What you need to know to cut through the learning tech noise

Technology is the face of L&D. But when it comes to fitting it into a right-fit learning and support experience for the frontline, learning leaders are up against a big challenge.

They need to anticipate the platforms and tools their organizations will need to future-proof for whatever’s coming next—critical to an effective modern learning strategy. They also need to make a convincing business case for these solutions to encourage leadership buy-in and significant financial investments. But how to determine which product to go with when they’re all promising nearly the same thing?

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That’s why last week JD called on one of the most knowledgeable people in learning tech, Christopher Lind, VP and Chief Learning Officer at ChenMed and host of Learning Tech Talks, for the second episode of “In The Know,” our bi-weekly Linkedin Live series.

He and JD tackled ideas around how learning and development professionals can keep up with nonstop digital transformation and make smarter tech decisions. Takeaways and practical tips emerged that can help you address and navigate the crowded and ever-evolving learning technology space. Or if you have 25 minutes to spare, watch the full talk here.

(P.S. If enhancing digital experiences or navigating digital transformation on the frontline is your thing, add the next episode of “In The Know” with retail strategist Carl Boutet to your calendar so you can catch it LIVE on LinkedIn.)

Think like a businessperson and address problems head-on

Many know the struggle of fighting for a seat at the executive table just to be met with forces looking to actively reduce spend. JD puts it succinctly: “People who aren’t in learning and development frankly don’t necessarily care about this conversation.”

If you’re struggling to prove the business value of new tech and other solutions to leadership, Lind says it’s critical to nurture relationships and rapport with key players ahead of time.

“Don’t wait to react. One of the biggest things you can do to build credibility with leaders is to be proactive,” he says. Then the conversation changes.”

Management’s failure to prioritize learning is one of the main roadblocks for L&D professionals, especially as companies cut what they believe to be non-critical spending budgets. By showing the C-suite just how indispensable investing in L&D can be, and how it actually intersects with the KPIs that matter most to your business, they’ll trust you have clear justification for training and communications spending.

“We think about L&D way more diversely than our stakeholders,” says Lind. “So when we say we need a new platform. . . I don’t want a hookah lounge to sit around and drink coffee and play with learning! [Laughs] That’s not what we need but that’s what they’re hearing. We have to be more proactive instead of waiting for gaps.”

Make resources readily available for learners

Some companies already have digital learning tools and content available to employees, especially as digital transformation has been rapidly accelerated by the pandemic. But the average employee still spends 2-2.5 hours—or 30% of their day—searching for the information they need on the job. Think about how much more they could be getting done if they had the answers at their fingertips!

Clearly there’s still work to be done when it comes to considering how modern technology should inform learning strategies long term. Simply making digital copies of physical training resources isn’t enough. JD suggests that companies consider what content they’re delivering to their people and if it’s really having the desired impact.

If not, it’s time to refresh what you’re offering.

Meaningful learning + tech = results

The learning technology landscape is noisy. Although it can be daunting to wade through the seemingly endless sea of same, you can save time and resources by narrowing your focus to major pain points and desired results.

“As technology continues to evolve, it’s critical that L&D has a solid, informed perspective on the role of technology in our work every day,” says JD. “And we have to continuously ask ourselves why we should be applying technology to support learning and development in the first place.”

He shares three common reasons for implementing workplace tech—speed, scale, consistency—but these traditional talking points about technology no longer tell the full story. If your organization is being left behind by digital transformation, you’re not alone.

JD called out that only 20% of employees consistently leverage online resources because “the apps we use on our smartphones to live our lives have severely outpaced the tools many companies use to support learning at work.”

He encourages L&D professionals to take a deeper look at what technology can do today:

✓ Make learning an embedded part of the job with context, so whether you’re delivering content to associates in the aisles of retail stores or in the kitchen of fast-food restaurants, your people are getting hyper-relevant training and communications.

✓ Foster connection, especially for remote workers who need to overcome physical distances to share knowledge and make sure frontline employees always have the latest update from the HQ.

✓ Technology can personalize learning at scale, combined with data, so learners don’t have to sift through hundreds of online courses to find the right content when they matter most.

✓ Fosters equity in the workplace. Rather than providing everyone with a one-size-fits-all experience, technology can help us provide the right experience for every employee as they continue to grow professional skills and expand their interests—no matter how big your audience may be or how limited your L&D resources are.

“Speed, scale and consistency are still super important, but a modern learning technology strategy should check all seven of the boxes,” says JD. “That’s what it’s going to take to boost and sustain engagement, so people have a chance to leverage their opportunities to learn and organizations maximize the value of their content and technology investments.”

The biggest lesson: the learning approach you take and the technology you use to get there should be based on your learners’ specific needs. And who knows their needs better than you?

“It’s hard. A lot of our industry is struggling to figure out how deep in expertise they need to be in tech,” says Lind. “Find the stuff that resonates with you. Build your community and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lean on them. Don’t pretend to know everything.”

Don’t wait until the next big crisis comes along to invest in new technology. By deeply understanding what workplace learning should accomplish, you’ll have a clear path to follow when it comes to choosing the right solutions and tools—and ensure leaders are aligned from the outset.

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