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Rethinking Corporate Learning: Beyond Metrics and Content Consumption

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

A shift that challenges the very essence of how we approach learning and development in the workplace

In the fast-evolving realm of corporate learning, there's a profound shift underway. It's a shift from chasing metrics for the sake of metrics and from focusing solely on content consumption.

illustration of a group of people sitting in circle and talking,

AI-generated image created with MidJourney | Owned by The AI Academy as per MidJourney ToS

Metrics vs. Content Consumption: The Illusion of Engagement

If the L&D community is concerned about “learner engagement” is because there's a ton of money thrown at LMS/LXPs (content platforms in general) and when less than 10% of employees access them, executives feel they’ve been wasting huge amounts of money. When leaders think of low learner engagement what they are really thinking is low content consumption. The underlying assumption is that leaning equals content consumption because that’s where most of the money gets spent to ensure workforce upskilling/reskilling.

Consequently, many companies have fervently pursued ways to boost access rates to these platforms. They've dabbled in microlearning, mobile apps, and gamification—all in a bid to encourage more content consumption. But is this assumption valid, and does optimizing this metric truly lead to the desired results of effective upskilling and reskilling with tangible business impact?

The Social Brain: A Natural Learning Framework

We come into this world with an “incomplete brain”. We don’t know how to speak, how to walk, how to control our body let alone knowing ourselves, because this has proven to be a great advantage from an evolutionary perspective. The rest of our lives is spent learning … from others. Our brains are wired for social learning, yet most workplace education formats emphasize individual learning in isolation.

The Power of Learning Communities

  • Building internal communities of inquiry (or Learning Communities) makes learners more engaged because they leverage the three key aspects that intrinsically motivate people, according to Daniel Pink: Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose. (Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us)

  • Learning Communities also has the advantage that the knowledge being shared is highly contextual to the specific learning environment in that specific company, in that specific department, which makes it more relevant for the specific work challenges (which is something no LMS/LXP platform will ever give you).

  • Learning Communities share highly contextual/relevant knowledge in multiple formats - tips, past failures, lessons learned, coaching, mentoring and yes, relevant documents and content - that are proven to lead to higher Learning Transfer (the ability to put into practice the learnings during the execution of specific tasks) (Learning Transfer Model | Wilson Learning Worldwide). Knowledge shared this way is more impactful because it has an element that traditional content/courses don’t have: a story. Which is a much more memorable experience for our hunter-gathers brains (Understanding hunter–gatherer cultural evolution needs network thinking - ScienceDirect).

When personal/individual learning (traditional content consumption) happens within a Learning Community, the social interaction around the learned content works as a powerful learning booster. It allows individuals to find a faster path to what’s valuable in the work environment, filtering out what’s not and validating the learning through informal interactions.

Rethinking Corporate Learning

Perhaps the original sin of the past misguided attempt to improve workplace learning is the fact that we use the same word (learning) we associate with our formal education experience where several months and years are spent to acquire knowledge without even knowing the context where we will use that knowledge. Workplace learning is a completely different beast and trying to apply a similar architecture is leading us in the wrong direction. Perhaps we should invent a new word for this.

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