Employees are not the problem. Research firm Towards Maturity has surveyed over 40,000 employees through its Learning Landscape audits and found that that most employees are willing to learn — and they want that learning so they can do their jobs faster and better.2
None of this is news. We know employee engagement levels are dismal. We also know that timely, relevant learning engages them. But few organizations deliver the learning employees need to improve themselves and their performance.
What is mind-boggling about this is that the world is awash in learning anyone can access at any time. As the Internet has matured, anyone with a connected device can find learning on any topic.
Barriers to Learning
So why the disconnect? If anyone can learn at any time, why are they not doing so? Towards Maturity’s report identified the top five barriers to learning online. At the top of the list is lack of time. Other top concerns are uninspiring, irrelevant content and the inability to find what they need.
Any of these difficulties can be overcome, but there are a lot of challenges in the way. Most organizations have a reluctance to invest heavily in learning for employees. They are caught in a cycle where employees see learning and development as most important to their careers, and if they don’t get it where they are they will quickly move on; employers see this and assume that employees are going to move on, so they don’t want to develop them.
CLOs have difficulty getting the funding to improve development, administration, and delivery of relevant learning at the point of need. According to industry expert Peter Capelli, most companies would rather spend their resources on fighting the war for talent than teaching the skills they need to their employees.3
How Learning Portals Can Help You Overcome Barriers to Learning
Learning Portals, if used well, could go a long way toward overcoming the barriers to learning. They can also solve many problems without a massive investment in technology, content, and delivery.
Learning is Work, and Work is Learning
Let’s consider the first and most crucial barrier — time. It’s easy to say that organizations need to make a commitment to their employees to provide them time to learn, but the majority of organizations don’t think that way. They see learning as time away from work that hurts productivity.
A learning portal can help you bring learning into the flow of work, so learning is work. Embedding learning in business applications is time-consuming and expensive, but you can place the learning portal adjacent to work so people can quickly switch to learning and back to the task at hand at very little expense. You only need to use your single sign-on (SSO) or identity management system to make sure users don’t have to endure a complicated login process.
Then, it’s only a matter of placing access to the right learning resources in the portal. You can save time and money by deploying advanced search techniques in the portal. And you don’t need to curate learning for every granular skill.
Overcoming the Learning Content Blues
Addressing the problem of uninspiring learning content areas is quite another matter, but curation can help you overcome resource issues. Developing a single e-learning course can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you can consider free resources from EdX, course era, and other online resources. Most major universities provide much of their course material online for free. And don’t forget to see what YouTube can offer.
Encourage your learners to curate and share the inspiring learning they find. You can do this by embedding your collaboration tools or social media into your portal. Your only expense, then, is the time to vet the content. You will find in any organization that many employees love sharing useful content.
Is Your Learning Content Relevant?
The challenge in relevancy is meeting the needs of both learners in the business. In some cases, your hands are tied, such as when regulators specify a required course. But in others, you have many choices.
The key to relevancy is feedback. Make sure your assessments, questionnaires, and surveys help you identify which content learners find relevant. You could embed a mini-survey alongside each content offering so you can get immediate feedback. Ask your learners to participate in identifying the most relevant resources and develop your content with their input.
Make It Easy to Find Relevant Learning Content
Natural language processing has come a long way, and search engines have vastly improved how they interpret our clumsy attempts at saying what we want. It may be useful to provide an on-demand lesson on how to define search parameters, but in most cases, it won’t be necessary. We recommend you embed a custom search engine in your portal to make sure you get results about learning and not polar bear feeding (unless the job is feeding polar bears).
Easy Access is Essential
A learning portal can be embedded in your LMS, in another learning application or resource, in an intranet resource like a SharePoint portal, or a standalone web portal. All a gateway needs from IT is easy access to the Internet.
More Benefits of a Learning Portal
A learning portal can be a gateway to making learning personal and engaging.
- Provide a news page to keep people informed of topics relevant to the business, the industry, and their roles. Tell them about new learning offerings, but don’t leave those notices active for too long. Stale content will send the wrong message. You can use an RSS feed to make sure that content gets updated every day.
- Almost all learning portals are modular, so you can offer different components to your people based on their role in their learning needs. Give managers dashboards to help them monitor and encourage learning for their people. Provide a high-level learning dashboard for executives so they can track learning KPIs. Provide learners with recommendations related to their career paths and interests.
- Gamification has proved to be a powerful way to engage learners. You can embed progress indicators, leaderboards, badges and other indicators of achievement.
Drive Traffic to Your Learning Portal
Even if your portal is engaging, fun, and useful, it won’t become a hub of activity until you make it so. The best learning content in the world will go nowhere if nobody knows it exists. Even if you use the traditional methods of fostering adoption, growth will be slow unless you drive people to the portal.
We recommend you work with your LMS provider, your learning partners, and your IT group to push out inviting messages where ever you can. Make them relevant to what employees are doing at the moment and encourage them to learn more about it.
Partner with your marketing team to learn how you can use email as a tool to drive traffic to the portal and the learning in it. Push out the good news to your people about the availability of learning and let them pull in topics relevant to them.
A learning portal will solve all your problems, but it can help you build momentum in addressing the most critical learning issues in your organization.
1. Chertok, Zachary. "The Future of Learning is in the Reflexes.” Aberdeen Group. March 2016.
2. "In Focus: Engaged Learners." Towards Maturity. March 28, 2018.
3. Capelli, Peter. “The Real Crisis in Hiring.” HRExecutive. April 16, 2018
Chasma Place, is an independent source for solutions that will help you keep pace with changes in the way your people work without ripping and replacing your existing systems