Top 5 tips to do content curation like an L&D Pro

By DJ Waldow

4 minute read

L&D pros help organisations by attracting (and retaining) talent, helping to build the company brand, motivating and consistently engaging employees, and focusing on ways to upskill the entire staff by empowering them to own their career growth and path.

All the above job roles, especially the last one, require L&D teams to be really really good at curation, finding content that addresses the skills gap, and personalising it to each and every employee.

As Erin Posnick, team lead of corporate training and development at Medicus Healthcare Solutions, said in this HBR article, “One of the smartest and most strategic things a company can do is bring on employees who do not fit just one job or requisition, but instead find people who can shift when the business shifts. These employees often know how they wish to grow within the company, they just need the tools to get there.”

L&D pros who are at the top of their content curation game understand this well. 

This article will outline our 5 tips to become an L&D content curation professional.

TIP #1: Research into the real “learning need” is vital

L&D pros have two audiences: The organisation and its employees.

For the organisation, you need to ask: What skills are required at the organisation level? For the employees, the question is: What are the needs and pains (and skill gaps) of individual employees?

For the employee segment, it’s also imperative to prioritise learning by time and by utility. This will help you reach your goals as quickly as possible. 

But here is the key: Curation takes place where the two audiences — organisation and employee needs — meet. 

During your research of the real learning need(s), don’t simply focus on the topics. It’s also important to craft various audience persona and think about delivery mechanisms. For example, for a curated email campaign about “energy transition for beginners,” is short-form content better than long? Is it appropriate to add humour?

Once you lock in the “who” of content curation, be sure you address the “why.”

As Udemy says in this blog post

“Keep in mind that there are many different reasons for employees to learn at work. Research we’ve conducted here at Udemy identified four major learning moments: learning to grow, learning to catch up, learning for external change, and learning for the sake of learning.”

One more important point here, as articulated in this Chief Learning Officer article: Don’t get too fixated on skills mapping. It can become easy to overengineer everything. The author suggests “companies should focus on the most in-demand roles and then develop three to five pathways that connect to each. This results in building out skills across 15-20 roles. By focusing on roles that have the most critical needs, as well as the adjacent roles that require similar skill sets, companies can create pathways to jobs that will actually endure and cultivate a longer-lasting talent pipeline.”

Spend the time upfront to understand the who and why of content creation. The early effort will pay huge dividends.

TIP #2: Conversations with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) can really help

The closer you are to a Subject Matter Expert (SME), the better. Experts have a tendency to curate quite well.

Learners are also more likely to follow a pathway if its curated (or endorsed) by an SME or influential business leader. Think of this as social proof.

The fastest way to become an SME? Ask other SMEs!

But don’t just ask any questions. Ask good questions, those generated after doing your own homework and research on the topic.

Oh, and ask those questions early... maybe even during a Project Kickoff Meeting as Greg Detre outlines in this article. 

You can even host a variation of a good, old-fashioned brainstorm session, or an Idea Stamped as Greg calls it: “A 90-minute Idea Stampede is usually more fun and more effective than 4 hours of out-loud discussion would have been.”

Caution: Learning from SMEs can be time-consuming... for both parties. Be sure your conversations are short, direct, and well-informed. In other words, don’t engage with an SME until you’ve done your own research and understand the best questions to ask.

One model we advocate for is the 5Di Learning Design Process for discovering learning needs for deploying and improving learning:

  • Define the desired learning outcomes.
  • ​​Discover and refine your understanding of needs << this is where SMEs and your audience come into the picture.
  • Design and draw up a written proposal.
  • Develop a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) prototype.
  • Deploy a solid communication plan.

Improve the process using data.

TIP #3: Tech-enabled sourcing will supply all necessary content

RSS feeds.

Google Alerts.

Anders Pink.

Pocket.

Email subscriptions.

The options for sourcing good content are endless. Other than our personal favourite, Content Intelligence, another good option is Google Advanced Search — really helps you monitor your topic in a very selective way. 

If you already have content in your library, Content Intelligence (CI) is the perfect technology to use to curate that content. We’ve built CI as one big system of filters because... (see tip #4)

TIP #4: Criteria cull down the impossible mass.

If you’ve done your job right and set up all necessary sources, it’s quite likely you now have thousands of pieces of learning content. 

That’s not a bad problem to have, but ideally, you can cull that number down to 10. Why 10? Well, 10 pieces of content are more easily consumed (and displayed) into digestible chapters, that one's users can follow in a logical order.

But how do you cull from 1000s to 10?

Simple: Develop both technical and quality criteria. 

Technical criteria: mixed modalities, recency, length, access. All of this must be tied to the audience persona and aligned to the context of your topic.

Quality criteria: This is your final check. Are the 10 assets business-useful (applicable in real business) visually appealing, persuasive, enjoyable, brief/clear, and evidence-based? 

Generally speaking, choosing a good provider helps this. 

TIP #5: A curated path has its own shape and structure

You have the content.
You’ve culled the massive list of assets down to a manageable number.

Your list is no longer one of the discrete resources. It’s time to review each item in relation to the others. The answer is NOT just a mix of modalities and offering choice to the user. 

The journey your users go on — how they navigate and consume their learning content   — matters.

  • What content is playing the role of the appetiser?
  • What content explains the basics?
  • What content provides a framework for applying the skill while not conflicting with other content

A good feel for the shape and structure of a learning content of a (smart) playlist (assets + skills) does half the work as you being to understand the content that fits those roles easily. 

Filtered’s very own Marc Zao-Sanders and Georgina Peake co-authored a model for this in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

It’s content curation time.

As L&D professionals, we’ve always been tasked with helping develop employees. Only recently has “content curation” been added as a must-have skill.

The 5 tips detailed above will help launch you from a newbie content creator to a true pro:

Ready. Set. Curate.

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