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Talent Academies: What’s Next for Agile L&D

These are unprecedented times in L&D. The blazing speed of today’s business innovation coupled with the rise of a distributed workforce demands a more effective, agile way of learning. Digital transformation accelerated after the arrival of COVID-19 — so much that several years worth of innovations happened in mere months. The proliferation of remote work changed the dynamics of leadership, cybersecurity and many organizations’ capacity for change.

In recent years, business and learning leaders have sought to create programs for digital leadership, agile management, complex problem solving and deep skill building, noted analyst and author Josh Bersin. “Why? Because we now live in a world where every part of business, from marketing to sales to supply chain to customer service, has been reinvented in a digital way. So this is not a problem of ‘picking up some digital skills’. It’s one of ‘reinventing how business is done.’”

All of this points to talent academies as an effective L&D strategy for any business that wants to keep its workforce agile, focused and fully prepared for the future. While learning management systems (LMSs) and learning experience platforms (LXPs) are still go-to L&D tools, talent academies powered by what some are calling a mastery platform can play a key role in maximizing knowledge retention and workforce agility through an immersive and community-based learning experience.

The World Economic Forum estimates 44% of the skills employees have today will need to change by 2025 “for people to perform their roles effectively.” There’s never been a better time for L&D departments to take a fresh look at their learning strategies and consider new approaches for future-proofing the workforce.

The Manager’s Guide to a Positive Learning Culture

What are talent academies, and how are they different?

If businesses have learned anything from the recent economic downturn and looming recession, it’s this: No new tech tool or app can replace workforce agility. It’s pointless to invest in new systems or try to improve your processes if your workforce isn’t able to benefit — and reflect on the value.

Heightened awareness of the need for workforce agility is driving interest in talent academies. Also known as capability academies, they blend technical and soft skills development through various learning modalities that include online, instructor-led, and peer-to-peer instruction.

Skills academies mimic the academic experience of a college or university. However, rather than looking at a broad spectrum of topics, they zero in on a specific business problem and incorporate relevant content from there. For example, rather than rigid learning paths or personalized learning catalogs built for specific business needs, a virtual talent academy offers a mix of personalized development, real-time peer-to-peer learning and individualized coaching and mentoring.

In a skills academy, content is delivered by a mix of industry and L&D experts, and it continuously evolves and pushes boundaries by promoting ongoing collaboration, exchange of ideas and the testing of business applications.

“The academy that focuses on capabilities rather than individual competency and skill sets creates a much stronger alignment between learning and business outcomes and learning and individual performance support,” according to Brandon Hall Group. “The focus of this new academy strategy is to provide innovative learning experiences that leverage learning content developed inside and outside the organization, sourced by the learners and experts alike and supported through social and collaborative mentoring and coaching within the organization.

“The academy that focuses on capabilities moves away from being merely a repository of content and creates an immersive learning environment where employees feel they are learning what they need to know to do their jobs and advance in their professions.”

Other benefits include: 

Cohorts hold learners accountable.

Unlike learning in silos, where only a manager might know how an employee is progressing, learning in a cohort by its very nature can make participants more accountable. Courses can mimic academic structures with assignment deadlines, real-time group discussions and on-demand content.

Academies often have a coaching element as well, which helps employees stay on track and make the most of their learning experiences.

Learning is timely.

Standard corporate training is often ineffective because it delivers content out of context. Say, for instance, a company changes its strategy from supporting small businesses to serving enterprise-level clients. A skills academy is always available to deliver training when it’s needed. If the business’s needs evolve, content can evolve quickly.

Learning is tied to business outcomes.

Rather than having generic courses or content that may respond to the career aspirations of your employees, the content at a virtual talent academy is built around your business needs. Take, for example, Comcast and Visa. The former has a Customer Service Academy while the latter is building a FinTech Capability Academy.

Invest in your skills academy.

Stiff competition and exacting customer expectations mean companies need to be agile, innovative and responsive to shifting market and consumer needs. Investment in talent development has never been more important.

At Degreed, we’re fully aware of these challenges. Our acquisition of Learn In will bring talent academies closer to our customers. Talent academies are well-positioned to help businesses respond to these new challenges by making the learning experience not only exciting and relevant but also fresh, community-led and business-oriented.

Want to learn more? Check out Learn In.

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