When it comes to choosing learning technology, start with the experience

Organizations have more learning technology options today than they have ever had before. Learning management systems. Learning experience platforms. Artificial intelligence tools. With so much innovation in the marketplace, you would have to assume technology-enabled learning is having a big impact on employee performance and business results everywhere. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. Many organizations continue to struggle with their technology and find it difficult to provide training that really makes a difference. So then what’s the problem? Is the technology just not good enough? Is L&D not using it correctly? Or is there another gap in our technology strategy?

Employee Experience

A new report from RedThread Research on the state of learning technology highlights the importance of a strong learning philosophy. Before implementing new tools and architecting a technology ecosystem, L&D must establish a results-focused approach. They have to understand the problems they are trying to solve and the right-fit support experience employees will need to maximize their performance. That’s why building an effective learning technology ecosystem doesn’t start with technology. It starts with the experience.

Here are 6 steps L&D pros can apply to design a right-fit learning experience:

1 – Consider Workplace Realities

Learning experiences must fit within the context of the employee workflow. For example, if a contact center agent cannot step away from the phones for more than a few minutes, L&D must design an experience that focuses on how to leverage those few minutes. If retail associates use mobile devices as their primary devices on the job, L&D must leverage mobile-enabled technology. The learning ecosystem must be shaped around the everyday working realities of the employees, not the interests and preferences of L&D.

2 – Clarify Business Goals

What do employees do at work? What challenges do they face? How are they measured? A right-fit learning experience must foster the agility L&D requires to address the changing needs of the organization. Of course, it’s impossible to predict how the business will evolve in the future. Therefore, L&D must structure their ecosystem so it can continuously evolve and reshape the experience to meet current employee needs.

3 – Outline the Employee Experience

Once they understand context and expectations, L&D can decide what capabilities will be needed to provide a right-fit learning experience. L&D should consider all possible learning and support needs, including structured training, on-demand resources and compliance requirements, when designing a desired employee experience. For clarity, L&D pros should document user stories—the narrative of how employees will use learning technology to solve problems and improve their performance. Then, they can list the technology features needed to bring these stories to life within their organization.

4 – Explore Existing Options

Before evaluating new technology options, L&D should look inside the organization for tools that can provide value within their desired employee learning experience. Remember, a technology doesn’t have to be branded LEARNING to be used in ways that help people do their jobs better. L&D should partner with IT to explore the full technology resources of the organization, especially tools that are already in use with the intended employee audience(s).

5 – Identify Capability Gaps

The next step is a simple math problem. Take the list of capabilities needed to execute the desired experience and subtract the capabilities that are realistically available with existing technology. The remaining items should shape L&D’s search for new technology if needed.

6 – Investigate New Technology options

Working through the first five steps in the process will help L&D narrow their technology requirements to just the capabilities that will make a clear difference for their employees. For some audiences, a single technology may be the solution. For others, this process will maximize the strengths of every tool within the expanding ecosystem. L&D may also find replacement options for existing technology that can create an even better experience along the way.

 

Technology is not the goal. It’s an enabler.

By focusing on the employee learning experience, L&D can make more informed decisions about how to address the needs of their business. They can also eliminate potential barriers to technology implementation, such as platform access and user engagement, because they are addressed during experience design. Of course, L&D must understand their technology options and select high-quality tools to add to their ecosystem. This process will go a long way to making sure that each selected technology—new and legacy—is applied with a clear purpose.

JD is one of the most prolific authors and speakers in workplace learning today. His practical approach integrates science, technology, storytelling and pure common sense to enable employees, improve performance and drive business results. For 20 years, JD has executed strategies for global organizations, including The Walt Disney Company.

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