What do you hope to accomplish here and beyond? Right now, my here is “Degreed.”

When I was prompted with this question, it was a month after I joined Degreed. Founder, David Blake, led with his curiosity that day and asked us about our hopes and dreams. It’s the kind of question some of us dread (enter: Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation). But oh boy do I ever love this kind of stuff. I have Leslie Knope levels of enthusiasm about it.

One of the reasons I embrace this question is because I ponder similar questions often. Such as: What are my core and peripheral gifts? Which ones are needed for whom and when? The answers to these questions are how I make sure that I’m aligned with my “Why.” The more I understand why I join, serve, labor, or otherwise share my gifts, the more I can bring my full self to whatever I do.

I framed my answer to David’s question with three goals:

1) what I hope to accomplish here (at Degreed),
2) what I hope to accomplish next,
3) what I hope to accomplish before death.

Responses are italicized below:

  1. Hope to accomplish here: Reframe learning for individuals and organizations.
  2. Hope to accomplish next: Untether and experience the world as a digital nomad. City hop and country hop while working remotely until marriage or health forces me to re-anchor.
  3. Hope to accomplish before death (key theme for eulogy):
    • Friend to the forgotten (someone who upheld dignity in the final stages of life for hospice patients).
    • Storyteller-in-residence for my daughter. (someone who coached more than dictated, who inspired more than proscribed. We read together a lot and share a love of stories. I want her to remember me as a guide and not a warden).
    • Hacker of expertise (Real estate broker. Architect. Doctor. And whatever else I reach for next. I want to demystify the cult of hidden titles and inspire others to be boldly curious).
    • Creator of beautiful experiences(Delightful architecture. Global Excursions, Walking Classrooms).
    • A fulfilled Legacy (someone that brings pride to my tribe, here in the states and in my father’s country of Eritrea).

My core gift is to be a herald. Some characterize their gifts by identifying it as a spirit animal, MBTI type, mythical assignment, or divine purpose. After exploring the many paths to self-discovery and being described as a foxy ENTP that might be a “3rd-grade teacher with a secret life,” I simplified mine to herald. I’ll explain.

Goal #1 (Hope to accomplish here) Explained: Each day, I serve to reframe learning for individuals and organizations by heralding the promise of this brave new world of learner-led experiences. I have many assignments in my current role, but I thrive most in those face-to-face or virtual modalities where I can show and share the path. It flows naturally and I could do it for hours on end with unwavering delight. My core gift provides the fuel to perform not from a place of obligation, but from a place of joy.

Goal #2 (Hope to accomplish next) Explained: As much as I enjoy sharing my gifts through my work, I enjoy recharging and soaking up the beauty of the world. Before using the Degreed mobile app, I was missing some visibility into my own curiosities and personal growth. Meticulous as I am, I tried to close this gap by journaling my ideas and learning into a Google form that fed into a Gsheet, complete with quantitative and qualitative questions. The problem with that is…I would only use it once a month or so. Now, when I’m riding in a cab in NYC I can kill time by reading articles in my feed or capture the hours of learning spent listening to an audiobook while on a flight. And the app captures it all for me, making it easy to track and cultivate that habit of learning. Given my love of data, seeing what I’ve learned tracked in one place along with my trending topics and interests offers me exciting insights.

Goal #3 (Hope to accomplish before death) Explained: This is the long view. It answers the question “How do I hope to be remembered?” Without expanding on all the bullets, I’ll end with a story. I received a text a few weeks ago from the volunteer manager at an organization where I normally serve as a hospice patient care volunteer. She needed help with an event. I checked my calendar and responded with “Yes.” I arrived at my post at 7:55am on a Saturday and was charged with directing cars at the lower level of the parking deck until 9:15am. She mentioned that she was disappointed because the other volunteer was a no-show. I was instructed to guide arriving guests to park and go to the lobby where they will wait to be escorted to the rooftop restaurant venue. Not only was I unbothered the other volunteer was a no-show, I was excited. Why? I would have the privilege of being the first person they encountered–to wield the power to set the tone for the guest experience.

What the volunteer manager did not know was that I had been hired to greet visitors and deliver presentations at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, VMworld in Barcelona, CES in Las Vegas, CES in Shanghai, Bett Show in London,  to name a few. I was about to show up in that parking deck in the most magical way for these people– for free and with a huge smile! What you learn from working with industry titans at events on that scale is that your message is bigger than your talking points. My mission was not to give the arriving guests a list of instructions on how to get to the lobby. My mission was to surround them with warmth and confirm that “Hear Ye, Hear Ye: We’ve been waiting for you! Welcome!”

Most of the guests who arrived were kinda sorta sure they were in the right parking deck. Each time they tentatively drove in and rolled down the window, I knew why they were there. No one else was hosting an early morning event. But I still let the experience unfold for each person by asking “Hi there, are you here for Missing our Mothers?” Each time, they would answer “Yes.” And each time I would start their journey with “You’re in the right place! And we’re so glad you’re here!” Each time they would smile. Then I would tell them next steps.

That wasn’t on my list of talking points. That was the core gift of knowing the difference between reciting instructions and heralding good news. Each of those women were at this event to celebrate the memory of their mother– mothers they do not have when others are with their mommies on Mother’s Day. No matter whether the volunteer post was to be an emcee (that job was taken by a famous journalist) or to play a medley on a violin or to park a car, every moment of the guest experience at that event was meaningful. We all made sure of it. What an honor it was for me to be their first smile.

Truth be told, 9:15am came all too quickly. Most unexpectedly, when I finished my shift I enjoyed a front-row seat at a reserved table to enjoy the program. All because I said “Yes” and I showed up. That other volunteer really missed out– maybe she thought it was just about parking cars.

So I leave you with this question: What are your core and peripheral gifts?

Consider how you practice using them and what you hope to accomplish with them wherever you are. Continue to build your collection of learning and tag them with skills to look for patterns. And remember that the more you understand about your gifts, the more you can unlock experiences that help you bring a fullness, a purpose, and an enthusiasm to all that you do!

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.

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Culture

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?

Content

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

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.

Analytics

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.

Most organizations are feeling the burn of the changes happening in L&D. 60-year careers, multiple generations, a dispersed workforce, decreasing skill tenures. It’s a lot to take on, and it’s putting more pressure on our team’s than ever before. As practitioners, we must be continuously well-versed in at least several areas of expertise to remain relevant and contributing.

Enter the villain in the story – time. It’s something we’re all short on.

So what if you only had time to get stronger in 3 places – where should you focus? Sarice Plate, Xilinx Senior Director of Global Talent Acquisition and Development, has advised her team to get savvy in the following:

  1. Curation

It’s crucial to be able to make sense of the plethora of content that’s available with the click of a button. Not only are we inundated with options, but how do we determine quality on the fly? There are tools like Facebook and Instagram that benefit from causing distractions, not to mention our phones buzz constantly at new alerts and Google returns hundreds of thousands of search results. It’s important to cut through the noise and quickly find relevant content in the moment of need. Hellooooo curation!

“Curators are the great librarians of our time, cataloging and prioritizing the best content,” commented Caroline Soares, Director of Curation Services at Degreed.

2. Marketing

For today’s L&D teams to be successful, they must also act as marketers, selling the need to continuously learn. “We need to appeal to our learners, and being ‘appealing’ is a marketing problem, not a learning issue. As learning people, we need to inspire employees, influence how they behave and compel them to engage with us and our learning, with the goal of motivating engagement,” said Susie Lee, Director of Client Engagement at Degreed.

In her experience at Xilinx, Plate’s team uses their marketing skills almost daily, working to influence the business, and increase stakeholder engagement. As digital transformation continues to saturate, they continue to find themselves more involved in curriculum design rather than just designing and setting up training courses.

3. Technical knowledge and data analytics

Technology is constantly changing, so, L&D practitioners are required to be more digitally savvy, and more technical than ever before. We must understand the tech our employees are already using, write and curate content that’s exciting and consumable. To do that, we must understand consumption, behavior.

These might feel like these skills are completely untraditional for an L&D professional to have. And you’d be right. But with 56% of current workforce skills set not matching organization’s strategy and goals (ATD, Bridging the Skills Gap, 2015), we should do something different than we have been if we want to be successful. And it’s not all bad.

“With the roll out of our new [learning] strategy, every member of my team is now engaged, helping with content curation, consulting with the business to build pathways, designing curriculum to best meet the needs of the business. It’s truly been a shift for some, including myself, but we’re embracing it and we’re making the shift so far successfully.  I think the team overall feels more energized now and excited about our roles and how we can impact and build organizational capability,” said Plate.

Looking for a way to grow your expertise in some of these skills? Skill development workshops at Degreed LENS will cover these themes and more. Join us in Chicago on September 28th!

Let’s get uncomfortably honest for a minute. CEOs are concerned about business results. They are paid to drive shareholder value, which is a function of three things: revenue growth, company profitability, and how efficiently an organization uses their assets.

Historically, that mentality has pervaded the way organizations value learning and how they invest. Most L&D organizations have been built for scalability, efficiency, and standardization.

Technology for most L&D teams is a way to deliver more, at a lower cost, with more consistency. The problem with that mentality is our learners aren’t one size fits all, or even one size fits most. It’s no surprise then that only 18% of employees would recommend their organizations training and development opportunities.

What this tells us is that the focus on efficiency, not engagement, doesn’t bode well in the workforce. The good news is that some organizations, like Caterpillar, are breaking the mold.

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If you go to industry events or keep up on articles and blogs in the learning space, you’re probably seeing increased conversation about engagement, and a whole new crop of tools popping up that are the result of solving the learning problems of today. While great resources, the most valuable information comes from those that have embraced the digital revolution, and are leading the charge to better the employee development experience.

Caterpillar’s Mike Miller, Division Manager of Global Dealer Learning, was interviewed by Todd Tauber of Degreed on his evolving approach to L&D and training. Here are some of our favorite excerpts from the conversations.

Todd: Caterpillar seems to be aiming for more of a balance between efficiency and flexibility in learning. How are your strategies and approaches for developing capabilities in your workforce shifting?

Mike: To be honest with you, Caterpillar has never really lost the focus that people are our competitive advantage. The big change that we have going forward and the shift that you’re seeing in our strategy is less of a one-way conversation where we put out packages to one that’s community-led.

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With a community-led strategy, we have turned on solutions and content that allows everybody to contribute, and so by having the population rather than a handful of people working on learning, we are able to obtain organization capabilities far easier because we have well over 300,000 people contributing.

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Todd: How’s Caterpillar rebalancing the people, the time, the money, so that you can manage less and empower more?

Mike: There are still formal programs at Caterpillar. But people were looking for the next step: what is past the formal program? We’ve moved to a three-tier approach on our content. It includes making all of our content easily accessible on our mobile phones. And then we want to have onsite support, meaning at the time you have a question and/or an issue, we really can help you solve that, right? And last, where we need to, we’ll still do instructor-led training because there are places we still need to do certification or accreditations.

If you look at these components, we’re really trying to do put an ecosystem together that allows people to contribute and consume on demand as they need to.

Looking to empower your workforce to consume content on demand like Caterpillar? Set up your Degreed profile today!

Digital technology is transforming just about everything, and fast. Yet just 33% of organizations say their top-level managers understand and support digital initiatives. If you’re not working on transforming your L&D and HR function for the digital age, too, then maybe you should.

The reality is, the world is changing constantly. And according to major startup investor Paul Graham, it creates not just threats, but also huge opportunities – if you recognize the signals in time and adapt appropriately.

McK quote Digital CLO

The threats that come with being a chief learning officer (CLO), or working for one, are real. Reality is getting more virtual. Intelligence is getting more artificial. Data is getting bigger. It will take a new breed of chief learning officer that can adequately adjust to meet the needs of today’s workforce. Say hello to the Digital CLO.

The formula for success as a Digital CLO in learning and development (L&D) – which is essentially the algorithm for developing capabilities and driving business performance – is well-known:
Alignment + Efficiency + Effectiveness = Outcomes

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Most CLOs struggle to get or stay aligned. Almost 60% of the workforce’s skill sets don’t match changes in their companies’ strategies, goals, markets or business models.

Many CLOs also have a hard time being efficient. As much as 70 cents out of every dollar invested in L&D is wasted on irrelevant, redundant, low quality or unused training.

Most importantly, too many CLOs aren’t actually effective where it counts. Nearly three quarters of CEOs say that a lack of critical expertise is a threat to their businesses’ growth.

Some CLOs, however, are adapting and evolving – even thriving – in the face of all this digital disruption. To find out what the 3 things are that successful CLO’s do differently, join Intel and Degreed for the Digital CLO “playbook” webinar on January 31st. Register for the event here.

Technology is seeing a major shift towards open platforms that can connect. This is referred to as a “Platform Strategy,” defined as the ability to create value by connecting interdependent systems, content, or people.

When you purchase a technology solution with a platform strategy, you aren’t dependent on just one solution or tool. You can leverage multiple providers, and pick and choose the best of breed for all your needs. These platform solutions offer pluggable APIs to make the connection between systems seamless.

Starting at the basics, API stands for Application Program Interface. Simply, it allows one software application to talk to another software application. APIs are an important part of a platform strategy because it’s an automated way for two systems to share information without a large IT investment or significant custom code. APIs have made the modern web experience possible. Have you noticed how Facebook and Google maps are connected to everything? That’s made possible by the open APIs these platforms offer.

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Other great examples of successful platform strategies include Microsoft Sharepoint, Salesforce, and iPhone and Android smartphones.

The value of IOS and Android devices far surpasses the value of Blackberry devices in a large part because of the plethora of mobile apps that are available for iPhone and Android. Apple’s strategy wasn’t to make the iPhone a single tool that did everything. They created an open platform that allowed a large audience of contributors to build tools and content that could be added onto their system.

Degreed follows a similar strategy by connecting all the world’s best learning experiences — systems, content, and people — so they can all work better together.

Degreed accomplishes this by being agnostic when it comes to integrating with other tools and content providers. Degreed has a robust set of tools to leverage for integrations depending on the client’s specific technology landscape including xAPI, SCORM, CSV, API, SSO/SAML 2.0. To date, Degreed has successfully integrated with several different LMS providers, HR systems, and a long list of content providers.

integrate

 

Degreed’s APIs allow you to easily integrate all of your organization’s internal learning content, from your LMS, or other tools. Federate Degreed’s user API allows you to keep your employee list in sync, and allows you to auto-enroll users in groups and pathways, and set default privacy settings.

Takeaways

The age of APIs means you no longer need one tool that tries to do it all. Instead, you are able to pick and choose the best of breed for all your needs. If you’re shopping for a corporate learning solution, make sure you ask your vendor if pluggable APIs are part of their platform. If the answer is no, you may want to consider looking for something new.

Degreed is changing the way organizations approach corporate learning investments by creating a unified learner experience. To learn more about Degreed, visit get.degreed.com

Many learning leaders are re-thinking their strategy and want to incorporate more digital components to what they are doing with learning.  This means thinking beyond traditional models of classroom training, e-learning, and the limited functionality of an LMS. The reality is that people have information available at their fingertips and there is an abundance of tools to choose from.

The key is relevance, context and helping your learners effectively navigate the explosion of content. As you are thinking about creating your digital learning strategy and incorporating digital learning assets and tools into what you offer your employees, it’s imperative you consider and are able to answer the following three questions:

  1. What is our digital learning strategy?

A digital learning strategy means that you are going to incorporate digital learning assets (videos, online learning, courses, blogs, articles, books) into how you help people learn. But, it’s really more than that – it’s actually thinking about learning differently.  There is so much content for learning available to people now, and the rate of change is so fast, that we can’t be bound by old models of learning to satisfy how quickly people need to keep up on the required skills today.

digital-strategy-1

In the old model, a central learning group would get requirements for what people needed to learn (say Java programming), design and develop the “training,” and then set up classrooms, register people, and have them leave their job to attend a class.  That process takes time (sometimes a lot of time) and by the time all that happens, your company has moved on and now needs Python programming skills instead.

Instead, embrace a digital learning strategy. Now you can use the over-abundance of available content to your advantage.  You can help direct people to digital assets that you have developed, or that already exist, and give them on-demand access.  Having a variety of digital asset types also takes into account all the different ways people like to learn – I personally love to read books or listen to podcasts, but others may like to take a multi-week online course.  A digital learning strategy is your plan for how you want to conveniently offer all these digital learning assets to your employees.

  1. Why do we need a digital learning strategy?

One of the reasons it’s so valuable to have a digital learning strategy is that you can provide learning to all your employees – not just the chosen few.

When a digital learning strategy is deployed, it is instantly a global, scalable benefit for all of your people.  So if you have employees around the globe, or across the country, a digital strategy can help show all employees you are investing in them and in their skill development – all the time – which is key to employee engagement, especially millennials. Workers will have all types of learning assets at their fingertips whenever they need them.  So instead of asking the learning department to develop a particular type of learning, people can access thousands of learning assets that can help them right away.

Many companies spend the majority of their budgets on leaders and managers or high-performing employees and leave the rest of their employees to fend for themselves.  But how can “the rest” succeed without support and guidance, too? Having a digital strategy can help you reach all of your employees and help you have a competitive advantage in terms of retaining people. Employees want to build their skills and want you to invest in them, so if they feel your company will do that and others won’t, that gives you an edge.

  1. Which digital content should we include?

Here’s where a little analysis as well as iteration comes into play. At my last company when we were trying to decide which content to include in our digital strategy, we had just begun creating the learning organization, so we didn’t have any of our own content yet. In order to get learning to people quickly, we partnered with a few leading content providers that have libraries of digital content (examples include Plural Sight, BigThink, SkillSoft, Lynda.com, Safari Books, and Harvard Publishing, although there are hundreds out there).

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We chose three content partners and tracked the usage of providers content to see what our employees were needing and using.  We also included some of the free content out there (such as Ted Talks and YouTube videos).  That worked well for creating our first digital strategy, but over time, we dropped some providers and partners and added some of our own company-specific digital content into the mix as we learned what was working best for our employees.

Unfortunately, many online learning strategies start with buying technology – generally an LMS – and then people build the digital strategy around the technology.  To be really successful, though, you need to create your strategy first and then see what technology will support what you really want it to do. New technology is making new things possible.  The key is just to make sure you know what problems you are trying to solve and then you can make the magic happen.

 

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