One of the four pathways to digital transformation is to take incremental steps towards improving customer experience and operational efficiency. In this article, we look at how some people professionals took this path and repositioned the role of L&D in their organisations. 

First, we reveal how people professionals at three organisations that used digital learning platforms efficiently changed learning behaviours and delivered personalised, just-in-time learning. Then, we review how another organisation integrated learning analytics into its internal talent marketplace to help leaders identify talent, and employees discover their career pathways.

Shifting to self-directed learning 

RetailCo in the UK had accumulated multiple digital learning platforms from past acquisitions, so it became unclear where to direct people for learning. The old platforms were mainly used to complete mandatory training and little else, so employees reported feeling disconnected from learning and expected line managers to suggest specific training for them. Plus, the old content was not mobile-enabled so it was not easy for store colleagues to access them at work.

As such, RetailCo decided to streamline its learning content in stages and move it onto a single digital learning platform. Being a large and geographically distributed organisation, switching off one old platform at a time was a big communications and change management exercise. Stakeholders from across the organisation were involved in reviewing which content to keep or remove. Getting the timing of communications right was critical to avoid confusing people.

To support the culture shift towards more self-directed learning, line managers were trained to converse and signpost colleagues to the new learning platform. Employees could now easily view learning content – personalised to their performance and development goals – on their mobile phones. With the platform taking over the delivery of most learning solutions, some of L&D roles at the company were able to evolve to encompass talent planning, annual reviews and reward, becoming more aligned with the new organisational ‘Centre of Excellence’ structure.

Creating a safe space to experiment and innovate 

City & Guilds had also accumulated learning content on different platforms, but it decided to make them all accessible through its new learning experience platform (LXP). 

‘We wanted to use the data on what people were using to inform what we did next… We didn’t do a big needs analysis prior to going live with the initial concept… We wanted to try something, potentially failing fast and then build on it, because that’s something that we’re trying to do more as an organisation. We wanted to role model that,’ explained L&D manager Hannah Wysome. 

Wysome said inviting employees to give feedback was a good way to get them to use the platform because they feel they can influence the shape of it. ‘Anytime we had new ideas or features, we were pushing them out to our pilot teams. We get immediate feedback and then tinker until we’re happy,’ she said. Employees can share their feedback by email, on Microsoft Teams, or post comments on the LXP. Wysome also welcomed negative comments because it gave her a chance to respond and keep people updated about what’s going on.

With better learning analytics, Wysome could easily gain insights into the best time of day to push things out for maximum adoption. Then, working with the data analytics lead, she could explore whether the learning content consumed had any effect on employee engagement. 

Wysome, who used to work in sales, sees the LXP as a safe space for employees to experiment with ideas that could be commercialised. For example, City & Guilds is trialling digital badges among colleagues for its internal programmes of learning, with a view to credentialing future external-facing programmes. Digital badges are verified credentials that contain metadata describing learners’ skills in industry-standard language, which employees can share on social media platforms like LinkedIn.

Looking ahead, City & Guilds is considering how it can use its LXP to build structured learning pathways.

Democratising learning and content creation 

When Joe Hayes, Group Senior Director of L&D, joined UAE-based Etisalat in 2018, the organisation’s digital learning platform was mainly used for compliance training. Employees preferred to use their own personal devices and broadband to learn because traditional policies blocked access to many websites. As a result, Etisalat had no overview of the learning that was taking place online.

Like RetailCo and City & Guilds, Etisalat also wanted to deliver personalised digital learning content to its employees. The L&D team collaborated with IT to find a way for Etisalat to subscribe securely to an LXP. The team went on to trial several platforms and chose one that supported its ambition to democratise access to learning and content creation.

To get a snapshot of employees’ skillsets and learning requirements for upcoming projects, the L&D team ran a mini training needs analysis for employees and interviewed its leaders. Partnering with a management consultancy, the team also worked with employees to identify key competencies for each learning pathway. Armed with a requirements list, the team sourced premium and free digital learning solutions and aggregated them through the LXP. Taking an iterative approach, the L&D team continually adapts the LXP to suit Etisalat's needs. Recently, it integrated its LXP with a platform from a technology vendor to provide over 1,000 fully certified technology courses, including on machine learning, cloud computing and DevOps.

Etisalat’s LXP is more than just a secure platform for tailored learning. It could also generate an employee’s learning transcript and show progress made against quarterly learning plans assigned by their line manager – the intention being to increase internal mobility. Since launching, the LXP has been integrated into Microsoft Teams so that employees can passively learn in-the-flow of work

Nearly 100% of employees have logged on to use the LXP within a year of launching. The LXP’s social media, gamification features and social learning influencers have helped drive adoption, Hayes said. Employees get points for using, liking and uploading content, and there’s a leaderboard of top users. Working with social learning influencers – Etisalat’s internal experts – the L&D team helped them revamp their old PowerPoint slides on sales, technology and so on, into interactive, micro-learning courses to share on the LXP. 

‘Ask Me Anything’ was a session broadcast on the LXP where strong businesswomen interviewed their contemporaries in a live Q&A. It was the first of its kind in Etisalat’s history. ‘These are the ways we are innovating and changing the conversation. We are recreating the value proposition of what L&D actually means to the business,’ Hayes said. 

Discovering career pathways through an internal talent marketplace

Injazat in the UAE is creating an internal talent marketplace to support an agile approach to talent mobility that puts employees at the centre. The internal talent marketplace works like the social media platform LinkedIn. But with the added functionality of having profiles automatically updated with employees’ progress on certifications and courses enrolled through Injazat’s online course providers. Employees can also update their profiles manually and get them verified by their line managers or assigned coach.

Injazat’s VP of Talent Development Gary Hazel explained how it finds talent through the internal talent marketplace and prepares employees for new roles:

'The platform will search existing employees against a defined project scope or competency framework to assess their “fitness score” and provide a comparison with other employees.'

'Based on this, Injazat can select those closely matched and say, “This work assignment is coming in 6 months, are you interested? If so, these are the gaps in your skills profile that must be developed”... While they may have a high fitness score for their current assignment the required competency levels for future roles is likely to drop as not all skills are transferrable, so we are able to create a fast-track program to bridge the gaps in time for the new assignment.'

Employees are empowered to create their own targeted development plans because they can see ‘fitness scores’ for their assigned roles and skills gaps. A ‘fitness score’ is a percentage figure that indicates how well an employee’s competencies matches a particular role. In addition, the internal talent marketplace presents employees with job opportunities where they have transferrable skills and enable them to discover new career pathways. It’s in the interest of employees to keep their skills and profiles up to date to be considered for open vacancies and upcoming projects.

This approach allows Injazat to balance between external recruitment and internal talent mobility. Scarce talent in areas such as cloud, cybersecurity and AI attract a premium in the market. Developing and recruiting talent internally in these areas is much more cost effective than recruiting externally. At the same time, it enhances Injazat’s employee value proposition by supporting employees to develop their careers and identify new job opportunities within the organisation.

With skills gap analyses largely automated through the talent marketplace, Hazel observed that the Talent Development team’s role has evolved into that of a learning consultant. This includes using predictive analytics to identify employees who are high performing and importantly have high potential to self-develop, accelerate the organisation’s growth and manage their careers as new opportunities arise.

Learning points

  1. Choosing the right LXP. Not all LXPs are the same, so when choosing one, be clear about what your organisation needs and what its vision for L&D is. Some LXPs are better at facilitating check-ins of learners' knowledge against course content, while others are better at enabling peer-to-peer learning. Look beyond the ratings and try out as many solutions that match your criteria as you can before deciding.

  2. Maximising the use of digital learning solutions. Have in mind the five FACTS (flexible, accessible, collaborative, tailored and step-change) for impactful learning. For example, we’ve seen here LXPs being used to deliver personalised digital learning solutions and enabling social connection with others through a mobile or Microsoft Teams app. If employees are time poor, give them time to learn at work to make the investment worthwhile. Get employees to give feedback or co-create content to increase engagement with the new learning platform.

  3. Making the switch. When migrating to a new platform, pay attention to the clarity and timing of communications to minimise confusion. Make sure that everyone involved is given the time to contribute. 

  4. Analytics to manage talent. Use data collected through digital learning platforms, for example, to maximise engagement with the platform, build skills transcripts, discover career pathways and identify talent.

  5. A vehicle for culture change. Learning platforms can be a safe space to try new things or connect with people across the organisation or even to change recruitment practices. The benefits can extend beyond improving learner experience.

See our partner Personio’s tips on building your L&D strategy: What is HR’s Role in Learning and Development (L&D)?

Our digital transformation series continues next month with insights on using technology to support employee wellbeing.

Series author:

Hayfa Mohdzaini, Senior Research Adviser

Hayfa joined in 2020 as the CIPD's Senior Research Adviser in Data, Technology and AI. She started her career in the private sector working in IT and then HR, and has been writing for the HR community since 2012. Previously she worked for another membership organisation (UCEA) where she expanded the range of pay and workforce benchmarking data available to the higher education HR community. Hayfa has degrees in computer science and human resources from University of York and University of Warwick respectively.

She is interested in how the people profession can contribute to good work through technology.

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