In case you didn’t notice it, there has been a monumental shift in the learning market, with analysts beginning to diagnose a new trend.

  • The Sierra Cedar 2018-2019 HR Systems Survey white paper cites Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) as “an emerging trend in the Talent Management application space.”
  • Brandon Hall is calling it “the beginning of a movement that has been set in permanent motion to transform how organizations look at learning and improving individual and organizational performance.”
  • Josh Bersin says the “potential LXP market is huge,” and is currently valued at $200-250 million and growing at 200% or more.
  • Craig Weiss, learning technology consultant, calls the category, “Learning Engagement Platform,” and calls it a stronger product [than an LMS] in an inevitably expanding niche.”
  • In its 2018 Hype Cycle for HCM Technology, Gartner states, “Learning Productivity Platforms” has just entered the innovation trigger which occurs when there is a period of rapid development and growing interest. The market has finally been validated and defined and is expected to reach mainstream adoption in the next 5-10 years.”

Though analysts can’t agree on a name for the category, they all agree that there is something new and big here.

Engagement is a Prerequisite, Not the End Goal

Analysts remain focused on the front-end portal, the employee experience, and engagement. For many in corporate learning that are utilizing legacy Learning Management Systems, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that the end goal of all learning is engagement, measured by time, activity, and satisfaction.

If your company is like most, voluntary usage of learning systems might average 4-6% in a given month — anemic by almost any standard. Increasing learning activity 9x as we’ve done at AirBnB, having 25% of employees spend 3-4 hours learning every week at HP Inc., or getting a 69 Net Promoter Score at T-Mobile would seem to be goals worth striving for. And they are. Without engagement, nothing else is possible.

We agree that something huge is going on here, but it goes deeper than the surface level experience analysts are seeing. There is plumbing and wiring hidden under the surface, and driving this experience behind the scenes is a robust skills data set that matches people to what they need to learn, driving more engagement.

We believe a new operating system  for learning is emerging that will enable companies to make talent decisions.

It’s what you do with that engagement that matters

Engagement is not enough. It doesn’t mean that outcomes are being created, or that value is being generated for the business. It’s a bit like how startups try to grow revenues without any appreciation for the value of profits. These companies  get caught up in vanity metrics because it makes them feel like they are making progress, but they are not actually building a sustainable business. In the same way, engagement indicates that you are doing something right, but it’s not the complete story.

It’s what you do with that engagement that matters. We’ve known all along that engagement matters most when it aligns to greater performance, opportunity, and achievement for all parties, like when a company is filling hard-to-fill roles and retaining employees longer; when employees are gaining skills that are valuable to their careers, and to the competitiveness of their firms.

To achieve this goal, we made a major investment in technology, data science, and machine learning. We’ve spent the last few years, creating a framework that creates data about what can people do, how well they can do it, and matches them to learning opportunities that will help them grow their career and contribute to organizational growth.

This is something that no one else is doing today and it is already starting to yield substantial value for our clients. At Unilever, active learners are 24.5% more likely to receive 4- and 5-star performance ratings, get promoted 10% faster, and are 25% more likely to be targeted for retention efforts.

The linchpin of this framework is Skills. Knowing the skills your company has is exponentially more valuable than knowing how many hours employees spent learning. It becomes meaningful to the entire organization, especially to the C-Suite, who can leverage this data for strategic initiatives like product innovation, entering new markets, and M&A, all of which require a talent pool armed with the latest and greatest skills.

It’s time to elevate learning

To that end, we’re making a series of other exciting Skills-related updates to our platform:

  • Skill Review to assess who has what skills across an entire company
  • Team Pages and Individual Development Plans to drive employee development at a grassroots level
  • Career Pathing to help people grow while aligning careers with company strategy

All these updates are intended to build upon what we’ve already achieved and continue to elevate learning — to make it more strategic to business units and to turn it into a competitive advantage. To redirect the way we talk about learning outcomes — leaving behind metrics like satisfaction and activity, and putting new a focus on internal mobility, retention, and performance. All these things come down to helping your business do a better job of developing your talent.

With rapidly changing business landscapes in virtually every industry, we believe learning is one of the greatest internal investment opportunities of our time. Learning drives the creation of skills, and skills are what drives corporate competitive advantage. It’s our mission to make learning matter and empower organizations to make skills the center of their people operations and create a path for every person to own their future while helping their company succeed in the marketplace. These recent upgrades to our platform are a step in the direction in this mission.

In-demand skills come and go, but this one will stay for life.

The only constant is change. Your degree will only carry you so far. Your current skill in a certain field will only be relevant for so long. After all, many jobs that exist now were unheard of a decade ago.

The only way to survive and get ahead in this ever-changing world is to sharpen the skill of learning.

In a world that is constantly changing, there is no subject or set of subjects that will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn. — John Naisbitt

It’s no coincidence that the Learning How to Learn class from Coursera is the world’s most popular online course, with students from over 200 countries learning the mental framework to overcome any difficult topic. Personally, it’s also no coincidence that I was able to consistently pick up new skills and accelerate my career through monthly learning challenges.

If it’s essential to be a lifelong learner, then it makes sense to invest time in strengthening this meta-skill. As Abraham Lincoln once said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” The more you understand how to study effectively, the better you’ll be able to apply these concepts, the more equipped you’ll be to acquire skills. Win-win-win.

Here are 3 things you can do to study smarter:

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1. Make a connection between the new and old.

Our brains are made of neurons which transmit information between each other across synapses. When you learn something new, your brain literally makes a connection between the neurons.

The more synapses made, the more interconnected your knowledge and deepen your understanding becomes. Thus, it’s helpful to generate metaphors or link an abstract concept to something concrete that you already know.

For example, making the analogy that your mind is like a library. Within a library, there are existing categories like History or Psychology to file books away under. Similarly, with new incoming information, your mind also files those away according to current labels. Thus, it’s much easier to understand something if a) you have already had an existing category for it, and b) you have examples within the category to help you integrate the information.

Knowledge is strengthened through use and meaning. Which brings us to chunking:

Chunking is the act of grouping concepts into compact packages of information that are easier for the mind to access.

Because short-term memory can only hold about four things at any given time, if you group the different pieces of information together into one larger whole, you can use just one of the four available slots. For example, if you’ve ever needed to memorize colors of the rainbow, chances are that you used the acronym “ROY G BIV”, or if you played music, you used “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” to read treble notes.

When you make a connection with something you already know, you learn and remember it better.

2. Do it yourself.

The best way to learn something is through experience because it bridges the gap between knowledge and skills.

There’s a difference between passive and active learning. Just because you highlight or underline something, doesn’t mean that you’ve learned it — and personally, the worst way to learn that is during an exam (I’m speaking from experience☺).

Also applicable to the working world, if you watched video tutorials or read guides, it only means that you are aware of the instructions on how to do it, and not necessarily the ability to carry it out. Pure regurgitation or recognition is easy but recalling it or teaching it to someone is not. If you’ve ever gotten into a situation where everything went well during studying, but when the crucial time came you realized that you didn’t actually know the material, this my friend, is the illusion of competence.

The roadblocks and obstacles we run into when we’re learning something new is what helps us store it in long-term memory. This is why companies emphasize working experience, and why side projects are helpful if you’re trying to really learn something well.

The trick is to just start. Sometimes all those open tabs to do more research are just forms of procrastination. Your brain likes pleasant things, so when it encounters something that it thinks will be difficult, it tries to switch your attention to easier things, like watching Netflix. However, researchers have discovered that not long after people actually start working on a task, the perceived discomfort soon disappeared. It’s like when you get to the gym, you realize it’s not too bad after all, and when you’re all sweaty after your workout, it feels great and you’re happy that you went.

The more you practice something, the better you’ll get, and the more enjoyable it becomes. And then you’re off to the races towards mastery! To make sure you constantly progress, you can use deliberate practice, in which you intentionally focus on weak parts of your performance and use measurement and feedback to systematically improve.

It’s only through experience that you can improve and learn what to improve.

3. Rest to get stronger.

Learning is like a mental workout for your brain. Just like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. And just like a physical workout, when you give it time to rest and recuperate, you get stronger.

When you sleep, the brain actually uses that time to clear out harmful toxins from the day, updates the cells, and integrates new information. So when you only get a couple of hours of sleep, it’s similar to only 50% of the new files getting downloaded into your brain storage system. Additionally, studies have shown that it’s actually best to sleep right after you learn something new so that the information is super fresh for the brain to consolidate into memory.

When we’re resting, we enter the diffused thinking mode, in which your brain relaxes and your thoughts are free to wander. This is also the mode that allows your thinking to get stronger, specifically your creative thinking. When you take a break from focused mode, it creates space and freedom for your subconscious to marinate on it. This is why people often make unexpected connections and breakthroughs in the shower or while taking a walk.

Another reason why it’s important to take breaks between learning is that according to the spacing effect, learning is more effective when studying is spread out over time, rather than all in one session.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that there’s scientific evidence that cramming is ineffective.

While it was passable to cram for exams and forget everything the day after, the real world doesn’t test on word-for-word answers, but rather application and skill. Thus, you actually want to learn and incorporate the information into your knowledge toolkit rather than restudying it every time. Enter spaced repetition.

Because we operate on a learning forgetting curve, in which we forget about 50% of what we learned within an hour of learning it (thanks for the tip Ebbinghaus), research has shown that spaced repetition, or repeating things after a couple of days, is the best way to reinforce learning. The language flashcard app Anki does a great job of using an algorithm to bring up words on days that you’re most likely to forget them so that your memory is constantly refreshed. Experiential projects also help keep new concepts on top of mind, by you directly working with what you’re trying to learn.

Education Corner

Thus, make sure to let your brain rest between learning sessions to become more creative and effective at learning.


Learning is hard. But we can make it easier by tying new information to something we already know, getting hands-on experience and making the best use of resting periods to turn fleeting concepts to long-term skillsets.

When we learn to learn more effectively, it opens up countless doors and a world of possibilities. If we don’t know something, we can find out about it. If we don’t have a skill, we can acquire it.

“When we are confident in our ability to learn, we can plunge into the life we imagined, like a child at play.”

Which one of the tips from above will you start incorporating to get better at learning? Tell us in the comments and start learning at Degreed.


This post was authored by a Degreed power user, Yunzhe Zhou, who founded One Month Projects to coach driven professionals in acquiring a meaningful skill in 30 days. We thank Yunzhe for her insights!

Today we announced the launch of Degreed Skill Certification, a new way to measure and communicate your skills. This new offering, only available through Degreed, will score existing skills and rank expertise levels using a scientifically backed method and technology.

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Degreed Skill Certification is a way for people to prove their expertise, regardless of how they acquired their skills.

How It’s Different From Other Certifications

  1. It’s all about skills: Degreed Skill Certification is purely skills based. You are evaluated and ranked based on submitted evidence of current skill knowledge.
  2. This is not a course: Degreed Skill Certification isn’t a training program, course, or class, but rather a credible way for you to prove what existing skills you have, regardless of how you acquired those skills.  Unlike other companies, Degreed does not funnel you into a “one size fits all” training program before certifying your skills.
  3. It’s flexible to your learning style: If you don’t like the score you receive or want to challenge yourself to get to a higher level, you can improve your skills in whatever way suits you. Take a course, get more experience, self-train using internet tutorials; use whatever resources are available to you.
  4. This doesn’t have to be a one-time certification: As you learn and develop skills, you can level up your expertise score.
  5. We’re changing the way people work: Degreed Skill Certification allows companies to benchmark the current skill levels of employees, target skill development resources to improve those skills, and then measure the improvements. Companies get codified transparency into the skills of their employees. Employees get the benefit of having their skills professionally certified.

How It Works

To get certified you will have to submit evidence of your skill mastery, have your evidence endorsed and verified, then it will be anonymously peer and expert reviewed. Now until Oct 13, 2017, we are offering a lifetime pass so you can get certified at any point in the future for no additional fee.

Why You Should Get Certified

“Degreed Skill Certification is a scalable, standardized way to rate and get recognized for the skills you have in whatever scrappy way you obtained them,” said David Blake, CEO of Degreed. “This should unlock opportunities in people’s lives because it will remove the lack of transparency between the education and labor markets. We’re looking to connect everyone to relevant, fulfilling career opportunities.”

For more information about Degreed Skill Certification, or to apply to be certified, click here.

 

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!

Even the concept of a career wasn’t immune to today’s disruption. People are changing jobs at record rates, working for more companies doing a variety of jobs throughout their career, and they aren’t immediately cashing out and retiring at 60. Likely at the root of the radicalization of the career is a simple, basic fact: people are living longer.

As said by the authors of the 100-year life in an article for MIT Sloan, “If life expectancy continues to grow at the rate of two to three years every decade, as it has done over the last 150 years, then a child born in Japan in 2007 will have a more than 50% chance of living past the age of 107.”

This translates into 60 – 70-year careers. To stay relevant and employed, the workforce will need to deepen their skills numerous times, and might even want to re-skill entirely in new areas.

“Individuals will take an interest in skills with value that extends beyond the current employer and sector. Skills and knowledge that are portable and externally accredited will be particularly valuable,” wrote Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott in their recent Research feature, The Corporate Implications of Longer Lives.

While ultimately responsible, it’s not just the individual that has a role in continuous development.

The most successful organizations are supporting employees for their roles now and in the future, recognizing their best investment is their people. Top talent is likely the most engaged, and thus, retaining (and attracting!) these people will be a key driver of business outcomes and success.

To keep up, Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report suggests chief learning officers (CLOs) must now become the catalysts for next-generation careers. “They should deliver learning solutions that inspire people to reinvent themselves, develop deep skills, and contribute to the learning of others,” states the report.

Gratton and Scott suggest decentralized and flexible approaches to learning that are driven more by the learner than the employer.

So how do we help our employees deepen the skills they need now, as well as support future development?

To enable learning leaders to better target their learning and development (L&D) investments and help companies close skill gaps, Degreed recently announced a major upgrade to its personalization engine with the release of skill plans.

Leveraging BurningGlass data and machine learning, Degreed’s innovative platform automatically recommends a daily feed of learning resources focused on the skills required for a person’s current job as well as their professional interests and career goals.

“Resolving the persistent gap between the skills employees have – and the ones they need to move into new roles – requires sophisticated personalization capabilities. These recent product upgrades are a giant leap forward for Degreed’s ability to help our users build and recognize the expertise they need for the future,” commented Degreed’s CEO and co-founder David Blake.

Skill plans empower organizations in four main ways:

  • Give purpose to learning activity by tying learning to skills, and skills to roles in your organization.
  • Customize these roles with the competencies and skills that fit your company.
  • Assign employees to specific roles, which will automatically link them to associated learning content.
  • Create learning pathways, and link them to roles.

Want to see what skill plans can do for your organization? Create your Degreed profile today.

Alan Walton is a data scientist at Degreed, but he didn’t start at Degreed with that job title.

Alan got a degree in math, with a minor in logic, and then landed his first job as a developer. Data science is currently one of the hottest jobs in America, but the term “data science” has only recently emerged. It was not a career that Alan had even heard of when he was in school. Like most millennials, Alan tried a few different jobs. His first job out of college was working for a startup where he wore a lot of hats. He worked on integrations, technical support, implementation, and technical writing. Alan started at Degreed as a developer, then worked as a product manager, and now a data scientist.

Alan’s career agility is enabled by his passion for learning. While in college, Alan’s quest for knowledge led him to learn speed reading. But, when walking through the university library one day, a quick calculation led him to realize that even when speed reading, it would still take him 200 years to read every book in the library. He knew he needed an alternative way to focus his learning.

Before Alan started working at Degreed, he stumbled upon Degreed online and became one of its first beta users in 2013. Alan has now accumulated nearly 40,000 points on his Degreed profile, which might make him the highest point earner in the entire Degreed platform. To give you some perspective, I have 12,000 points on my Degreed profile, which is more than most people on Degreed.

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When Alan first became interested in the data science role, he leveraged Degreed to make the transition. He created personal pathways in Degreed with resources from within the Degreed library, online resources, books, videos, and podcasts. He built pathways for data science in general with additional lessons focusing on sub-topics specific to the projects he was working on and the technical tools for his job.

Alan is a member of the data science group on Degreed, follows other data scientists, and follows the data scientist role so the popular articles, videos, and books his data science coworkers are reading plus the resources the organization recommends for this role show up in his Degreed learning feed, which he routinely takes advantage of.

Takeaways

Will Alan be a data scientist for the rest of his career? I doubt it. He says he’s really interested in AI. If you’re interested in gaining the same level of career agility as Alan, Degreed has the development tools to help.

  • Enroll in a pathway on the topic, create your own pathway, or clone an existing pathway and customize it for your needs.
  • Follow experts in the role you are interested in.
  • Join a group.
  • Follow the role, which will automatically link you to learning, pathways, groups, and experts.
  • Interested in learning more about data science? Follow Alan on Degreed or enroll in the Data Science pathway in Degreed.

Already a Degreed client and interested in initiating a targeted development plan at your organization based on roles and skills? For more information, contact your client experience partner at Degreed.

If you’re just getting started, check out get.degreed.com.

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