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.

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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.

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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.

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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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