Designing Learning For Business Performance

After more than a decade in the L&D industry, I’ve heard it all. Learning platform providers’ claims really do vary when it comes to the unique selling points of their technologies and their raison d’être. Some claim they are advancing skills, careers, employee engagement, and company culture. Others yet stand by formal learning and a vision of competence amongst their mass workforces, with an emphasis on course and training-based certifications and a heavily managed learning process.

Beyond this, there are others that are still making a mistake (as noted in one of our recent blogs): they design learning solutions purely for learning, rather than designing them to improve business performance. It’s an important distinction and one that often leads to an even more important question frequently asked by prospective Fuse customers. It usually goes something like this: “your platform is great, I love your content framework and your ideology, but how do I actually make sure all this learning is boosting the bottom line?”

You can hardly blame a budget-savvy chief learning officer or HR director for asking, right? After all, if anyone’s aware of the gap between learning and business value, it’s these leaders, in these roles. If you can relate, you should keep reading, as this checklist will provide you with a guide to what you need to know to design for learning performance—and how to implement learning design so that it is measurable.

1. Learning Needs To Be Relevant To Your Business

Learning has to be relevant, and it has to solve the issues that may arise with immediate tasks and goals associated with any particular role in a business. In looking to build habits that support higher performance, it’s important that businesses can understand knowledge requirements for employees, and then work to enrich knowledge for each individual.

This is likely to end up as a blended learning approach, a bit of skills training—including reskilling to equip people with skills they can apply in the future and upskilling focused on driving performance in the here and now—and lots of good digital learning resources as we have in Fuse.

Regardless of what makes up the magic combination for any one person, each approach has to satisfy the micro need for very role-specific knowledge, delivered at the point of need, to help solve problems and build habits that support the performance of each individual. And, while it may sound over the top, size definitely matters when it comes to relevance. Learners don’t need 10,000 pieces of knowledge. Two hundred highly relevant and applicable pieces of knowledge is a better starting point, because this is all that’s likely to be relevant, and it’s all we want our learners to select from when conducting searches.

It’s also important to note how useful AI can be when it comes to collecting and presenting relevant knowledge and creating context. Fuse can mine content and create intelligent links and tags within that content. It helps us understand, for example, more about the subject type and category, and where it might sit within an industry.

2. Learning Needs To Be Embedded In The Flow Of Work

We’ve invested a lot of time in understanding the user learning experience and its associated workflow. When we say “in the flow of work,” or “knowledge at the point of need,” we are talking about how you need to learn during work, so that you can apply what you’ve just learned immediately.

It’s how most people like to learn—it’s really that simple. You hit a snag or you need some information, and if you’re a Fuse customer, you look up the answer in Fuse and get a spot-on result that only takes minutes to consume (thank you, concise content—see point 3) and execute on.

Our customers illustrate exactly how important this is all the time. Fuse Founder, Steve Dineen’s post The Power of Knowledge at the Point of Need will show you exactly how Hilti, Vodafone, and Avon are harnessing the power of knowledge at the point of need to drive business performance. One other point on why learning needs to be embedded in the flow of work; if you leave all learning to the classroom, it’s unlikely that your workforce will apply it and most likely that they’ll forget the vast majority of it.

This isn’t news. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus pioneered experimental studies of memory in the late 19th Century, culminating with his discovery of “The Forgetting Curve.” He found that if new information isn’t applied, we’ll forget about 75% of it after just 6 days. A 75% loss over 6 days is not a metric that is going to drive business performance.

3. Learning Content Should Meet Certain Criteria

If you’re curious about how content can drive business performance specifically, our eBook, 12 Commandments of Content: Content For Learning That Supports Higher Performance, is a fantastic starting place.

Here, you will learn that in order for learning content to drive business performance, it must be based on essential practices, techniques, and strategies that will get tacit knowledge outside of the heads of company Subject Matter Experts, and into the flow of work to turn skills into habits that support higher performance. You’ll also learn the importance of content that is concise, mobile, compelling, shareable….the list goes on!

4. Learning Needs To Be Continuous

Like social media platforms, one of the biggest challenges in L&D is creating engagement beyond that first visit, or making a platform “sticky.” The role of corporate learning isn’t just to “do” learning once and then go away. The goal isn’t achieved until there’s an environment that develops people to become continuous, self-sustaining learners.

One of the key principles in establishing engagement is to make new learning available frequently. If people are enjoying the creative, compelling content, and if they feel it offers them value, why wouldn’t they come back for more?

Learners also need to be able to recognize value, and they need to do it quickly, or they will lose interest. And that value needs to be consistent over time. When a resource stops being valuable, people stop using it. You can learn more in our eBook, Solve the Learning Engagement Problem And Power Bigger Impact for Business.

5. Learning Should Make Use Of Micro-Influencers

Think of performance-based learning design as aligned with the very YouTube-esque principle of micro-influencers. Just as a person may have influence on YouTube, if you can find and create those individuals in your company who have great knowledge and who are seen as experts, you’re winning. Tapping into their tacit knowledge may be critical to your learning platform’s success, just as micro-influence is on a social media channel.

Case in point, when Vodafone launched its Fuse platform in the UK, it featured content from top retail performers from the business, which employees immediately recognized and followed on the platform. In fact, the engagement was so entrenched that Vodafone had 100% of its retail management team and 95% of its retail associate team engaging on a weekly basis, frequently outside of office hours as well. Over the past 5 years, Vodafone has maintained an 80% engagement with its Fuse platform consistently—you won’t find many learning platforms that hit those numbers.

6. Learning Needs To Be Measurable

Like any business unit, learning should be tied to revenue and profitability targets. It is absolutely possible to measure the impact of learning on the bottom line and Fuse customers do it every day.

For example, both Hilti’s sales onboarding time and payback process times have decreased by 80% with Fuse. Avon tracked that the incremental increase in monthly visits to its Fuse platform—the difference between low frequency (1 to 2 visits per month) and medium frequency (3 to 4 visits per month)—showed dramatic uplifts of +320% in aggregate sales over a 6-month period.

Our client, Joules, was able to retire their document management system, and move all documents to Fuse where they could more easily be shared. Joules’ employees were using Fuse as a hub for learning, internal comms, community building, and wellness support, and that naturally rendered their document management system redundant. The savings on retiring any major enterprise system are significant, not to mention the streamlining of business operations.

There are countless other examples of measurability in L&D, and you can read more about them in The Top 10 Metrics that Matter for Profitability

7. Learning Should Be Social

L&D should absolutely use social media principles to drive engagement and performance. Beyond this, learning platforms should encourage sharing on every level, and commenting, so users are constantly adding and sharing insight into what they’ve learned. A big part of successful learning that contributes to business performance is understanding the social element of how employees make sense of knowledge, and how they interpret it and add context to it before they share it back to their role-related communities to encourage further organic learning possibilities.

All enterprise learning and knowledge systems should be encouraging employees to contribute or make comments on c

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