Nine problems we want to talk about

By Toby Harris

4 minute read

Learning Technologies 2019 will be a festival of solutions. But what's actually important is solving problems. This is a list of important challenges with learning at big companies we’ve encountered. We don’t have all the answers. But we do think that magpie - as a proposition that combines expert curation and AI-powered recommendations - can play a role in solving them by generating better engagement with learning and clean, useful analytics. If you want to talk about any of them then consider coming to see us at D10.

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#1 - “Digital transformation - AI, automation, big data - is changing my industry and my people need new skills to stay relevant”

LinkedIn research shows the most in-demand “hard” skills are domains like cloud computing, artificial intelligence and analytical reasoning. But as computers get smarter, certain human skills like creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and time management are becoming equally, if not more, important. Delivering these skills to our organisations, at all levels, is a huge challenge: it’s probably the most important task we face in L&D.

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#2 - “Our people don’t have enough time to spare for learning - we don’t have a learning culture"

High performing organisations are also “learning organisations” with collaborative cultures and a mindset that enables experimentation and growth. Yet many of us work in organisations where initiatives seem to founder because people don’t have the time to learn or learning isn’t valued. The challenge is understanding when and how learning at our organisations actually happens. For example, magpie engagement data reveals a “peak learning” day of the week at each customer. There are also underutilised opportunities for certain types of learning, like helpful articles on the morning commute or reflective videos in the evening. People find the time if you fit your approach to the type of learning opportunity and mood.

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#3 - “We’re paying a lot of money for content libraries we don’t rate and staff don’t use”

Most firms spend hundreds of thousands or even millions on libraries for third party content. Typically they’ve been bought in by different L&D staff over a number of years. Evidence of the usage, enjoyment and impact of these assets is limited and distrusted but the price is high. Like others, we’ve found that the use of paid-for libraries in magpie is tiny in comparison to internal content and curated content. The challenge is to get consistent data so you can make robust, defensible decisions about what to keep and what to lose.

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#4“- I want my staff to have some tangible first-hand experience of new technologies like AI”

The demand for skills is being driven by the growing role of artificial intelligence in the economy. L&D, like everyone else, now has to get on top of basic concepts in statistics, logic, mathematics, data science and machine learning. Getting hands on with a new AI technology is the best way to give teams direct experience of these concepts.

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#5 - “We’re sitting on a mine of valuable internal content but it never sees the light of day because it’s not tagged properly”

The intuitive sense that an organisation’s most useful resources are buried within its own systems has been proven by clients using magpie. We see twice the level of engagement with internally branded content over externally curated material when placed alongside each other. The challenge is now to identify the best of those resources and tag them so your people can find them.

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#6 -“Our staff want quality, curated content from the web to freshen up our offering”

The major challenge to the conventions of corporate learning has been the rise of quality consumer-oriented providers like TED, twinned with the ease of using Google or YouTube. For human skills like creativity and adaptability, the content we produce or buy can no longer compete with the attractiveness and depth of the best free content. But there’s also a lot of junk. The answer to this is curation, and L&D’s big challenge is to develop robust and scalable content curation processes.

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#7 - “There are too many platforms at work - we’re all suffering from platform fatigue”

The average workplace now has 22 learning technologies and engagement with them is often low. All those unused licenses for platforms and tools are a waste of money. So is the only solution yet another platform or can learning technology be integrated with the existing tools that people already use for work?

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#8 - “I have bad data and a lack of insight about learning needs, preferences and behaviours at my organisation”

We often hear from L&D that “we have no data” or “our data isn’t useful”. It’s also true that L&D is not data literate enough to extract useful insights from messy data (Towards Maturity found that 51% of L&D professionals “say they cannot use data effectively due to L&D lacking in-house data skills”). The challenge is both to generate cleaner data on learning needs and to learn how to make sense of the data we already have.

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#9 - “We have a skills gap but all the resources go into hiring, not skills development”

It can be difficult to make the argument that reskilling is really worth it. But the evidence is incontrovertible. The World Economic Forum finds that “in the US alone, with an overall investment of US$4.7 billion, the private sector could reskill 25% of all workers in disrupted jobs with a positive cost benefit balance”. For an inspiring story of reskilling, just listen to Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton. L&D’s challenge is to defend our core value proposition.

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