Spending a lot of time with organizations, at conferences, and reading industry research and blogs, I see the phrases “out of sync” and “learning revolution” being thrown around a lot in reference to the current state of corporate learning. There might be some truth to those words – only 18% told Degreed they would recommend their employers’ training and development opportunities.

But a more accurate statement is that there is a massive shift happening in the way people are learning in their jobs.

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The fact is, most workers do spend time learning every week, and they progress every day, in all kinds of ways – not just sometimes, in courses or classrooms. This means that the L&D environment should enable self-directed development as well as formal training – and it should do that through both micro and macro-learning. Equally as important, we as L&D leaders, have to make the vast array of learning content and experiences more meaningful by curating the right resources and tools, providing context, and by engineering useful connections and interactions.

We call this a learning ecosystem. We are in an exciting time where technology, the gig economy, the vast demographics of our workforce have given us the opportunity to rethink our approach and the possibilities! So what does a culture of continuous learning that includes formal and informal, job training and career development, L&D and self-service, look like?

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You need a comprehensive ecosystem of systems and tools that include the following capabilities:

  • curate many different types of content
  • Allow learners to explore indefinitely
  • Aggregate data from all over the organization without manual work into one tool
  • Dashboards to monitor activity deeper than completions
  • Analysis without spreadsheets or data scientist

Perhaps most importantly, embrace APIs, and standards compliance using Tin Can/Experience to ensure that all of your tools will plug in together.

There is also no one-size-fits-all for tools, but platforms like Degreed and Bridge help facilitate L&D’s expanding requirements through their support of required, recommended and self-directed talent development, allowing organizations to meet the needs of a changing workforce.

Learning and development opportunities are a critical factor in making employee engagement (and more importantly, performance) happen. Today, people expect utility, relevance, and personalization, and you create that through a comprehensive learning ecosystem.

Want to know more about the Degreed and Bridge ecosystem? Check out the PR on their new integration.

Co-authors: Sarah Danzl – Communications & Content Marketing, Degreed & Katie Bradford – Director of Platform & Partner Marketing, Instructure

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.

If you don’t think your organization is creative enough to implement design thinking, think again.

Design thinking isn’t about how good you are at design tools such as Photoshop, but rather it’s about using human elements when figuring out how to create products that addresses the real needs of people.

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Using the design thinking process, everyone is a designer and design is everywhere – the way you plan out your day, the way you arrange furniture in your room, the way you match clothes. In the corporate setting, it’s important to find out and integrate the end users’ needs from the beginning, so that you don’t end up spending all your time solving the wrong problem.

As Degreed’s Project Manager Ryan Seamons pointed out on the Design Thinking webinar with Chief Learning Officer, it’s important to realize that design thinking isn’t something you tack at the end of a project, but rather, it’s a mindset. It’s the process of constantly trying to understand the user and the problem at hand.

This diagram shows you a simple framework for approaching a problem using Design Thinking:

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As you can see, this framework is applicable to many types of organizations. Earlier this month, I wrote about how a design thinking program at a local high school positively impacted the students’ confidence and creativity. Here are the 4 actionable steps you can take to implement design thinking and bring its benefits to your organization:

1. Focus on the problem to solve

Companies fail to effectively solve their problems or meet their goals because they don’t correctly identify the person or problem.

Tips for identifying the problem:

  • Listen. Put yourself in other people’s shoes or problem and think from their perspectives what the problem is
  • Ask questions. What is the problem? Who is it for?
  • Have un-siloed conversations. Engage with not only one but multiple people; sit in that area and aim to understand what their life is actually like
  • Stay unbiased. Don’t impose what you think the problem is or the solution. Be open-minded and you might find something else you weren’t expecting

2. Get design thinking skills on your team

In past, ideation phase of the design thinking process were typically saved for Project Managers or Engineers, but that doesn’t mean it can only be used by that department or function. Since design thinking is the mindset of asking questions, understanding and testing, everyone has the ability to do this. Don’t worry if you don’t have the budget for a new role.

Tips for getting design thinking skills:

  • Practice the mindset. Start implementing the process in your role whenever you can. For example, if you oversee onboarding, think about ways you can test a new approach or understand the new employee mentality by getting  feedback via survey
  • Foster interests in design thinking. If you have someone on your team who wants to take initiative and expand their skillset, make sure to nurture that interest, whether it is encouraging experimentation or reimbursing them for design thinking classes

3. Have more debriefs (or start having them)

This is the part that people have the most trouble with: it’s important to understand that design thinking isn’t a one time thing, but rather it is a process of iterating on previous experiments so that the product can improve and become better. However, learnings can’t be implemented if there is no feedback process.

Tips for creating a learning culture:

  • Be open about what went wrong. Set an example that it’s okay to talk about what tests failed and use that to determine what can be better next time.
  • View failure as learnings. If one approach did not work, it narrows down the list of possible approaches and gets you closer to the approach that will work.

4. Embrace the feedback loop

The goal of design thinking isn’t perfection, but to get the best answer possible. The best answer likely won’t be the first answer; thus, there needs to be a constant loop of getting feedback and testing new assumptions.

Tips for implementing loop:

  • Test and iterate as much as possible. Find new ways and angles to test your assumptions, you might come across something you would’ve never thought of otherwise.
  • Have feedback sessions often. When you embrace feedback, not only does it create a safe space to innovate but also by talking about it, it prevents the same mistakes made again.

Design thinking can help leaders like you to identify and solve meaningful problems for your organization. Like anything new, the process is like a muscle that you need to build and use. With a design thinking mindset, you can spend time effectively on solving the right problems and building things that will impact your organization’s success – and you can start now.

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