Curated Learning: Eating my Own Dog Food

It’s not exactly news for me to share that my team has been spending an increasing amount of time focused on curating learning experiences that help our employees find and access the learning they need to do the work they need to do today, and the work they will need to do tomorrow.  Because we don’t use one specific platform, and because we aren’t the only business unit that our employees either receive or pull learning from, the curation process is still far from a seamless experience.

Speaking of platforms and not so seamless experiences, a few months ago I thought I’d give one platform a try for my own personal learning and development.  This platform allowed me to select the topics I wanted to learn about and provided me with daily learning recommendations on these topics and tracked my learning. I’ve always had RSS feeds, and used apps like Flipboard to help me curate what I wanted to read, so I felt comfortable with the approach

To be perfectly honest, when I signed up, I was in a bit of a rush at the time, so I didn’t spend much time configuring my preferences, which meant when my daily emails/app notifications started coming, I was receiving content on everything from instructional design to change management to stock photography. Yes, I had happily ticked the box on about 13 topics.  While I was interested in all of the topics I had selected, I quickly realized that I needed to refine my own selections and really focus on one or two key areas where I could take a deeper dive. I then decided to give myself two weeks with this particular plan.

Right now, I’m at the end of week one and can’t honestly say I’ve been successful in diving deeper with my learning goals in these two areas.  Not to make excuses, but in the last week I had other work related learning to take, a few projects to focus on, and two kids that started back to school. Does this sound familiar? Maybe this reminds you of yourself or your employees in terms of competing priorities?

Even though my first week wasn’t exactly a success in terms of the learning I had expected to focus on, I did learn something much more valuable. I learned that without some substantial changes to how we approach learning organizationally, that the best curation platforms and content are going to need some critical shifts, especially in larger complex organizations.

If I were to select a few key learnings to share and keep in mind as I develop learning programs for our employees, they would be the following:

1.      Email, SMS, and/or App reminders of learning are very easy to ignore, especially with multiple competing email/app reminders.  They just become one more thing to add a reminder flag to in your inbox.

2.      The employees we support will, at any one time, have more than 13 topics that will need to be checked off as required learning for their role. They could be product, compliance, sales, leadership, process, technical, or communications learning; the buckets are endless, but their time is not.

3.      The employees we support, in addition to the required learning for core daily work, will also always have more than 2 areas where they will want or need to develop skills and competencies.  An additional perspective to keep in mind here is that while some employees might be adept at moving their own development ahead, some won’t know where to start. Furthermore, because many of our managers lead highly specialized knowledge workers, they are not always able to support their employees in this development, which creates another challenge in the successful development planning for employees and the organization.

Furthermore, when we take the three observations above, and then put them in the context of large and complex organizations where many of the decisions on core skills, competencies and their associate learning are made in internal and external siloes, we quickly get a sense of the challenge ahead of us related to learning, even with the best platforms at our disposal.

I don’t want to end this post with doom and gloom, because I do see progress being made in organizational learning on this front, but it’s no easy feat. The one thing that we can do, however, as we work through this, is to ensure we’re always keeping our employees in mind. Every change, every platform added, every shift in organizational priorities has a direct impact to employee development and their ability to meet their needs and the needs of the organization.

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