on the full range of L&D tactics and what fits best into the employee’s everyday reality. Sometimes, L&D will still have to deliver the long, boring stuff. But that should become an exception rather than the rule.

For example, a US-based retailer was able to radically improve their compliance results, reaching 88% compliance across 200+ stores and 3000+ employees just two weeks after implementation.


Apply the Design Framework to identify topics that must be covered right away during structured onboarding. Then, use the MLE Framework to determine right-fit solutions for both immediate and long-term topics, including on-demand resources that can be accessed after formal onboarding is done. This will help shift the organizational mindset on onboarding from a limited program with set start and end dates to the beginning of a continuous learning experience. 

For example, a contact center in the midst of a reshoring initiative was able to reduce their onboarding time by 24% while also realizing a 5% improvement in customer value. 


Apply the Design Framework to narrow content focus to only critical knowledge points, thereby reducing complexity. Then, apply the MLE Framework to identify right-fit solutions, allowing for a broader range of solutions and less reliance on heavy, structured courses. Leverage subject matter experts to maintain simpler, topical solutions that do not require as much L&D expertise.

For example, a national telecommunications provider is now able to turn around new training resources within 48 hours to support rapid technology product launches. 


Apply the Design Framework to build small, focused, high-value solutions. Then, apply the MLE Framework to find the right-fit modality for each message. Consider the introduction of motivational tactics to drive initial engagement to new solutions, but the value—the idea that spending time with this content will help an employee do their job better—must remain the ultimate engagement tactic.

For example, a national logistics operation has maintained 91% voluntary engagement in daily training after more than 5 years of application thanks to their right-fit solutions and supporting engagement tactics.


If L&D has learned anything about overcoming these fundamental challenges over the years, it’s that gimmicks just don’t work. Technology is important, but it’s only part of the solution. And content just becomes clutter when it’s not the right content. L&D must evolve to understand the audience and provide focused solutions that fit into the everyday reality of the workplace.


The business isn’t going to slow down. L&D has to think differently so they can finally catch up. Then, because they know the lights will be staying on, they can dedicate the proper attention to what’s “hot” in the industry nowadays.  

This summary is really just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to dive deeper, you can listen to the webinar recording. 

JD Dillon became an expert on frontline training and enablement over two decades working in operations and talent development with dynamic organizations, including Disney, Kaplan and AMC. A respected author and speaker in the workplace learning community, JD also continues to apply his passion for helping frontline employees around the world do their best work every day in his role as Axonify's Chief Learning Architect.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.