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.

Many of us are starting the year doing a lot of evaluation. Evaluating ourselves, evaluating our fitness and health, and at work, evaluating our contributions. And some of us have decided to make changes.

In learning and development, many want to improve the way we support employees. We’re asking questions like:

– How can I convince my employees to make time for learning?
– How can we make learning part of the day instead of a tedious activity?
– What can we do to make content more interesting?

I’ve been asking these questions too, and in my search for answers, I found the best place to start was better understanding my employees (learners).

Here are my top 3 recommendations for facilitating a good learning experience.

  1.    Support employees so learning can happen available anytime, anywhere.

Workers don’t confine their development to the “office” or typical work hours. In Degreed’s “How the Workforce Learns” report, 85% of people said they learn at work, 67% do so on personal time and 18% are learning during travel or commutes.

While this feels like you might have less control than you’d like, it’s actually a good thing for retention.

Benedict Carey, author of How We Learn and writer at The New York Times, actually recommends changing locations while learning. New scenery maximizes the number of associations tied to a certain memory and makes it easier to access when trying to reconnect with the content later on.

So, creating the environment and culture where employees feel that ALL the learning they do, wherever they do means increased valued and they’ll likely retain information and make connections more effectively.

  1.    Stop worrying about millennials and boomers and start worrying about learner preferences.

I led a panel discussion last year on the generational differences in the workforce with eBay and BlueBeyond consulting. We had a representative from the 4 generations in the workforce today, and what surfaced was that societal trends, more than age, influence preferences for digesting information.

70% of the time, learning still happens on PCs. But smartphones (17%) and tablets (13%) account for 30% of digital development.

While there is some broad truth to generational differences, there were plenty of boomers in the room who prefer YouTube “how-to’s” and a significant number of millennials who still to write things down and would choose face to face over IM.

The takeaway? Learning preference is just that, an individual’s preference. Regardless of generation, we should give each employee options that appeal to their unique learning style and  preferences in content themes

  1.    When investing in new tech, consider more than efficiency.

Many L&D teams are trying to do more with less. Content that appeals to a broader audience, templates that standardize and one system that can do it all.

But how does this approach cater to the reality that we build skills over time, and from a variety of sources including books, conversations, and experience?

As Degreed’s new Innovators Guide points out, the problem with this approach is that in a typical L&D environment, the content (as well as the systems, people, and work experiences) are isolated. They rarely work together to interact or share data. “As a result, they don’t give anyone a useful picture of our learning activities or, more importantly, our skill-sets,” said Todd Tauber, VP of Product Marketing at Degreed.

Instead, we need to consider the benefits of being in the age of technology, and thanks to things like APIs, organizations can form world-class systems from multiple, best of breed solutions. “This is the near future of learning technology: intelligent networks of tools, content, systems, people, and data all working together to empower your workforce to learn better, faster AND more cost-effectively,” added Tauber.

Ready to learn more? Check out Degreed’s Innovator’s Guide.


What would you do if you could build a vision and strategy for learning at your company completely from scratch?  What would your structure and plan be? What specific things would you continue doing and what would you do differently?

The world of learning and work is changing dramatically so you may want to consider a few different areas as you think about your learning vision of the future.



How would you imagine the perfect learning culture? Company cultures that support learning as a core, fundamental part of everything employees do every day are realizing their competitive advantage. Also, cultures that identify learning as a key guiding principle enable employees to continue to build the skills that they need for the future. Does your culture put learning front and center?


I know when I ran learning organizations at Sun, Yahoo, and LinkedIn, we thought that we had to create most of the learning content ourselves.  But now, there is so much content out there, you may not need to create all your own anymore. The perfect balance is probably a little of both. What would a new content strategy look like in your company?


Technology is another component of your vision and strategy that can easily be re-imagined.  Your employees want to learn on-demand and they need personalized content that fits their particular needs. How can you think about learning technology in a new way – in a way that supports what the learner really wants and needs to build relevant skills for the future? Imagine a technology that incorporates curated content, personalization, social features, analytics, and skill plans as the platform that could support your learning strategy.


Learning analytics and insights are key to understanding what your employees are learning and what skills they are building.  Does your learning strategy incorporate analyzing learner data and agile improvements so that you can validate and refine your strategy on an ongoing basis?

Internal Skills / Team

What about the people in your learning organization?  Do they have the skills and expertise to take you to the future? They are expanded and different than what might have been enough in the past.

For example, do they know how to curate content and analyze learning data? Can they facilitate online peer-to-peer learning or incorporate video content into in-person training? These are just some of the skills that the learning organization of the future will need.

Vision, strategy, culture, content, technology, analytics, and people. These are just some of the topics I’ll be discussing with Christopher Lind, Learning Experience and Digital Transformation Leader for GE Healthcare at our upcoming LENS conference in Chicago on September 28. I hope you’ll join us so that together we can develop the structure for making your vision a reality.

A single, integrated, all-in-one technology ecosystem may work for some organizations sometimes, but it won’t work for everyone all the time. Learning is already too fragmented, and it’s only getting more diverse and complex as new ways to learn like video, chatbots and augmented reality become mainstream.

So to future-proof their investments, innovative L&D leaders are shifting to more flexible ecosystems – dynamic networks of tools, content, platforms that work together and share data to provide workers with on-demand access to all kinds of learning, performance, and career development.


These ecosystems are all designed differently, to fit each organization’s unique business, operations, infrastructure, and culture needs. The ones we see most often share some common features and functions:

Open: They give people access to resources from inside and outside the organization, anywhere they need, anytime they want
Diverse: They provide a diverse mix of macro-learning (like live and online courses) and micro-learning (like articles, videos, and search)
Social: They enable people to learn with, and from, their peers, managers, and mentors, as well as from external experts
Personalized: They are personalized, targeting each workers’ specific roles, career paths, and interests, as well as their skill-sets
Insights: They track and analyze learning wherever it happens — in classrooms, on computers, on tablets and smartphones, and in real life
Career-long: They give people credit for informal as well as formal learning, and they allow workers to take their data with them through their careers

The challenge is, building an always-on learning environment requires a range of tools, content, and systems. It can get complicated, and it takes work. There are literally hundreds of solutions to choose from…and a lot of them look and sound alike. Plus, they need to fit in with (or replace) your existing processes and legacy infrastructure. So where do you even start?

One place to start is by joining us at Degreed LENS! At the session, The Robots are Here: How to Navigate Next-Gen Learning Technology, Caterpillar, Mastercard and Airbnb will dive into how each organization is adapting and evolving their strategy and ecosystems to confront the digital disruption of L&D.

Tickets are selling out fast. Make sure to save your seat now.

Once you’ve determined your organization needs a new tool or technology, how do you build the business and investment cases to show leadership the clear path towards the changes that need to occur?

Dani Johnson, VP of Research at Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting, recently spoke with 3 learning leaders from Disney, AT&T, and Airbnb to learn more about their individual journeys with technology.

Those on the journey to finding or implementing new tools and platforms likely have one thing in common: the current solution isn’t working.

We had a traditional learning management system that was written for one context and one moment in time, so it was very, very clear that it wasn’t working. We addressed it, which tied to a strategy that reevaluated some of our larger HR investments, including learning,” revealed Chris Trout, VP of L&D at the Walt Disney Company.

While larger organizations might have the bandwidth and budget to be flexible and try multiple solutions, sometimes it’s best to start fresh. Such is the strategy behind the learning success at Airbnb: ”We took a bold move to ‘divest’ rather than invest first, to turn off a lot of the learning infrastructure that was already there in order to almost start from a baseline,” explained Barry Murphy, head of Global Learning at Airbnb.

Of course, it’s not that easy for every organization.

For a monolithic-type project of large scale, Amy Rouse, former learning leader at AT&T, knew she had to find a way to streamline numerous disparate platforms and get rid of old technology to make room for what they needed.


“Our business cases were not easy, but they’re a necessity. We wanted to create a personal learning environment, but you’ve got to prove why you want the business to invest a lot of money into something new or better. So we identified what could be eliminated from our learning architecture, what we could eventually sunset including the LMS, and by when,” said Rouse. “This timeline strategy informed how turning off old investments would offset the costs of the new technology. This helped other leaders in the organization see the true cost of staying with old technology, and the benefits of transitioning to new solutions that better suited the business case.”

The one thing all 3 organizations had in common? Starting with a vision.

“We looked in a few places, including how technology was happening at the time, how HR and learning technology was happening and knew we wanted to pursue a technology that was going to help us get to that vision,” said Trout.

Airbnb started working against their vision of a learning ecosystem, in search of the technology that could do what they wanted.

“Being able to explain the vision to stakeholders is probably one of the most important things associated with making that business case,” added Johnson.

Here’s how you can start to build your business case:

  1. Start with a vision and keep the “end” in mind. Many organizations get caught up in having the latest and greatest technology. Instead, choose what will help you achieve your long-term vision.
  2. Create a timeline. This can include when you’ll turn off old technologies when you can scale up the new technology, or important events in the business that will require the use of the new technology.
  3. Divest before you invest. Know what isn’t working, get rid of the tools and platforms that are not producing ROI, and then re-allocate those resources to things that do.

What are some ways you have made the case for implementing a new technology at your organization? Let us know in the comments.

Want to know what else the presenters talked about? Access the full webinar through Degreed here.

Digital technology is creating a huge opportunity to elevate the learning and talent development function from a distraction to a driver of business results. But effectively evolving the L&D approach to meet the needs of our always-on workforce is harder than ever. Reality is getting more virtual. Intelligence is getting more artificial. Data is getting bigger.

The difference between the disruptors and the disrupted is what the organization does with the technology available.

Join Bersin by Deloitte analyst, Dani Johnson, for a conversation with 3 corporate learning trailblazers: Chris Trout, VP, Learning & Development at The Walt Disney Company, Barry Murphy, Global Learning Manager at Airbnb, and Amy Rouse, a Senior Learning Technologist formerly of AT&T, on their different approaches to engaging technology to confront the digital disruption happening in L&D.

The live, one-hour discussion will explore urgent questions about learning systems, such as:

  1. How are requirements for learning technology changing
  2. How to navigate the sea of “next-gen” vendors
  3. Why to consider an ecosystem instead of one, integrated system

Register for “The near future of learning technology” webinar now!

By now, you’re no stranger to the concept that employees want learning to be on their time, on their device, and personalized to their individual position and needs. Delivering a customizable and fluid experience requires unique tools, and the list shouldn’t be limited to your intranet.

Content on the intranet is often disorganized, scattered, and out of date. Yet we see many companies directing their employees to their intranet to find learning content. Typically, companies use intranets to manage corporate news, information and general resources, and you might notice those types of information are usually a one-way dissemination as opposed to interactive.

Learning shouldn’t be a one-way conversation or delivered in one modality or style. A manual, laborious process is only going to drive your learners away, which is bad for engagement and therefore your organization and the bottom line.


In case you aren’t convinced already, here are 8 more reasons why your intranet shouldn’t be the only place for learning.

  1. Intranets do not personalize and curate learning. These are both key tenants to meeting the needs of the modern learner.
  2. Intranets to do not create high rates of employee engagement around learning resources because there is not much in the way of associating groups, pathways, goals, competencies, collaboration, profile or transcript ownership/portability, etc.
  3. Managing learning resources (i.e. adding, updating, and removing learning resources from multiple sources) on an intranet can be a very manual, time consuming process.
  4. Intranets are hard pressed to provide any type of insights and analytics around how your employees are utilizing, benefiting from, and engaging with the learning provided by your organization.
  5. Intranet solutions typically don’t provide learning content, they just allow you to manually upload and manage content.
  6. Social and collaborative learning communities are not typically found in general intranet solutions.
  7. Intranets do not usually integrate with 3rd party content vendors, LMS systems, etc. nor manage those resources dynamically.
  8. Intranets are not built to include sophisticated searching algorithms to make learning easy to find.

Learning is happening all the time, across many different mediums. To be as effective as possible, organizations need to be good curators of engaging content. Your goal should to be to make learning as easy as possible; don’t make it harder by making them use tools that make success nearly impossible or even worse, drive them away from wanting to learn at all.