Skillsoft Blog

Four Ways to Drive Learner Engagement in a World of Unknowns

September 9, 2020 | by Ryan Ahern

As a result of COVID-19, companies are exploring technical and non-technical pivots. These may include spending shifts to enable remote work for an extended period, increased focus on cybersecurity, expanded mental health and wellness programs, and enhanced personal safety measures.

Incremental adjustments in these areas can help businesses get back to full productivity and even lead to lasting, long-term improvements. However, just as a laptop isn’t all it takes to be a remote worker, turning on a video camera and converting in-person classes to virtual is not an effective, sustainable plan for learning.

So, the big question is, how will companies successfully pivot to a digital learning environment that is engaging and delivers sustainable outcomes in a world full of variables and unknowns, while also keeping costs and complexity under control? To help answer this question, we created a composite from across our customer base to understand what the pre-COVID-19 learning trends were and how they have shifted. When it comes to engaging your people effectively in today’s uncertain environment, here are some approaches that can help:

1. Connect learning plans to each learner’s short and long-term career goals

Historically, personal growth was the number one motivator for learning. Now, our user base identifies delivering results in their current role as their number one motivation, while the second biggest driver is preparing for their next role in the organization. This shift from personal interests to training that impacts their performance implies that today’s learners are working hard to deliver business results and influence outcomes.

The takeaway? Develop a clear connection for your people between what they are learning and their current or future job role. This motivates them to dedicate time and attention to their development. Next, ensure they can easily find assets that help them drive results quickly, and more importantly, apply what they’re learning to their daily work.

2. Offer meaningful, portable recognition for individual accomplishments

Traditionally, learners who completed training programs displayed framed certificates of achievement as a source of pride. Still, long before COVID-19, digital badges became a proven method to motivate and engage learners. The power lies in their portability, allowing learners to attach them to their online profiles, while also offering a digital history of skills that the company can reference as well.

A study by the Digital Learning Consortium—involving 5,000 learners, 114 countries, and 15 professional fields—revealed that nine out of ten respondents would value a learning record that travels with them throughout their career. Among those individuals, the vast majority (73%) said their experience would be distinctly improved if they had a history of their learning.

Between January and July of 2020, content accessed via Skillsoft’s learning platform tripled, while the average number of courses each learner around the world used to upskill and reskill increased by 55 percent. Between February and August of 2020, learners using the Skillsoft Percipio platform earned an unprecedented 4.5 million digital badges upon the completion of select courses.

Allow your people not only to reach milestones but also to spread the word. Empower your learners to cultivate their personal brand and proudly showcase their expertise among colleagues, peers, managers, and social media networks. Encourage learners to share their accomplishments across digital environments in a way that is progressive, personal, and verifiable.

3. Enable learners to spend more time honing their skills, and less time searching for the right content

Success amid a global pandemic requires a level of multitasking and agility previously thought unimaginable. Engaged learners develop the habit of maximizing their time with learning that fits into the cracks of their calendar. To support this, learners need a clear starting point, as well as guidance on where to go next to achieve their goal.

Personalization is a critical element of an engaging learning experience. To avoid information overload, and to help your people identify Point A, look for opportunities to suggest curated content that individual learners are likely to find meaningful and relevant. Next, similar to how Amazon recommends consumer products, promote continuous learning by offering additional suggestions based on the learner’s activity and the activities of their peers. As learners refine one skill, this is how they will be enticed to develop a new one.

Next, while personalized recommendations are critical, users will still browse and search for materials that address their needs at the moment. Perhaps they are preparing for a big presentation and want to feel more confident. Or, imagine a first-time manager who is looking for best practices on how to lead an effective virtual team. For learners who have an idea of what they're looking for, make it as easy as possible for them to find the right content, right when they need it, so they can immediately apply the knowledge to the task at hand.

Thanks to AI, the technology certainly exists to save time for your people and provide a personalized learning experience. Platforms that automate curation for each employee also save time for the organization by allowing managers and administrators to dedicate their time elsewhere. The key is to identify the blockers that your learners are running into in your current learning ecosystem, and then look for technology that can remove those barriers—it may not even be necessary to move to an entirely new platform.

4. Meet learners wherever they are

In his seminal article from 2018, amid the rising popularity of Netflix-like, consumer-based learning platforms, Josh Bersin described the crucial difference between two worlds:

“In the consumer world we want people to spend more and more time on our content. In the corporate learning world, we want them to spend less.”

Bersin accurately predicted that engaging learning experiences would deliver just-in-time help and support—knowledge that can be applied immediately. Bersin dubbed the new paradigm “learning in the flow of work.”

Of course, people were busy and short on time long before the pandemic, but today’s reality amplifies the need to capably manage professional and personal responsibilities simultaneously. Imagine the employee who routinely listened to audiobooks while commuting home in the evening. With so many offices closed until at least the new year, that commute, and thus learning window, has vanished. Meeting learners where they are today requires an acknowledgment that the cracks in the calendar available for learning are even smaller than they were pre-COVID-19.

In addition to AI-driven content recommendations and mobile experiences, provide your people with learning opportunities that are not merely adjacent to their daily responsibilities but embedded within their workflow. This environment brings the notion of immediate application to a new level. In this manner, we are meeting learners where they are.

Where to Go from Here

The most insightful and applicable content in the world is only useful if learners can discover and consume it meaningfully. Learner engagement is an essential element of a successful pivot to a digital learning environment that delivers positive outcomes.

Organizations that adopted Skillsoft’s newest learning platform, Percipio, have seen a dramatic increase in learner engagement and report a higher confidence in skills and abilities applied on the job. Those measurable outcomes are the result of a core focus on the learning engagement principles outlined here. To learn more about how the Percipio platform can improve learner engagement at your organization, please request a demo or connect with your Skillsoft account team today.

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