Commercial collaboration with Degreed Company has been a great opportunity to learn more about Learning Experience Platforms (LXP).
In the current market conditions, the managerial work in human resource departments is not enviable. In most cases, it is like seeking for the holes in the leaking boat and attempting to patch them with old-fashioned equipment. Traditional corporation-centric ways to manage competencies and learning activities based on static job descriptions and pre-defined skill sets are just not agile enough as the future becomes more difficult to predict.
In this article it is shown why the momentum to implement more dynamic ways to do upskilling by focusing on employees’ learning experiences rather than corporation functionalities is NOW.
Uncertainty in global markets
Corporation-centric ways to manage competencies and organize learning activities have been effective in relatively stable market settings in which customer needs and therefore also job descriptions have been moderately persistent.
At the latest, the COVID-19 pandemic, however, revealed how rapidly circumstances can change. Suddenly we were in a new situation where no one had any experience how to act nor what kind of competencies were worth to acquire.
The traditional corporate-centric strategies to organize learning and development activities turned out to be too slow.
At the same time, it was noticed that people began to act autonomously when they were forced to be given more authorship.[i] The employees, as the best experts of their own work, quickly applied solutions to cope in changing situations. This self-directness came as a surprise to many – similarly, many brilliant but hidden content creators have surfaced on social media, when the role of mainstream media as a gatekeeper of media content has dispersed.
From static job descriptions to employee’s agency
As companies rely heavily on employee experience, wellbeing, and self-development, more and more energy is focused on making learning easy, accessible, and relevant for employees. Learning experience (LXP) as a strategy does not mean that employees are drifting alone without any rules.
Instead, LXP points the importance of employee’s own agency and authorship which makes people the real engaged subjects of their learning and work.
An employee with all his/her capacity is coming as a unit of learning rather than a job or formal position in an organization. That is why many scholars are proposing to shift the focus on the debate from competencies to skills[i]. While competencies are tended to be situationally related to a specific job or process, skills are more flexible to transit from one context to another.
In corporative learning strategies, it is possible to enlarge the role of employees from objects of learning activities to experts who have formal authority to teach their peers, partners, and customers. For instance, Ericsson[ii], one of the leading companies in-network services, has systematically developed ‘a teaching culture’ in which people are committed to helping each other and collaborating. This has been seen reinforcing the people’s experiences of their own agency and authorship.
Focusing on the learning experience does not exclude the corporate strategy. In opposite, it means that strategy should be more present in a daily workflow. Alongside teaching culture, Ericson[iii] has constructed an important complementary element of its’ learning strategy: ‘the business system’. This system encompasses goals and skills that are critical for business. Recognizable is that the employees are seen as active partners defining what these goals and skills are. They are not just ‘given from above in a ready-made form.
From separate individuals to self-organizing teams
Degreed’s report The State of Skills 2021:Endangered [iv] surveyed over 5,200 people around the world to assess the effects of recent global events on skills and willingness to adapt to new challenges. According to the report everyone needs technical skills thus companies must constantly evaluate new tools, approaches, and platforms.
The social skills related to leadership, learning, and communication, however, are evaluated at least as much important. This highlights how learning is nowadays also experienced more social. However, when learning is managed centrally from the company’s administration, employees are most often viewed as separate individuals in their own blocks. Instead, the idea of learning experience stresses individuals, not as separate parts but as members of self-organizing workgroups or teams.
At Ericsson[v] it has also been recognized that unit of learning is not a single individual rather than a team. Therefore, lots of emphases was put on promoting collective learning where people can learn from each other. Verizon[vi], an American wireless network operator, has authorized teams to design customized learning paths that also make it visible to HR managers what are the actual needs for upskilling.
According to Degreed’s report[vii], cognitive skills such as critical thinking and creativity also become crucial. This is exactly what I call the need for a new kind of authorship and agency.
Management should look the human resources through the lenses of agentive potential rather than through job descriptions in a workflow.
This requires the organization to better identify the potential of people they already have. Too often, resumes imported when recruiting are stored in the HR system and never updated.
When people are gaining new critical skills it’s time to match these skills to the right opportunities. For example, Degreed company has successfully created a dynamic career marketplace that increases internal mobility by connecting employees with new projects, assignments or even jobs[viii]. For a long time, high-performance organizations have detected how investments to internal mobility programs has produced more motivated and engaged employees.
From LMS to LXP
The change from centralized competence management to production of learning experiences requires technology with a new logic. Since the early 2000s, the trend has been to build learning management systems (LMS) which became the hub for all corporate training. These ERP-like platforms store curricula, content, and business rules and serve as the administration point for pre-requisites, self-directed learning, complex certifications, and learning sold to customers and partners.
The built-in philosophy of LMS systems is, however, that the management level sort of defines what people should learn. Then people are provided formal training or on-line courses to fill these requirements. The problem is that individuals are not motivated to participate on these trainings but seek their lessons when they need from available resources on Internet. Verizon[ix], for example, found that a centralized ‘course machine’ in their organization generated a lot of ‘waste’ while empowering employees to make their own decisions was more effective and ‘just-on-time’.
Josh Bersin, an internationally recognized analyst, explains nicely this development in his report The LXP Becomes the Center of Corporate Learning. As Bersin argues, the LXP is not overing the need for other learning, recruiting of talent management systems but serving as a platform for easily accessible people-centric learning experiences.
Degreed technology identifies people’s existing skills and makes recommendations for updating them through personal listings familiar from Spotify or Netflix. Recommendations are made using resources that are available online (Tedx, LinkedIn Learning etc.). These individual choices leave marks to the platform and can be monitored with interests and, more importantly, to identify the critical skills in terms of strategical goals.
Citibank[xi], invested in Degreed, has highlighted the possibility to make all the produced content transparent which enables learning beyond teams and traditional organizational silos. Degreed also makes finding the best internal experts for demanding projects possible. For example, if someone puts *agile methodology into the system, Degreed finds out who is an expert in Agile, what content and programs are most useful and popular, and what adjacent skills are needed.
It’s clear that LXP rather than LMS has become the center of corporate learning.
How magic happens?
In the case you are now excited about the idea of LXP, I warmly recommended to check out Degreed’s guide 7 Steps for Upskilling Your Workforce In that text the chief learning officer at Degreed, Kelly Palmer, provides concrete insights how to create successful upskilling strategy for your organization.
Kirsi Elina Kallio
About the author: Kirsi Elina Kallio is an experienced university instructor, change consultant, business coach and keynote speaker. Her key areas of interests are HR management, educational technology, and Developmental Work Research (DWR). Kirsi has Phil. Lic. Degree in Communications (University of Jyväskylä) and is currently finalizing her PhD thesis in Adult Education (University of Helsinki). She is certified as Executive Business Coach from Henley Business School. More about Kirsi: www.kirsielinakallio.fi.
[i] Welna, Nick (2020) How to Shift from a Competency Model to a Skills Strategy in 5 Steps https://blog.degreed.com/shift-from-competency-model-to-skills-5-steps/