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A Buyer’s Guide to Integrated Learning Solutions

Looking to create a robust learning program that can help you retain top talents and improve the overall employee experience?

The key is choosing the right learning solution that can meet your employees’ needs. Check out this official buyer’s guide, where you’ll learn the features and capabilities to look for in a platform to fuel your company’s business outcomes.

Continuous workplace learning is more important than ever when it comes to the employee experience and a company’s long-term success. This is a time to drive meaningful change within the global workforce, with 71% of CEOs recently surveyed by Deloitte saying their organizations are preparing for talent transformation. Leaders must upskill their employees to ensure a future-ready and resilient workforce for their organizations to thrive.

What’s needed for talent development is an integrated approach to workplace learning that can service all functions and levels of the organization. But in a crowded corporate learning market, how can leaders ensure they’re choosing solutions that will build a holistic learning ecosystem for their workforce? This guide identifies the key features and capabilities for leaders to look for when vetting learning providers.

A Buyer’s Guide to Integrated Learning Solutions

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • How to establish what capabilities matter most for your company’s needs
  • The importance of a multi-modal learning approach for employee engagement
  • The value of a learning partner that can help you build strong programs
  • Why tracking learning data is vital to the health of your programs

Whether you’re investing in an enterprise-level global learning solution or searching for the right provider to upskill a team of 20 software engineers, this resource can help you understand how integrated learning solutions can accelerate the development of your employees and fuel your company’s success outcomes.

Workplace training and development is a massive industry.

Recent estimates put the global spend on corporate training initiatives at $358 billion. It’s a staggering number, especially because this spend is down compared to pre-pandemic levels. Even if many organizations temporarily decreased their learning and development (L&D) due to global events, expect a renewed investment in training initiatives as companies grapple with talent shortages spurred by the Great Resignation.

Workplace training and development is a massive industry.

Continuous workplace learning is more important than ever to the employee experience and a company’s long-term success. For organizations to thrive, they must upskill their employees, ensuring a future-ready, resilient, and engaged workforce. This is a time to drive meaningful change within the global workforce, with 71% of CEOs recently surveyed by Deloitte saying their organizations are preparing for talent transformation. As a key driver of the change, learning has moved from a nice-to-have benefit to a strategic initiative that allows companies to compete in a global market.

As companies reprioritize the importance of learning and budget accordingly, how can leaders ensure they’re choosing training tools that address their organization’s broader business needs? In a crowded corporate learning market, it’s tough to confidently know what to look for in a learning solution, or why some features matter more than others. Whether you’re investing in an enterprise-level global learning solution or searching for the right provider to upskill a team of 20 software engineers, this guide will help you identify the features and capabilities of the learning solution you need to fuel your company’s outcomes.

Executive summary

Most CEOs acknowledge that learning is a fundamental part of a company’s success. But the learning strategies and tools employed to reach tangible business outcomes — like revenue growth or lower employee attrition rates — are not one-size-fits-all. Learning leaders need to consider their company’s unique business needs when building a learning program, so they can deliver the right learning experience to the right employees in the right format.

Integrated learning: The components that matter most

As workplace development grew over the last decade, it wasn’t unusual for companies to put together a patchwork of learning offerings to address needs organization-wide.

This approach might include a network of learning providers and learning delivered in diverse formats (week-long seminars versus self-paced online courses), but it often lacked a consistent method for applying foundational skills to all employees. And there was little transparency into how these learning investments were driving positive outcomes for the business.

In this age of hybrid workplaces and constant change, organizations can no longer consider learning providers as mere course offerings. An integrated approach to workplace learning that can service all functions and levels of the organization is what’s needed now. It’s a digital-first approach that can scale as your company grows, adapt to the skills needs of your industry, and save you the time spent managing a patchwork of learning tools. In this section, we’ll look at the learning components that matter most when designing a holistic learning ecosystem for your workforce.

A multi-modal approach to learning

Ask an employee to describe what an online learning provider offers and they might say “courses.” It’s true, online learning providers have large catalogs of courses. But for today’s workforce, the structure of a successful learning program needs to provide more than courses alone. It needs to offer approaches to learning (which, yes, includes courses) that help a company achieve its business goals. Integrated learning solutions are vital to this new hybrid era of business where employee experience takes center stage.

Build your organization’s learning ecosystem with three modalities in mind:

  • On-demand learning
  • Virtual hands-on learning
  • Cohort learning

On-demand learning

As companies embrace a new way of working, how learning is delivered must keep up and remain accessible to employees distributed through global offices, coworking locations, and personal homes. You can empower your employees regardless of role or level by offering unlimited 24/7 access to self-paced learning opportunities. Provide content that’s accessible wherever they are: on desktop and mobile devices, and available whether connected to the internet or downloaded for offline viewing.

Look for learning providers that offer a collection of self-paced, up-to-date courses taught by instructors with real-world experience in the topics they’re teaching.

These are some additional content considerations to keep in mind:

  • Multi-lingual course offerings: The old approach to global learning inclusivity used language dubbing and video captions to make English-speaking course content accessible to global learners. This type of learning doesn’t drive employee engagement with the materials. Look for courses presented by instructors in their native language that use localized and culturally appropriate references and approaches.
  • Diverse topics and skill levels: You can extend the impact of your L&D budget with a course collection that covers a wide range of topics for learners of all experience levels. Consider that most teams will need coverage outside their immediate roles or expertise. Technical employees need foundational power skills topics like communication, productivity, or assertiveness. And non-technical employees might need access to topics related to data science or web development to perform their roles in an age of digital transformation.
  • Customizable content: No solution will have courses unique to your company and employee experience. Look for learning providers that enable you to build and upload your content in their tool. Some providers will go a step further by helping you optimize your content and learning programs to align with what matters most to your company.
  • Content curation: Every employee and team within a company have unique learning needs. Elevate their learning experiences by curating various learning resources into one place. For example, a software engineering team’s onboarding learning path might comprise an online course on a programming language, alongside internal documentation, how-to articles, and a custom video from the head of the department.

Virtual hands-on learning

Technical skills evolve fast. Simply watching an online course doesn’t help tech teams acquire the skills needed to put new concepts into practice. Immersive, hands-on programs that allow learners to practice while developing skills helps them increase their comprehension of new concepts.

David Kolb, an expert in experiential learning, stresses that the experimentation and reflection stages are vital for learner retention. “Time spent practicing does not necessarily lead to learning and improved performance,” he says in his foundational research, Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development.

Knowledge results not from simply having an experience watching a course but from transforming the experience into skills and action. Your technical team will benefit from immersive learning solutions that provide access to assessments, labs, and practice workspaces.

Ensure your tech teams transform their skills by prioritizing three features for technical training:

  • Project-based exercises: Create — or look for content providers that already offer — projects that allow learners to sharpen their skills on projects that mimic what they’d encounter on the job.
  • Assessments: Evaluate learners’ skills, identify skills gaps, and provide course recommendations that target critical upskilling needs.
  • Workspaces: Offer virtual sandboxes where learners have space to practice new technical skills in a risk-free environment. path might comprise an online course on a programming language, alongside internal documentation, how-to articles, and a custom video from the head of the department.

Cohort learning

Cohort learning is a proven technique where a group of people assemble to learn about a specific subject at the same time. It incorporates a blend of formal, self-paced learning, and synchronous instructor-led sessions, as well as informal learning facilitated through communities of practice. Interactive cohort learning provides a scalable approach for learners to advance their skills by tackling problems with peers in their organization or from around the world.

This 21st-century take on classroom learning ensures employees have the chance to discuss, debate, and learn from others.

Look for a cohort learning solution that includes:

  • Learning with others: Structured conversations between learners offer social camaraderie as well as knowledge sharing and meaningful perspective from diverse minds.
  • Learn anywhere: Learning together can be flexible. Prioritize cohort learning that’s accessible to the learner wherever they are, whichever device they’re on.
  • Micro-learning: Improve learner retention through short micro-learning modules that incorporate a variety of learning modalities to accommodate the diverse ways people learn.
  • Live events: Supplement the flexibility of a virtual cohort experience with occasional opportunities to gather with instructors and peers in real time in live online events.

Learning partners that help achieve business goals

In the wake of the pandemic, employee engagement is at concerningly low levels. Gallup research pins global employee engagement at about 20 percent. Learning is an essential booster of employee engagement — when it’s done right.

Learning partners that help achieve business goals

One way to ensure learning is done right is by selecting a learning solution that looks at your program’s success as a mutual partnership. Consider providers who help you create and execute learning programs designed to meet specific business goals.

When account managers and customer success partners are deeply knowledgeable about a company’s business, its challenges, and its desired outcomes from a learning program, they can help learning leaders:

  • Align learning initiatives to business goals
  • Create learning program templates
  • Build content mapping tied to company-wide skills gaps
  • Gain insights into industry skills data to turn learning into a competitive advantage
  • Realize the value of learning investments faster head of the department.

The ability to lean on the knowledge of a learning expert can be invaluable as you seek to grow your company’s learning programs and tackle new development challenges.

Robust data to prove the impact of learning

The more you know what content your employees care about and how they interact with their learning opportunities, the more you can tailor your approach, and the more impactful learning becomes.

If your program offers data capture and analytics from day one, it becomes faster and easier to monitor user engagement, tailor learning paths, and gain the real-time insights necessary to optimize learning programs as needed, rather than waiting for quarterly or yearly reports.

Many learning program managers track data points like minutes learned or course completion rates.

While these data points don’t tie directly to business outcomes, they are critical to monitor the overall health of their company’s learning culture. For instance, if learner engagement dips over six months, this could be a leading indicator that a significant approaching business goal tied to learning might not be met.

Use data-driven insights to prove your learning program’s impact through:

  • Easily accessible learner data reports
  • Straightforward data visualizations to track program health
  • Downloadable reporting for executive share-outs

Data is a crucial piece of all parts of your company’s learning ecosystem, from tracking online course enrollments to completions of project-based exercises to engagement levels in cohort-learning groups. Monitoring this data allows you to use insights gathered from it to optimize programs and understand what motivates your employees to learn.

Enterprise-grade technology for a digitally transformed workforce

In order for learning to fit seamlessly into your employees’ flow of work, a learning solution needs to integrate securely and effectively with your company’s existing tools.

While it might not be the part of your learning program that employees interact with every day, it’s important to carefully consider the technical compatibility of any learning provider you’re vetting.

Enterprise-grade technology for a digitally transformed workforce

Safeguard your company’s intellectual property and guarantee business continuity by taking time to investigate the technical mechanics on the backend of any learning solution.

Look for learning solutions with enterprise-grade technology features including:

  • Data and security protections — Safeguard employee, customer, and proprietary data with a learning provider that adheres to high data privacy and data security standards. Some standard requirements include security certifications (e.g., SOC 2, PCI), GDPR compliance, and transparency on how customer activity data is stored.
  • API integrations — Connect with existing learning management systems or learning experience providers.
  • Single sign-on (SSO) — Make it easy to access learning by letting learners use the same login credentials as for other workplace tools.

Achieve critical business outcomes with an integrated learning solution

There’s a lot to consider when selecting a learning solution that aligns with your company’s learning strategy.

In a crowded market of workplace learning tools, it’s crucial to take the time to understand how a provider fits into your organization’s unique employee development goals. Course content is just the start when seeking to transform your workforce. Opt for a learning solution from a vendor that goes beyond content offerings and works as a true partner from the very beginning to build an effective learning strategy that addresses the needs of your business.

Alex Lim is a certified IT Technical Support Architect with over 15 years of experience in designing, implementing, and troubleshooting complex IT systems and networks. He has worked for leading IT companies, such as Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco, providing technical support and solutions to clients across various industries and sectors. Alex has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the National University of Singapore and a master’s degree in information security from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also the author of several best-selling books on IT technical support, such as The IT Technical Support Handbook and Troubleshooting IT Systems and Networks. Alex lives in Bandar, Johore, Malaysia with his wife and two chilrdren. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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