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I’ve been thinking about corporate learning and with that, corporate academies (or universities) a lot the past couple of years. Last year when I got invited to speak at the 8th annual Corporate learning and Corporate Academies event in Berlin I even raised the question: “Should a Corporate Academy still exist?”. That question came from my own experience looking at all the Corporate Academies and Universities I have seen over the years. Most struggle to go beyond the first maturity level and create a massive budget consuming behemoth, which does little more than manage a training catalog, do some basic vendor management, implements and maintains an expensive old-school Learning Management System and hosts and tracks a myriad of face-2-face and e-learning training solutions. All this is a lot of work but is it the right work? Does it help your employees and your organization?
Every time I see survey results or industry research about Corporate Academies, I read how they fail to be relevant and accessible for the organizations employees. Often such surveys and research follow up with improvement plans which seem to shoot for the stars yet find little success.
We need to start talking to what it is our employees need. What helps them to be better at their job? What do they need to prepare for their next job? We need to take a close look at what relevant and accessible means to them, not to the corporate HQ! If you fail to do, and prove that your Corporate Academy will always be seen as a cost and not as the critical value-adding enabler it can and needs to be.
What does relevant mean?
I love the obvious questions “Does it help me to be better at my job?” and “Does it prepare me for my next job?”. I truly believe that if the answer to these questions is ‘Yes’ then you are providing, facilitating and/or developing the right solutions. Mind you, the people answering these questions should be your employees, not stakeholders, not subject matter experts… your employees. They know what they need. They know what they will use and what they will ignore. Just look at your LMS reports :).
This means we need to get a whole lot better at doing a business needs analysis.
- We need to know what changes and problems there are that need addressing.
- We need to know what success looks like and how we can measure it.
- We need to know the reality of our target audience.
- We need to stop making excuses! If there is no clear business case then we should stop projects before they start.
This does not have to be rocket science. Context is king. Without context we’re just creating and maintaining content that has yet to prove its relevance.
We need to embrace the 70:20:10 framework and the 5 Moments of Need model as proven models for value based Learning and development. Only this way can we offer solutions that embed in our employee’s workflow and truly support them at being better at their jobs! Only then can we setup Corporate Academies that are truly relevant.
What does accessible mean?
Accessibility is key. It does not mean making it available via your LMS and expecting people to magically find it. In most organizations a small percentage uses the LMS on a regular basis to look at the offer and actively engages with it. Another group might visit the LMS during development talk time however finding what they need might prove to be an issue thus leaving the LMS behind the next time. There is also that other, fairly large group that haven’t even heard of your LMS or have but have forgotten about it completely.
Accessibility is having your solutions available when and where you’re employees need it. The 5 Moments of need model refers to ‘two clicks, 10 seconds’. For me this translates in ‘as easy and as fast as possible’. If you have to go find a computer somewhere and search for a link to the LMS, figure out your login details, start searching the course catalog, making sense of the search results trying to launch the solution, perhaps going through an approval workflow… you see where this is going right?
How can we make solutions available where employees are without them having to jump through a dozen burning hoops? For many employees finding the right content in their moment of need is like solving a rubics cube. It takes too much time and is too complex to hang on to ‘get it’.
Making the right content available in the right context in the right format is the essence of accessibility.
When taking people out of their work for formal training make sure you train them in where to find and how to use any training and support resources you’ve developed to support them outside the training. Do this right and people will use it and you will see the positive effect in your organization. Targets that will actually be met, changes will be embedded.