Moving beyond acronyms and tick-box culture: why we can no longer afford to just assume our teams are learning.

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The learning and development sector feels like it’s constantly on the move. Every year, there are fresh products, new technologies, and different approaches to training. And of course, that’s a good thing, for the most part.

But we’ve also noticed that all of this change doesn’t always translate into positive, tangible learning outcomes for businesses or their employees. Sometimes, it feels like companies are being distracted from the most important goal of all: genuinely understanding how well their people are learning and retaining knowledge.

Each year the industry picks up on the latest learning and development acronyms. But whether it’s LMS, LXP or EXP, the illusion of progress that these fresh terms create masks how traditional so many of these ‘new’ ways of educating our employees actually are.

Re-skinning traditional ways of learning

Take LXP. On face value, this feels like an evolution of e-learning that’s made for our times. In an age of on-demand services like Netflix, having a learning platform that mirrors this model in the workplace seems like a big step forward.

But how is a piece of LXP software substantially different to traditional e-learning platforms? Of course it looks great. It’s easy to navigate. It feels familiar and accessible, in a ‘workplace learning can be just as easy as sitting on the sofa to consume an entire box set!’-kind of way. But is LXP really so different to what has gone before?

Our take on many of these new systems is that they’re simply reinventing self-managed e-learning, over and over. At heart, they’re still deeply traditional. Think of them as huge electronic filing cabinets of content, with users managing what they choose to learn. They might now be beautiful, easy-to-use filing cabinets. But they’re still filing cabinets.

They all share crucial DNA with traditional e-learning systems too, in that they’re still self-serve. There is no overall management around who learns what and when, because the users drive it all.

All of which might be a great model for Netflix, where the stakes resting on your choices are only whether you’ll enjoy the film you’ve chosen this evening. However it’s not such a good model for delivering a business’s learning and development strategy.

Why? Because it largely fails to take that strategy into account. Most LMS and LXP systems are still a free-for-all. They’re a self-serve, pick n’ mix approach that makes measuring the ultimate success of any employee development programme against the business’s strategic goals very hard indeed.

Can you afford to just assume your teams are proficient?

As managers, it’s easy to buy into one of these new systems and sell it to your teams. You’ll ask your employees to complete a module and then test them on it. You’ll get positive results and assume they’ve learned everything they need to. It’s another tick in a box marked ‘proficient’.

But how do you actually know they’re proficient? Where’s the evidence, other than a quick test that only captures a moment in time? How do you know that they haven’t already forgotten most of what they’ve just learned? Or that the bits of the training that they do remember actually addresses their needs, right now?

Many of these systems make it straightforward for managers to test, tick boxes and move on, without really assessing a genuine understanding of new skills and how to apply them.

Our point here is that it’s tempting to get caught up in the latest innovations, and that it’s also easy to think that simply giving your employees the latest, state-of-the-art training delivery experience is enough. We believe that it isn’t.

With the huge amounts of money at stake here, we can’t simply assume that employees have learned what they need to learn. Training budgets are tight, so tangible results and provable ROI on training has never felt so important.

Finding the perfect balance

A company is a collective with collective goals. And yet it is also a group of individuals, each with their own learning needs and objectives. That means a company shouldn’t try to take a one-size-fits all approach to learning – and most companies realise this. But at the same time it also doesn’t mean simply leaving individuals to define their own learning journey on their own.

Here at Cognito we believe there is a middle way.

We’re excited by the role that AI can play in genuinely embedding knowledge within your workforce. With Cognito we’ve created a tool that can adapt to individual learning needs, but that also gives managers the bigger picture of how everyone across the business is doing.

It embeds knowledge for every learner, adapting to their changing needs, but it also gives learning and development professionals the oversight they need to ensure that the training is truly meeting the overall needs of the business too.

To find out how Cognito can help you in your own business, give us a call today on 01423 203 733.