Thousands of dollars.
Thousands of hours of training and preparation.
A team of experts who offer support.

All those resources boiling down to a few hours of performance with limited results: a win or a loss. Sound like a situation we in Learning and Development know too well? How about every time we create a course or formal training.

So, what can learning learn from these exceptional Olympic athletes? You don’t become a world-class expert from one training session.

Mikaela Shiffrin, a 22-year old alpine skier currently competing at the 2018 Winter Olympics, strapped her first pair of ski boots on at the age of 3. Now 22-years old, she’s been practicing for 19 years. Her success comes from many things, including incredibly hard work, and a variety of activities.

According to The New Yorker, she starts her days with a 10-minute warm-up on the stationary bike and stretching. Interval training is a big part of her training, Strength training is a major focus of her program, including circuits filled with sprints pushing and pulling a weighted sled, squats, rowing machine work, and skating on a slideboard. But that’s not all. She also spends time working on her balance and…wait for it… sleeping! She sleeps nine hours each night, on average, and naps every single day.

As proven by Mikaela, achieving Olympic glory requires mastery, over time, using a variety of techniques, repeated in a variety of intensities and even locations. This recipe serves as an example of how employee learning should look: varied, available in multiple formats, and based on the individual.

According to Degreed, the learning journey is similar.

Degreed was founded on the idea that we build our skills over a lifetime, stitching together a variety of experiences. It takes courses and books, articles, videos and podcasts. It also takes lots of searching, practice, trial, and error. And perhaps most meaningful is the guidance, feedback, reflection and coaching along the way.

So what does this mean for L&D Managers and organizations?

Learning happening in a variety of ways means we have to support a variety of modalities to keep our employees engaged.

Much like training for the Olympics, there isn’t one magical system to create greatness. You need an integrated ecosystem that approaches training and learning from different areas.

These ecosystems often include LMSs, but they are increasingly supplemented by solutions for curating open resources, managing micro-learning and automating feedback.

The near future of learning technology is here, and intelligent networks of tools, content, systems, people, and data all working together to empower your workforce to be world-class. To help them learn better, faster and more cost-effectively.

For advice on how to pick the right tools for the job, check out Degreed’s Innovator’s Guide to the Near Future of Learning Technology.

Twelve years ago, my sister in law and I were sitting down for a family dinner and she leaned over and informed me she was training to run a marathon.  “I’m in the best shape of my life,” she exclaimed.  We had both just given birth to our second children and one of us (me) was NOT in the best shape of her (my) life.  My competitive genes kicked in and next thing you know, I’m signed up for a half marathon with only three months to train.  I was not a runner, had no desire to run, and to be honest, thought all runners were crazy.  However, anything she could do, I could do so – off to the races.

The next few weeks I spent purchasing new shoes, new headphones, downloading the best mixtape ever curated, and going to the gym a few times a week to run on a treadmill.    I figured that as long as I could run 10 miles on a treadmill, I could run a half marathon.  Right?  How hard could it be?  I honestly had no idea what I was doing, no training plan in place, but I knew that if I had shoes, music, and determination, I would be amazing.

Race day came. I was up at the crack of dawn with nerves.  When the gunshot rang out, I sprinted out with complete abandon.  Halfway through the course, I was in pain, my music player had died, and I was miserable.  I finished my race, took my expensive shoes off, drove home and threw them away.  I did not feel in the best shape of my life. In fact, I was sore from head to toe with three new blisters.

Fast-forward ten years. I have moved into a new home in a new neighborhood and know no one.  A friendly neighbor came by to introduce herself and asked if I’d be interested in meeting her and a few other girls in the morning to run.  “Run,” I laughed, “ah no thank you.”  She didn’t take no for an answer and I found myself waking up at 4:00 a.m the next morning to be picked up by my new friend to go run.

As we pulled into the dark parking lot, I saw a group of eight women waiting, and flashes of misery, doubt, and pure panic set in.  These people, however, welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me from beginning to end.  We ran five miles that day, stopping along the way to stretch and laugh.  I didn’t feel pain or misery, anger or shame.  I felt encouraged, strong, and accomplished.  Sure, I wasn’t running a four-minute mile, but I had just run five miles and it went by fast and I was actually having fun!  I was hooked.

You see, when others are in the trenches with you and there to support with encouragement, it means more.  You have more energy and more drive because the people surrounding you don’t want you to fail.  The same goes for learning.  Without a good support system around you, who will be there to continue to encourage you during your points of frustration?  Who will be your coach along the way when you don’t understand a concept or have the same question over and over again?  When looking to learn something new, 69% of people turn to a boss or mentor first to point them in the right direction.  I find that to be personally true because I am more likely to want to read, listen, watch something that has been recommended by someone who knows me.

Degreed has been my coach in the world of learning and development for the past year and a half.  Degreed gives me credit along the way for any learning activity that I do throughout my day.  I get recommendations from others who have like-minded interests on topics that really motivate me.  I’m challenged with ongoing development opportunities by being able to capture my skill level goals and get manager’s feedback along the way.  I receive suggestions for new and different modalities of learning that spark my creativity.  I get tangible results by seeing how much learning and development I am investing in my career.  Just like I see all the miles I run on my Garmin watch, Degreed shows me all the learning I’ve accomplished in my lifetime.

Since meeting those girls, I have run seven marathons, twelve half-marathons, and had more blisters than I care to count and I have loved every minute of it.  What made the difference?  Support, encouragement, feedback, and like-minded connections.  Do you get that with your learning and development coach?  If not, check out Degreed.


Degreed prides itself on quality – quality team, quality clients and most importantly, quality product. We have an agile development team and culture. When I started the Customer Support team at Degreed, I had to ask myself, ‘how does lean agile development affect customer support?’

What makes an agile development culture different? Product changes occur at an especially fast rate. These product changes need to be conveyed and understood by the client in order for the client to best utilize and realize the value of our product. For this to happen the changes also need to be fully understood by the customer support team.

At most organizations, the customer support team serves as the “front line” for end users – the main group supporting and delivering product updates and changes to clients. Therefore, the most important attribute I look for in my team members, in addition to someone that is customer focused, is someone who loves to learn. We need to continually learn and grow with the product in order to best support our end-users.

It’s no surprise that there are new things to learn about each product release. As a team, we need to understand what is being added or changed, with a deep knowledge of how everything works. One specific example comes to mind: when we changed the look and feel of our profile page. As a team, we had to understand more than just that the profile was getting a face lift. We had to understand the intricacies, and where popular (or not!) items may have shifted for an improved experience.  And it’s a good thing we took time to dig deep because the most popular questions over the following weeks started with “Where can I find…”

As a customer success team, we have to be ready for any and everything, which is why the desire to learn is such an important trait for us. Just the other day, I received a call from one of our end-users asking about the layout of Degreed pathways and if the style was flexible. In the couple years I have been at Degreed, that question had never been asked. But I’ve learned serving in a customer support function means being willing and eager to ask the tough questions, knowing our product inside and out because we can’t anticipate every question that is going to come our way.

Luckily, my team proves they are up to the task time and time again. We are available for clients daily while also showing dedication to individual skill development via our internal company leaderboard for most active learning teams. Number one every quarter so far, the customer service team at Degreed is proud to show commitment to both our product and our clients.

So what are some tactics the Degreed customer service team uses for helping the members of our team stay informed and continually learning about the product?

  • bi-weekly product review for the entire company
  • weekly Learning Forum held by the client experience team where we discuss learning topics and ask questions, so we can all stay up to date on messaging
  • weekly team meetings (for my team specifically) where we can ask questions or get help from each other
  • product release review meeting (for my team specifically) where we discuss the release in depth and how it could affect both our users and the team

We are also starting to review upcoming release items from the view of the end user so we can brainstorm what consumers might need and to increase our ability to be prepared.

As I go back to my question at the beginning ‘how does lean agile development affect customer support?’ The answer is simple: we have to value learning.

Vernon Howard said, “Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will.”  I firmly believe, and lead my team with the same mentality, that if we stop learning, we cannot help our users.

What are some things your customer support team does to continuously learn?


If we look at a traditional education or career path, they might seem quite linear. Your journey likely consisted of going to college, and you might have even known what you wanted to do, which lead to a certain career ladder, lasting decades within a company. The learning resources were in a classroom, training manuals, one-way disseminations of content being pushed to you. The technology was not as flexible or readily accessible.

Fast forward to today. The average career path is no longer linear and probably looks a lot like mine – horizontal, zig-zag, winding, inconsistent – but full of purpose.


No matter your journey, each step in our learning and career journeys have a purpose in which we are consuming learning content, gaining skills, expanding our networks and going through applied learning experiences that land us in roles and careers that we are (hopefully!) passionate about.

While less prescribed, the new career journey does not come without a set of problems. As learning and training personnel, we are especially aware of the challenges a 60-year career presents and the need to support our workforce in continuous re-skilling.


It’s probably good then that the amount of content out there is exploding at the same time as new skills are being required for jobs faster than ever before, movement within companies is shifting on a quarterly basis, and competition for talent is at an all-time high.

And that content is being utilized. Degreed found that 70% of workers learn from peers or by reading articles and blogs every week, and 53% learn from videos in any given week.

The explosion of both content informal learning opportunities presents new challenges: where are we seeing the skills we are acquiring? Will we be passed up on job opportunities because we can not show, prove or articulate what we know? The list goes on and on.

So how do we solve for this? How do we make this learning we do matter? How do we show what we are learning from all the articles we read, videos we watch, experiences we have?

Meet Degreed. The New Way of learning has been a challenge, but being able to discover, consume, track, share all my learning within Degreed has helped me and millions of others identify passions, career development pathways, and make sense of all the learning that is happening online and offline to define more of my career path.

We all have a learning journey like mine – all over the place – and Degreed helps make sense of that. We ALL are learning all the time, now it is time to get credit, create purpose and love what you are learning and doing on a daily basis.

Be a part of the new way starting today.

Digital technology has drastically changed the way we learn and consume content. We gravitate towards solutions that are quick and easy, and as a result, informal options – social and on-demand learning – account for the bulk of workers’ development.

The most advanced L&D teams are embracing the trend towards informal, collaborative and social. According to the latest Bersin Corporate Learning Factbook, the best L&D organizations deliver significantly more on-demand resources like articles, videos and books, and up to 20% fewer hours via formal training (ILT, vILT, e-learning).

The general lack of insight into informal learning activities has many L&D leaders asking “How do I know employees are spending time on the right things?”

“We have to start trusting the learner. They know what they need and when they need it, and they’re going to find it,” suggested Jason Hathaway, Director, Content & Learning Solutions at CrossKnowledge.

But truly measuring the value of informal learning can be tricky. At Degreed, we believe in the bigger picture and recommend optimizing for utility and outcomes by asking ”Is the learning people are doing helping them become better at their jobs?”

How can you get an accurate measurement of how informal learning is working when results are not instant and much of the learning people do is happening outside of your company’s LMS?

Let’s say, for example, a salesperson spends lots of time watching product videos and reading about selling techniques. Certain tools allow you to capture data on the use of learning resources, but what you, as the manager or learning leader don’t know is if they are applying those ideas in practice.

So you look to their behavior and results. Are they setting more appointments? Are they closing deals faster? Are they closing bigger deals? Are their customers more satisfied? This is data you might be able to find in CRMs, ERP systems – maybe even in the talent management systems. But the one place you will definitely be able to see results (or not)? Observation.

True learning program success means observable behavior change. It’s a different way to think about ROI, but it’s a KPI’s that really matters.

Additionally, you can focus on the experiences you’re facilitating. “You can’t control what people do, but you can control the environment you provide them. Give learners easy access the best resources, including other peers, ” suggested Todd Tauber, VP of Product Marketing at Degreed.

Most workplace learning infrastructure doesn’t really work for today’s workers, partly because the current systems are built primarily for structured, formal training. But the key to empowering your learners and increasing engagement is recognizing, facilitating and measuring what’s happening in-between those formal learning settings – all of the informal learning that is happening whether it be reading an article, a conversation with a mentor or peer, attending an event, or taking a course.

Ready to start measuring your informal learning experiences? Create your Degreed profile today!

Organizations spend billions each year on formal training programs. Yet it’s estimated that only about 10% of what is learned in training is applied at work. This is likely a concerning statistic, but probably not all that surprising, considering learner behavior today.

Formal, L&D-led training is still a valuable part of how workers learn – around 70% of people told Degreed they take live, virtual or e-learning courses from their employers at least once a year. But these same people use informal, self-serve learning experiences to support their growth on a daily basis. According to Degreed research, 85% of workers said they learn things for work on a weekly basis by searching online, nearly 70% learn from peers or by reading articles and blogs and 53% learn from videos.


This data makes it clear that people progress every day, from a variety of resources.  The same survey told us they already invest 3.3 hours a week on their own. But a source that’s accessed once a year versus a source that’s accessed daily tell us people want more than what they can find in the typical L&D course catalog, though.

As demand from the workforce grows, making learning easy, accessible, personalized is only going to get more important. And not just important enough to keep workers happy. So important that it will be the difference in retaining employees.  As Josh Bersin put it at Degreed Lens, opportunity has become directly correlated to employee engagement and tenure within organizations.

So what can the enterprise do about it? Prioritizing growth, development, and learning will create a culture that positions both the company and its employees for success.

There are many ways to emphasize learning as a central strategy but here are four that can take you to the next level and make learning a strategic advantage.

Think about all the times you have launched a new program, tool or initiative in your organization. All the hype, excitement, planning, preparation, team members involvement, etc. Your launch comes and goes, but then what? How do you keep the hype going?

You have one major advantage straight out of the gate – your team is ALWAYS learning! In fact, they spend 4 hours a week on average on learning activities.


Encourage them to keep going with our top 3 suggestions for increasing engagement after the launch of a new tool.

  1. A great way to keep your workforce engaged is by providing or facilitating  what they need to be continuously learning for personal and professional growth. Consider your day and how you learn and consume content. It’s likely you are reading articles, watching videos, listening to a podcast or audiobook during the commute to work, attending professional events, talking with peers or mentors…The list goes on and on. While potentially outside the scope of what our formal training programs might consider learning, all of this informal growth matters and counts. So…
  2. Keep your learners engaged by celebrating ALL learning and encourage them to participate in the organization’s offerings  by serving them up content that’s relevant to the individual, personalized, and matches how they are learning through different sources.
  1. Better support career development by creating a needs assessment within your organization.  Knowing what is being searched, learned or asked about amongst your team and learning technologies will allow you to better deliver  content that’s relevant to what will have the most impact for your learners.

Research tells us your workers are invested in their personal growth, so much so that they already spend $339 a year on it. To continue driving hype and excitement even after the launch, your best approach is meeting your learners where they are with what they want to learn!


You are creating change and we thank you.

To find out more of what your workforce learned in 2017, check out the Year in Review. What will you and your team learn in 2017?

We know there’s more than one pathway to expertise. We also know that amazing things happen when we use our expertise to solve big problems. 2016 was an incredible year for world discoveries, learning, expertise, humanity, technology, and education. And one thing is for sure- we’re learning like never before.

As we set our sights on 2017 we’re taking a good, hard look at what we learned in 2016. We’ve collected stories, data, and lessons from the past 12 months, and put it all together.


So, what did you learn in 2016? What will you learn in 2017?

If you want to make all that learning matter, you know where to find us.

Training is a core function of many organizations, as employees need to be taught a few standard things to help them effectively work within a company, and best perform their role. But how many organizations put the learner first  when thinking about what needs to be taught?

This is the main differentiator between training and learning.

Historically, training is very business centric versus learner centric. We are all familiar with the transactional model of training: attend a lecture or class, and take a test. It’s easy to assume that because this style of training is common and widely used, it’s successful. Don’t fix something that’s not broken, right?

Wrong. In a recent presentation at Puget Sound, Degreed’s CLO Kelly Palmer shared some findings that suggest we might want to rethink our current methods. “Traditional training really hasn’t worked,” said Palmer. “$160 billion dollars a year is spent on training but 80% of what is taught is forgotten within 30 days. Even more astonishing is less than 15% of that learning is applied on the job.”

With less than 15% of trainees applying their learning to their positions, perhaps it’s time we re-evaluate.

Big shifts occur when we put the focus on learning and the individual instead of the old model of formal training and getting a “completed” mark in the LMS. Digital technology gives us instant access to learning, anytime, anywhere. Even if we think about our own personal habits, the internal LMS or formal training classroom is likely not the first place you look for an answer.

According to Degreed research, when people need to learn something new, around 47% search the Internet and 43% browse specific resources. But just 28% search their employers’ learning systems and only 21% rely on their L&D or HR departments. This tells us that employees go beyond what L&D is providing, and take matters into their own hands to find the learning they want in their time of need.

This is not to say that formal training isn’t important, just that the investments and priorities need to be rebalanced to include many individual-focused learning opportunities. “What I’ve learned over time is that it’s not so much the classroom training experience that employees still ask for,” said Palmer. “When together, that’s where employees get to network with peers, collaborate and actually interact with other people from the company. I think in-person training still has a huge part to play, especially when you’re trying to encourage peer-to-peer knowledge transfer.”

The best learning organizations are focused on learner needs and finding a balance between formal training, and individual, learner-driven opportunities that create a thriving learning culture.

To learn how you can better meet the needs of your learner, check out Degreed’s How The Workforce Learns Report.

The skills gap is a vicious circle: people can’t obtain quality jobs, and companies are struggling to find qualified talent. This goes against the basic principles of economics; if more jobs are opening up (and they are), hiring rates should be increasing as candidates fill the positions. But as the data shows, hiring rates are staying relatively flat.

The Skills Gap

The disparity we’re experiencing is called the skills gap. What does a skills gap mean for organizations and job seekers? How can we create balance in qualified talent and available jobs? And most importantly, how can you work to solve your skills gap internally?

The reality is, there are two skill gaps happening. The first is what Jonathan Munk, General Manager at Degreed, refers to as “the Actual Skills Gap.” By his definition, this is the gap between the needed skills and skills that are present. Both employers and students feel the pain: 82% of employers say it’s difficult to fill positions, while 83% of students have no job lined up after graduation, and 62% of students report that the job search is ‘frustrating’ or ‘very frustrating’.

Actual skills gap data

Alongside the Actual Skills Gap, a second gap exists that is less discussed but just as damaging, called the Perceived Skills Gap. This is the difference between what skills employees think they have, versus the skills the hiring managers think they have. Typically, workers think they are twice as qualified as the hiring manager believes. A job seekers overconfidence, paired with what may be a pessimistic view from hiring managers further perpetuates the cycle.

So how can we close the skills gap internally? In a recent Chief Learning Officer webinar, Munk presented 3 suggestions for improvement:

1) Benchmarking

The reality is, we can’t manage what we aren’t measuring. Degreed recently did a survey of thousands of HR and L&D professionals, and while 87% agreed it’s important to measure skills, less than 15% do so formally. We need a way to tie learning activities to skill development, to track and measure progress, and benchmark skills in order to get an accurate snapshot of progress over time.

2) Empower development

Making time for learning can be difficult, not just because employees are already spread thin, but many organizations aren’t set up to deliver learning in a worker’s moment of need. The learning experience has become fragmented with the explosion of content and digital systems. In turn, employees are turning to Google for the easy answer which is outside the purview of L&D. Learning must be consumable, centralized, accessible, relevant and available in a variety of modalities. This will empower employees to develop the skills they need to move up within an organization.

3) Take responsibility

For development to be successful, everyone has to take responsibility. L&D’s role is to provide easy access to tools and systems, managers are responsible for providing motivation and incentives, and employees need to make time for growth and create daily habits of developing their skills.

James Beesen on skills development forming a competitive advantage

There is power in devoting time to internally solving the skills gap. Benefits include a more skilled and competitive workforce, and employees with longer tenure. Successful CLOs realize that their employees are a competitive advantage, and they deserve the same (if not higher) investment than what we put into our products.

For more on the skills gap, download the recording of “Growing from Within: Evaluating and Cultivating Current Employees.”

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