Are you getting the most out of your learning content subscription? Chances are you’re not, and here
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
In this article we will explain why learning content subscriptions need to be paired with a skills management solution to be effective.
Over the last years, many organisations realised that they can’t afford to overlook the importance of promoting continuous learning in their workforce to future-proof business growth. Skill development for each individual has become a necessity, and is no longer an optional perk or reserved for certain positions!
As a response, organisations are providing employees access to thousands of courses with subscriptions to learning platforms like Go1, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera etc. They believe this will create an engaged workforce that organically develops the skills they need to succeed. Unfortunately, after a few months, the same organisations too often face low usage numbers and struggle to measure success.
Organisations need to bring together the right content and technology tools to meet the growing demand for online learning and create seamless learning experiences. -GO1 state of learning report 2020
Rolling out a content subscription is a great initiative
Signing up for a content subscription for your employees is a great thing, and a hugely valuable part of any learning strategy. A learning subscription comes with a lot of positive things:
It gives an air of authority to its content. (watching a video on Go1 seems like more legitimate than watching it on YouTube)
It gives structure to the learner – they are likely categorized in various useful ways e.g. beginner, intermediate, etc and curated so that it avoids the “hit & miss” when searching for content through google or youtube
It provides rich reports on what the people are consuming
The business can align itself with well-known, positive branding around supporting their employee’s growth on the job and beyond, which helps to attract great talent
ACME Inc example: Good intentions, sad outcome
Let’s look at ACME Inc. – a forward thinking company that understands the value of continuous learning. ACME Inc wants to create a learning culture and aims to enable anyone to develop skills at any time through online learning. They subscribe to a content provider, giving all their employees access to more than 80,000 courses and articles.
Overall employee feedback is very positive when they hear that their company wants to make continuous learning a strategic priority. It provides a signal that ACME Inc cares about the growth of their people and are actively interested in their success.
However, a few months down the line, ACME is facing low engagement with learning content and it is not clear if the strategic initiative generated ROI. A few people are using it, but the results are behind the expectations. The initial excitement has faded and the desired cultural shift has not happened.
What happened? Where did the initial excitement go? Why isn’t everyone developing despite having access to content for any skill they could wish for?
A common issue: lack of alignment and support
Managers and leaders are responsible for moulding people into effective teams. The imperative is simple: a company depends on success and success comes from strong teams who have the skills and capabilities the business needs.
ACME Inc. wanted to give maximum flexibility to each employee.
A manager might identify that their direct report needs to improve their communication skills and assigns a specific course to complete within the next 4 weeks – just to follow up frequently and seeing the due date pass, probably because ‘work got in the way’.
Or an employee might think they need to improve on their project management skills and starts browsing for available content – just to be facing a challenge of selecting the best one of the dozens of resources and after going through, struggling to apply any of the learning to their current role.
While initially sounding straight forward and obvious, both of these processes are doomed to fail. Why? Because there is a lack of alignment between employees, managers and business needs.
Companies that introduce learning subscriptions can easily fall into the trap of assuming that individuals know which skills they should develop, how they should develop these and why they should develop them in the first place.
Even with a library of thousands of resources covering every skill, with awesome, high quality production content, there are other important requirements that are needed to drive the right cultural change. There is a need for:
An agreement with direct report that they can spend time on training – otherwise will never happen (‘work gets in the way’)
That same alignment with the business generally (e.g. an expectation of every employee to spend 1hr a week on learning a new skill or helping a colleague to learn)
An alignment of desired outcomes. Needs to be something the person wants to learn as well as something that makes sense for the business as a whole. Otherwise there’s no motivation, support or direction
A skills framework and taxonomy which creates a shared understanding amongst team members about their strengths, areas for improvement and interests for development.
At ACME Inc. employees were encouraged to use the learning content whenever they needed it, but there was a lack of alignment on who should learn what and why. Managers were not provided any tools to help them manage the process and had to rely on their intuition to define skill gaps and assign content, without knowing if the respective employee has any interest in developing the assigned skill. Employees also started learning skills that were not critical to improve the team performance, and thus they weren’t supported along their learning journey and “real work” kept getting in the way. Completion rates of started courses were in the single digits and the time spent on learning did not translate into measurable improvements, did not increase productivity or employee engagement and did not create a learning culture that would have benefitted all parties.
The missing puzzle piece: a skills management platform
To create a positive, continuous learning culture, People managers need to find a match between what individuals want to learn, which skills have an immediate positive impact for their team and what the business needs to succeed. And managers need to be supported with the right tools to help with this. Specifically, managers need technology tools that help them to
Establish a skills matrix together with their team.
Understand the available skills, potential gaps and interests of their team members
Identify peer coaching, mentoring and group learning opportunities
Create skill development plans that are aligned with personal interests and business needs
Measure, track and report on skills improvements
Good skills management platforms help with exactly these points. While all of these can theoretically be achieved with traditional tools like excel spreadsheets, digital note taking apps or even pen & paper, the resulting employee experience stays in stark contrast to the value proposition of being a modern workplace that cares deeply about the growth and development of their employees.
That’s why skills management platforms like Skillpaca are a perfect match for content subscriptions and have the potential to turn a story like ACME Inc. into a story of continuous growth that employees love and provide benefits across the entire organisation and beyond!
The ACME Inc turnaround
ACME Inc did not give up and, convinced of the power of a learning culture, decided to introduce a skills management platform. Shortly after its introduction, engagement with the learning content and employee satisfaction demonstrably increased.
Teams started to collaboratively create their skills framework, discover development opportunities and managers were able set realistic development goals for each individual. By tying these goals to skills within the common framework, employees were able to look for the specific content that would help them succeed. Thanks to the insights from their skills management platform, ACME Inc managers were able to actively support their team and facilitate peer coaching and learning groups around identified focus skills.
ACME’s investment paid off: Once the teams developed more clarity around the skills they need and how these relate to their own and ACME’s goals, a learning culture started to emerge. Employees became happier and more engaged, conversations between managers and their team became more meaningful and relationships improved through peer learning. Feeling supported in their growth and constantly seeing progress towards their personal goals, employee satisfaction, retention and productivity increased. Continuous learning was the new normal and ACME Inc became known for its great culture that attracted and retained top talent.
Signing up for a content subscription for your employees is a great thing, and a hugely valuable part of any learning strategy but it is only part of the equation.
If your overarching goal is to create a learning culture that engages employees and creates real personal growth then it needs to be deliberate and focussed. It’s not enough to hope that it will work itself out, you need a way of discovering and setting realistic development goals for each person within the organisation. These goals can be tied to skills within the team and in turn to real business outcomes. Armed with tangible and aligned goals your content platform now has a real sense of purpose and you’re well on your way to creating a sustained learning culture.
If you are looking to introduce a content subscription to your employees, or you would like to get more out of your current subscription, consider introducing a skills management platform! We’d be happy to help!