In the midst of the learning transformation happening today, we are seeing a new approach to bringing together technology, access to content and people, and dynamic user experiences that are shaped by human dynamics.  These learning ecosystems are supporting the need to be continually learning, filtering in the overwhelm of access to massive amounts of content, and bringing together connections amongst networks that enable learners to share, mentor and develop lifelong skills.

These learning ecosystems of today’s hyper-connected and networked world incorporate the best of all aspects that the latest technologies and support resources can deliver. They also strive to be simple to access, completely intuitive for the end user and personalized.  Although the concept may seem easy to explain, in reality, it certainly isn’t simple to determine the right foundation with the perfect mix of technologies and support resources needed to make it deliver on all expectations.

Building sustaining learning ecosystems requires a shift in mindsets.  It is critical to have an experimental mindset in creating a learning ecosystem in order to ensure it is future proof.  Also having a learner-driven, growth mindset in establishing the foundation based on the principles of human dynamics solidifies that it is grounded and strong enough to withstand the tumultuous changes yet to come. If it is built based on the learner needs, the human dynamics drive the design, then it becomes more than just the latest fad in a grouping of the hottest technologies but rather it becomes a foundational ecosystem that can evolve with the changing systems that operate it and drive the adoption and engagement anticipated.

As Degreed states in it’s Buyer’s Guide to the Near Future of Learning Technology, “Change is fast and increasingly unpredictable, making it a challenge for individuals and organizations to keep pace with the skills required to solve today’s problems.  It’s no longer enough to simply be competent on the job.  Everyone needs to keep on learning – indefinitely .”

What impacts the success and fortitude of learning ecosystems is the foundation it arises from.  Human dynamics, the study of how people work as a whole system – mentally, physically, and emotionally can spur that foundational story behind what fuels an ecosystem.  It becomes the energy source for the “why” and the architecture in building an ideal and sustaining learning ecosystem.  When built from an innovative, adaptable and connected foundation rooted in human dynamics, a learning ecosystem can evolve and withstand the unpredictability of the shifts that rock foundations.

Not sure what to put in your ecosystem? Stop by Degreed booth 3325 at the HR Technology conference. If you’re not at HR Tech, check out the Degreed website to create your own lifelong learning transcript.

Every week. Every day. Every few hours. You’re challenged with immediate problems to solve and issues to overcome. In another hour, something is going to come across your inbox or instant message window and you are going to have to react. You will have to respond. You will have to drop what you’re doing. Some burning item will come up and you’ll need to fix it.

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Urgent matters come in all varieties in the Customer Success and services world. Each one is more important than the last and desperately needs attention. The issue might be finalizing a single sign on integration for an upcoming launch or it could be some metrics needed for a client briefing that snuck up on you.

Many of your HR and Learning & Development peers are presented with similar challenges. Their situation might be about a deliverable getting off track on a timeline or a group of people not completing their past-due compliance training.

Meanwhile, your “To Do List” is getting longer and longer on the other side of your desk. The important projects you have been setting aside, the ones that will require planning and work across functional lines are not kicking off. And you’re not strategically advancing the big things that matter most.

What are you going to do? How do you manage what is urgent versus what is most important?

Solving this daily challenge takes planning. It takes finding the right balance on how you allocate your time.  Dedicating time to strategic efforts takes rigor and discipline. Always attending to the most pressing topics (and putting off the important ones) doesn’t let your organization efficiently progress at achieving larger goals.

This is what works for me and how I deal with what is most important.

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I usually go outside with pen and paper for the focus part.  I unplug and change the scenery.  It works every time.

Now it’s your turn to get it done.

Urgent requests are not going to stop. Look…there’s another one that just came in on your phone. Carve out the time to plan ahead before you don’t have time at all. Focus on what will lead to the best results. Strengthen this behavior by making it a habit. You’ll be more successful by committing time to the important things and your customers will be better off for it.

Though in learning now, I started my career in Direct Marketing and Loyalty Card Marketing and Product Development (yes, apologies for calls interrupting your dinner and your exploding mailbox…) I pivoted into HR and led the L&D Technology Products and Implementations for a Fortune 500 Bank. Having to re-invent myself and learn rapidly, I’ve become both fascinated and intrigued at the parallels of marketing and learning. More importantly, I’ve become convinced that L&D could use some marketing love!

But what marketers figured out (and where L&D professionals could benefit) was how we used data to get the right offer to the right customer at the right time while delivering an aspirational customer experience. The result? Engaged customers, changed behavior, and customers coming back for more.
Everyone in L&D and HR is currently obsessed with employee engagement. This has only been increased by everyone trying to figure out how to capitalize on both digital and social transformations, and their impact on employees, work and the workforce. Despite this, nobody is buying what we’re selling in L&D. We need to appeal to our learners, but “appealing” is a marketing problem, not a learning one.

Deloitte data says that nearly 7 out of 10 people they surveyed indicated they’re having a hard time getting workers to engage with L&D offerings.

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I believe the key to achieving success is treating our learners like customers, and then understanding just who they are – the demographics, goals, motivations, frustrations, daily activities, and buying experience/behaviors. You then use that knowledge to cater the message and experience – delivering compelling, relevant offers and products that are meaningful and aspirational.
To understand your customers, I suggest you start by creating learner personas by segmenting your learners based on demographics, goals, motivations, frustrations, daily activities, learning needs and touchpoints. Google definition of a Persona: A persona, (also user persona, customer persona, buyer persona) is a fictional character created to represent a user type that might use a site, brand, or product in a similar way. Marketers may use personas together with market segmentation, where the qualitative personas are constructed to be representative of a specific segment.
You might have 2 personas, you might have 10. But the goal of a persona is to group your learners into categories around goals, challenges and how they operate.

Here is an example.

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Here are 5 marketing practices you can use to increase engagement after defining your customer.

  1. Brand – develop a compelling aspirational brand and value proposition that is relevant for your employee segments. This includes compelling creative (look and feel), communication and messaging. (Think Nike!)
  2. Design – personalize the experience and make them want what you are “selling,” and make it personal. (Think Apple!)
  3. Market – target, make the offer and sell. And make them want to come back for more. (Think about the last time you went to Amazon to buy those killer heels. It starts with serving up relevant experiences, and more expensive shoes with each interaction!)
  4. Listen – get feedback, measure, and use the data collected to adjust. (Simple as thumbs up or down!)
  5. Loyalty – build a continuous relationship with your employees by communicating regularly. (All the retailers above do that well!)

The results
Understanding your customer, the employees, are the key to ensuring you deliver the right experience and get the engagement you expect for your L&D programs and technologies — and a return on your investment. Feel free to check out my recent ATD Webinar on How to Think Like a Marketer. It provides several specific marketing techniques learning practitioners can leverage in their daily work.

So, what are you doing to better understand your employees and encourage them to engage with what you are selling? We would love to hear your ideas!

Sorry to break the bad news. Your degree doesn’t matter. Your BA or BS doesn’t mean I should hire you. Your MBA doesn’t mean you know how to run a business. The name of the school you went to … meh. Your degree doesn’t matter. At least not as much as you think it does.

As a former HR Professional and veteran of HR tech industry, Degreed crystallized something I have always felt but didn’t put words to – your degree simply doesn’t matter. It is true your degree is an important record of your training on the fundamentals (math, history, language, bowling, etc.) and learning how to think critically. It is an important step in lifelong learning but it simply doesn’t matter as much as what you have learned since you graduated. Your BA isn’t as valuable as your recent learning in determining readiness or qualifications for a job. Your MBA doesn’t make you a better manager than someone who has helped grow a business and stays current with reading on entrepreneurship and leadership.

Simply, your degree doesn’t matter as much as your lifelong learning. Jeff Weiner summed it up well at a recent conference, “increasingly I hear this mantra: skills not degrees. It’s not skills at the exclusion of degrees. It is just expanding our perspective to go beyond degrees.” Degreed is “jailbreaking the degree.” Degreed is offering a way to demonstrate the learning that does matter.

Having started my career in Human Resources and having built and scaled global Customer Success teams at several fast-growing companies, I have had the opportunity to interview thousands of people. One of my favorite questions has always been, “Why did you go to college, what did you study and how did that lead to where you are today?” A three part interview question? Cue eye roll, I know.

For me, it had nothing to do with the school, the level of degree or even the subject. That’s interesting, but candidly, has never mattered to me that much. What I do find interesting is the insights into the individual and how they have leveraged that foundation to learn and grow through their career. “Oh… I have a degree in history because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I have always been interested in the Civil War. But after graduating, I …” or “I have a degree in math because I love technical analysis but after graduating I found that I hate being stuck in spreadsheets all day so I ….

The honesty in many of the answers can lead to an interesting discussion. The way candidates connect higher education to their career and lifelong learning is a great indication of what they are bringing to the table. It is an interesting insight into the Why of their career. It is almost rare anymore to find someone who went to school and received a degree in the same area as their current profession. Art History majors celebrate! There is hope.

Even if your degree is perfectly aligned with the job you want, I want to know what you have been doing since.

The problem? Many recruiters and HR organizations are still measuring you by your college degree because that’s the standard they have had to measure learning. I know I am not the only HR professional or hiring manager that knows the degree isn’t an effective measure of your skills and capabilities. I doubt any effective hiring manager is making offers on a degree alone. But that is all most of us have known. Or it was anyways. Now we have Degreed.

Imagine if you could demonstrate everything you learned since your degree. All of the relevant articles, papers, and books you have read that equip you to succeed in your job. Imagine a record of the conferences, webinars, and workshops you have attended that have helped you prepare for the job you want. If you could represent that to your organization, or future employers, wouldn’t that be more valuable than saying you have a history degree from 10 years ago? Wouldn’t you want that Corporate Recruiter to understand what you have learned in since? That’s meaningful and something that I would want to hear about when interviewing you. Meet Degreed.

So what have you been learning since you graduated?

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