Table of Contents
- Tailored Learning Paths
- Advanced Skills Development
- Learning in the Flow of Work – Agile Learning
- A More Engaging Experience
- Robust Integrations
- Personalized and Curated Content
- Intuitive Interfaces
- Driven by AI
- Advanced Analytics and Reporting
Introduction to Learning Technology
Learning platforms are nothing new, but their evolution and subsequent importance are turning heads. For years, learning management systems (LMSs) have been the mainstay of corporate Learning and Development (L&D) strategies; this was before the explosion of technology, the influence of market demands and rising employee expectations led to the development of learning experience platforms (LXPs).
As the learning environment is advancing, LXPs are getting more streamlined, sophisticated and effective, leading to them playing a central role in comprehensive talent management strategies. This article will take a detailed look into the world of the LXP, defining what it is, how it differs from an LMS, its key attributes and how we expect it to evolve in the future.
What is a Learning Experience Platform?
To fully understand the inner workings of an LXP, it first helps to define its predecessor: the learning management system. An LMS is a system that creates, stores and tracks formal training content for an organization’s workforce. The traditional LMS has been the backbone of companies’ training strategies for many years, with HR teams choosing the appropriate learning materials (developed in-house or by a third party) and employees completing them accordingly.
Against this backdrop, LXPs can be defined as an expansion of the LMS, broadening the scope of training resources available to the user and delivering them in a more targeted fashion. An LXP can include existing LMS programs but extends to social learning and user-generated content.
While both LMS and LXPs can host a variety of content, including formal qualifications, compliance certifications, training videos, articles and podcasts, the primary difference is that the LXP allows organizations to deliver a personalized amalgamation of the above to each employee to suit their development needs, all while integrating into the flow of work (meaning how one work activity connects up to the next). This puts the employee at the center of their learning programs as the library of training materials presented is more targeted, dynamic and collaborative.
Having the content available is one thing but delivering that content to the right people at the right time is where technological advances have turned the LXP into a vital cog in the talent management machine. AI and machine learning technology taps into employee preferences drawing from previous activity, submitted preferences and desired career paths, to recommend a tailored library of resources. Access to these materials has naturally spread across a range of devices and apps, allowing them to be consumed in the same way someone might watch a YouTube video or read the news on the go.
By adding a social element to the learning (such as allowing content that is created by internal experts to be shared, liked and commented on), a community feel is promoted, which importantly can lead to more of the workforce getting excited and engaged about their own L&D.
An important factor to consider when it comes to an LXP is that it shouldn’t exist as a stand-alone solution and provide learning in a vacuum. Ensuring it is interconnected with other areas of the talent management suite sets it apart from traditional learning systems. From onboarding to performance management to internal mobility, learning should integrate into the flow of work across the employee journey, upskilling and reskilling at every touchpoint.
The Evolution of Employee Learning
According to Josh Bersin, the LMS market is worth more than four billion dollars, and the LXP is catching up, worth over three hundred million dollars and growing by 50 percent annually. The importance of learning is clearly not unestimated, nor should it be; when it is done right, it has always been a win-win for the company and its employees. However, as technology, desired skill sets and career paths look markedly different from how they looked a decade ago, changes in learning demands are inevitable, needing new solutions and investment.
Aside from growth, the manner in which employees want to learn and develop their careers has also dramatically transformed. The obvious reason driving this is advancements in technology. Technology is expediting the need for news skills, has opened the workplace up to remote talent (along with the subsequent need for remote L&D strategies) and has fundamentally changed how we consume content. Couple these factors with the fact that we are in a candidate-driven market, highlighting the importance of employee retention (the latest figures suggesting around a third of US workers will move jobs this year), and it is no wonder training platforms have had to evolve to keep pace.
It would be remiss, therefore, not to draw parallels between the evolution of learning and how factors such as the internet, Google search, social media, smartphones and 5g have revolutionized how we consume content. All these factors have paved the way, and learning solutions have followed suit. New learning platforms subsequently reflect how employees expect and are accustomed to learning away from the office.
Social media platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, Tiktok and Facebook are hotbeds for social learning and are the first port of call for many wanting to learn up-to-date skills, inside and outside of work. According to Josh Bersin, around 80 percent of licensed learning content is never looked at, so modeling platforms on the dynamic social media is a good way of keeping the content fresh and compelling. What’s more is that these platforms adapt to the user, something the LMS was never designed to do. The LMS was built primarily around business needs (e.g., compliance, formal qualifications/training), not the employees, so if HR teams wanted to start delivering engaging and personalized learning experiences, things had to change. This is how we’ve ended up with LXPs and why their influence on employee development is only getting stronger.
Benefits of a Learning Experience Platform
So now we know what an LXP is and how it has gained traction; let’s take a closer look at its associated benefits. As we noted earlier in the article, LXP’s employee-centricity sets it apart, but we can now delve into how that manifests into a more engaging experience.
Tailored Learning Paths
Smart tools and interconnectivity drive personalized learning paths on LXPs. HR can aggregate data from every angle to provide employees with the learning resources they need to progress professionally. Bearing in mind typical linear career paths could be better described as career lattices in the modern workplace, manually tailoring education plans to each employee is far too time-consuming. Having a platform that harnesses AI, automation and workflows to do the heavy lifting is the only way this approach is scalable and it ensures excessive time is not wasted on L&D admin.
The employee data can be drawn from many different sources. Whether it is personally submitted preferences to their employee profile, algorithms aggregating data from their activity as they navigate the platform, recommendations shared by colleagues or information filtered through from other talent management solutions.
The latter is the proverbial cherry on top as it gives a 360-degree input into learning paths, providing added clout to aggregated data by incorporating information from areas such as performance management, onboarding and internal mobility. It is achievable only for those with robust integration capabilities or those who have adopted a one-platform approach to their talent management activities. Let’s see a few examples where this data can be drawn from:
- When new hires are onboarding, HR teams can leverage their candidate profile to tailor sessions to their skills, role and interests.
- Data from the talent management lifecycle such as performance reviews, that highlight identified areas of improvement, career aspirations and skills needed for new tech.
- Hiring managers that provide lists of helpful learning resources to help upskill and reskill employees looking for an internal move within their team.
When organizations opt for an LXP, employees tend to enjoy a more bespoke experience, receiving training opportunities that become increasingly tailored over time as data becomes richer throughout their tenure.
Advanced Skills Development
Skills have become the new currency of talent. As such, many HR teams have adopted a skilled-based approach to their talent strategies. Organizations are doing what they can to understand skills holistically across the candidate/ employee life cycle to reap the benefits of this approach, such as identifying critical skills gaps, reducing bias and improving diversity outcomes. HR teams can then put skills at the heart of training programs to help build comprehensive learning paths that fill skills gaps and promote internal mobility, all while improving employee engagement and retention.
Skills and skill descriptions are ever-changing and often personal to an organization. Therefore it is important to acquire a learning solution where you can build a comprehensive skills ontology that maps the predominant and sought-after skills across your workforce. This allows training recommendations to stay relevant. The advantage of using skills as a yardstick is that it cuts through job titles and education, enabling employees to receive training recommendations they might not have considered initially.
Learning in the Flow of Work – Agile Learning
Agile learning is one of the key driving factors behind the need for a new learning model. The boom of new technological tools has meant that training no longer needs to be delivered on-site or even on a home PC; it can now be carried out anywhere at any time. Smartphones, the internet, 5G and even the pandemic have played a part in upping mobile usage.
The prevalence of mobile usage along with the easy access to data has meant that having a static learning portal separate from employees’ day-to-day activity is not enough to engage a workforce long-term. Therefore, plugging your learning platform into the flow of work means it is ever present, allowing training recommendations to pop up in some of the following scenarios:
- After a check-in between the employee and the manager.
- After a performance review where development goals are discussed.
- After receiving feedback from colleagues.
- While navigating their employee profile (interests, skills, career aspirations, or any attribute from their custom profile).
- Based on internal roles employees apply to or state and interest in
- As soon as employees get promoted or moved to a new position to aid onboarding.
Embedding learning into these moments of the employee journey will mean users come across a consistent flow of tailored training options and are more likely to want to upskill and reskill to match company demands.
A More Engaging Experience
As mentioned previously, tailored content is the first reason why LXPs deliver a more engaging experience for employees. But there are additional reasons too!
By replicating the UI, experience and content formats of non-corporate content platforms such as social media channels, learning experience platforms generate engagement through familiarity and ease of use. This is compounded further when they facilitate learning in the flow of work.
Having a social sharing element to the learning experience gives employees the opportunity to glean knowledge from colleagues that they admire, work with or look to learn from naturally. It feels less like “learning” and more like knowledge sharing. While the ability to like, comment and share means the best content is likely to be seen by more people.
Breaking Down The Elements of a Learning Experience Platform
One of the primary USPs of the LXP is its ability to integrate with other areas of the talent management ecosystem. The higher the level of integration means a higher level of personalization as it can draw data from other talent initiatives to deliver tailored learning experiences.
Personalized and Curated Content
The majority of LXPs allow the user to submit their interests through an employee profile which would eventually form the “learning hub” of personalized content. This hub can consist of an on-demand curated library but can branch out to other development opportunities, such as stretch assignments, mentorship programs or onboarding training.
With the opportunity of social sharing, employees can form learning groups with fellow employees. These groups can be an easy first step for organizations that want to target their workforce with training content before they have amassed a significant quantity of data.
The layout of the LXP must be easy to navigate. Each employee should be able to have a view that compartmentalizes the personalized opportunities for development with clarity and ease.
Engagement is the goal, so taking time to consider the user experience (UX) and user interfaces (UI) could be the deciding factor for its success. Think about the number of clicks it takes to get to where they need to go, including snappy content to showcase the relevant learning materials and how interconnectivity can enhance the experience by avoiding constant logging off and on to different platforms.
To incorporate learning recommendations in the flow of work, they must pop up in a multitude of interfaces while the user goes about their day-to-day, such as:
- Recommending courses and desired skill sets to employees as they search for internal roles within the talent marketplace. This prepares them to upskill or reskill for an internal move.
- Giving hiring managers the option to assign learning for new hires to fill in any skills gaps.
- Having reminders or possible courses pop up when employees are going through the performance management process.
Driven by AI
There are many advantages to implementing an LXP. However, a concern for many is how to deliver such a personalized and engaging experience to potentially thousands of employees. The notion of harnessing the volume of data needed across a workforce with a seemingly endless number of skills, preferences, performances and ambitions is understandably overwhelming. Then once you have captured all that information, what do you do with it, and how can that be used to deliver personalized learning experiences at scale?
This is where AI technology comes in and takes LXPs to the next level. AI tools gather data and process it to drive these personalized recommendations. It considers users’ activity, as well as all the other avenues of data we discussed earlier in the article, from profile preferences, peer recommendations and, most importantly, skills.
With white-box AI, HR teams can set the criteria they want machine learning to focus on. Given the rising importance of a skill-based approach to talent management, skills have emerged as a highly effective metric, often preferred to more traditional measurements such as job title or university degrees. A first-class AI-driven learning solution should be capable of ascertaining an employee’s current skill profile, identifying areas for improvement and building a training path to develop those areas.
It should also continuously create semantic connections by analyzing repeated employee searches, resulting in a native and comprehensive skills ontology that sharpens over time. If you would like to dive deeper into this topic, have a read of this conversation with Rabih Zbib, Director of Natural Language Processing & Machine Learning at Avature.
Advanced Analytics and Reporting
Finally, we come to the tools that help track, assess and hone the LXP’s performance. Advanced analytics and reporting functionality ensure the LXP delivers the desired employee experience, personalization and development opportunities.
How each company decides to measure their LXP’s performance and formulate their reports is personal to them. This is why it is important to have a platform with a data model that can be tailored to align with the company’s objectives. Whether it is reskilling in critical areas, social engagement around the L&D strategy, or the volume of learning materials consumed, these measurement tools give senior leaders a bird’s eye view of company activity to allow them to make data-driven decisions.
Avature’s Approach to Learning
In such a challenging and fast-paced employment landscape, Avature has adopted an employee-centric approach to learning that goes beyond just consuming content. At its core, Avature’s solution is a personalized employee hub with LXP functionality that showcases the full range of learning opportunities available to each user. These learning recommendations are powered by native AI tools, skills ontologies and data drawn from multiple sources across the talent management ecosystem.
The hub sits within an internal social platform designed to drive engagement by encouraging employees to share knowledge and build learning communities. Peers, directors and mentors can create, share and comment on a gold mine of internal expertise within their organization.
Avature’s powerful workflow capabilities ensure that all learning material goes through the relevant checks and complies with company standards. While its analytics and reporting functionality is fully customizable, allowing HR to track and assess any element of the data model.
To conclude, the emergence of LXPs within the world of L&D strategies is down to fundamental changes in how employees engage with training materials. A boom of technological advances has been the primary catalyst for this, and HR teams have latched onto the reality that LMSs, which had served organizations as the principal source of training for many years, were not employee-centric enough for the modern workforce.
The tools that power the LXP and its integration with other areas of the talent journey mean that its ability to personalize the training experience will only get stronger and more effective. There is still a big space for LMS within organizations to fulfill the formal training needed to have employees that are qualified and compliant with market regulations. However, the LXP is where employee ambitions are met, internal mobility thrives, and personalized learning paths can be created.