eLearning, computer-based training (CBT), digital learning, online learning, blended learning, remote learning: Whatever you call it, the past few years have made it clear that providing ways for employees and customers to learn via their computer or mobile device is an essential component of any organization’s training and development strategy. We can no longer count on in-person classroom training days or shoulder-to-shoulder on-the-floor learning to teach the skills that our people need in order to perform at the right level. Organizations work in increasingly distributed ways, businesses want to scale their training offerings to reach more people, while savvy entrepreneurs understand that a strong training strategy will encourage customers to get more out of their products and demonstrate more loyalty to the brand. eLearning helps with all of that, particularly when it’s part of a well-thought-out learning program and strategy.
So whether you’re with a startup or part of a well-established organization, you’ll need eLearning and digital learning strategies to help people get the info and knowledge they need, when they need it. But what’s the road map? Where do companies get started and what’s the ultimate vision for a training and development program?
My organization interviewed over 50 customers to find out more about this roadmap, taking a look at the behaviors and actions that speak to an organization’s “learning maturity.” From our research, we identified four phases or categories that speak to learning maturity, with five specific behaviors and drivers that inform where on the maturity model you are.
Chalk & Talk
This is where most organizations start. Training needs to get done, but often the people, systems, and budgets aren’t in place and the team just needs to get content out so people can do their jobs. At this stage, we see reliance on paper-based processes – facilitators (often subject matter experts) talking to long, bulleted PowerPoint decks. These sessions may get recorded and may be available “on demand” through a Learning Management System (LMS). Content may be available to learners digitally, but it’s generally NOT optimized to create the most engaging of experiences. The main purpose of theLMSis simply to house content and record course completions– mostly for compliance purposes to tick off a box. Content is developed and delivered by the in-house team – people are often assigned to create training for their peers because they have the subject matter expertise (while often lacking any deep understanding of instructional design and the needs of the corporate adult learner).
In this next stage, we see organizations focusing on getting the basics right. Training might still be compliance-focused, but with more emphasis on soft skills. The LMS is still used primarily for hosting and tracking, with some non-required training appearing on the system. There may be more of a push to develop an L&D culture at this phase, with more focus on digitizing learning assets to make them more widely available and to increase engagement.
Investors in People
As organizations mature their L&D functions, we see talent and performance management playing a larger role in the overall learning strategy as they invest in the people who will lead the business to the next level. Technology requirements become more complex and an LMS may sit alongside other systems and be well integrated in the overall business operation.
At the farthest end of the maturity spectrum learning has become deeply embedded in the culture. L&D teams experiment with innovative technologies like AI, gamification, VR. They’re moving into deeper data analytics to inform the learning strategy and have a long-term focus on digital delivery as a core component of the overall business strategy.
Moving along the maturity spectrum
Is this maturation process necessarily linear? No. In fact, some organizations may jump right over a stage or fall back a stage with a shift in overall strategy.
So how do you move along that maturity path? We further identified five areas where specific behaviors and programs get you farther along that road.
Documentactions and steps to bring consistency and accountability to known routines regarding digital learning. Have a process and follow it. Make it repeatable. Have documented processes in place about your instructional design methodology, development standards, SME review, and more.
Maturing a team to meet the growing needs of the organization requires great people. Often, when L&D teams are starting, reliance is heavy on the Subject Matter Expert turned trainer, but as you mature it’s important to round out your team with more specialized roles including data analysts, instructional designers, graphic artists, developers, and project managers.
As an organization matures, the technology requirements become more complex. You may need to implement or upgrade your technology stack and integrate with other enterprise systems to achieve the desired experience. Think about Learning Experience Platforms (LXP), integration with HRIS and other systems, data analytics tools, social learning, and skills development platforms.
Maturing organizations turn the focus to collecting and analyzing experience and outcome data to evidence the impact they’re having on the business. Tying learner activity and results to performance data and KPIs helps you understand what’s working and allows you to build predictive models to continue to build your team’s skills. Looking at customer experience and user experience data allows you to fine tune the design and delivery of learning experiences for the needs of your customers and your employees.
Governance is about establishing structures and policies to establish priorities, decision-makers and stakeholders, while ensuring accountability, transparency, responsiveness, and broad-based participation. This may include use of project charters and clear “rules” for initiating new projects; structures for business units to forecast training needs; clear documentation on standards like use of media, design, templates, and visual design; as well as content maintenance schedules.
So where on the maturity spectrum does your organization sit? Where do you need to grow? If this process feels daunting, start small – maybe focus first on Process and start documenting your standards. Get the basics right before you try to fly off in to the Metaverse. And if you don’t have the right people in-house to help you move your learning strategy forward, don’t be afraid to reach outside your walls and get support from an external partner who may be able to help. You know where you want to take your organization – remember, to get there, you’ll need people who are ready to learn with you!