Why 90% of learning resources never get used
- 7 Min Read
Engaging employees with learning content is a challenge that many of the CEOs and HR Directors we speak to face. Whether it’s compliance based training, diversity training or skills training, employees often attach a stigma to training courses, treating them as a tick-box exercise they get little value from.
In recent years, organisations have turned to technology to provide a solution, introducing comprehensive content banks that contain 1000s of pieces of interactive learning content or throwing yet another new “Learning Management System” (LMS) at the problem.
But analyst Josh Bersin identifies that the LMS isn’t effective at delivering learning content that actually adds value for employees and impacts their growth:
“LMS systems tend to be very hard to use, there are often thousands of courses to look for, and most employees simply find them of limited value (except for mandatory or compliance training).”
He adds, “As I talk with companies all over the world I hear a continuous story that ‘employees simply do not use the LMS unless they have to,’ and this has caused a lot of pain in L&D”.
This echoes our own experiences. Many of the clients we speak to tell us that 90% of their learning resources never get read. They tell us engagement typically spikes during the first month of implementing a new tool, before falling off a cliff.
Learning practitioner Charles Jennings has a great explanation for why this is:
“Learning is behaviour change above all else. Creating great learning experiences in the moment – whether in a classroom, workshop or digitally – is a relatively easy task, but ensuring that short-term ‘learning’ becomes embedded and results in behaviour change is more difficult.”
As a time-poor learning leader, if people aren’t engaging with learning content, it can seem like the easiest solution is to buy large volumes of different easy-to-access content. But there is no magic bullet for creating behaviour change.
While content banks like LinkedIn Learning, Grovo or Coursera market themselves on the size of their content catalogues, the reason learners aren’t engaging with your learning material is not because there isn’t enough of it.
With just 24 minutes to spend on learning per week, being presented with so much content and no direction can be overwhelming. Imagine going to Google with no idea what to look for. Arriving at a page with 5,000 articles or courses to be faced with suggestions for generic content on ‘How to lead better’ or ‘How to be innovative’ is the equivalent. Several of our clients have told us that the major user reason for users not engaging with the content bank offerings available to them is “overwhelm” – too many things to choose between, and low confidence in what is good quality and what is not.
While content libraries may seem like an easy off the shelf solution, they don’t provide long-term value and engagement end-users.
So if buying large volumes of content isn’t the answer, what is it?
1. Make learning a social experience
Alan Deutschmann, author of ‘Change or die’ argues that to change behaviours we need to help people change the way they see the world – or shift their ‘frame’. But facts and information, like those provided by content banks, are unlikely to alter the way we see the world. When we read an article or go through a course, we form a passive relationship with the learning content; we don’t form deep-rooted attachments that inspire action.
Charles Jennings has a solution:
“If we want to support learning effectively and engender behaviour change, then we need to create environments where emotional responses, rich experiences and social learning are at the forefront. Old-fashioned content-centric training models away from the workplace simply don’t help terribly much.”
As a learning professional, you can help your teams form deep connections with learning content by creating a group-centred learning experience.
Think of your learning experience as a way to help teams move as fast as information flows; a place where people can go to search content, ask questions and collaborate. This is a critical component of turning learning into habit. And there’s proof it works.
A study on Hive Learning’s collaborative learning platform found that those who post content are 30% more active and engaged in learning material than those who passively consume content.
What’s more, we found that when users were socially connected with just 8 others, they were 10 times more likely to regularly return to the platform and begin to form a daily learning habit – signalling a real change in learning behaviour.
To inspire learners to engage with learning content and take action, enable them to form deep and positive connections with learning content, and each other.
2. Be a guide on the learning journey
In his 2011 book, Drive, Daniel Pink argues:
“To achieve great results, people must be motivated by something beyond rewards and consequences. They need purpose, autonomy, and an opportunity to work toward mastery.”
Learning content banks fall down because they don’t give learners purpose or provide a clear path to mastery and professional growth.
Relevancy increases the effectiveness of content by 60%, and as a learning leader, only you know what’s relevant to your teams.
When it comes to creating content, less is truly more. By being deliberate in the specific content you serve your teams, you can give them the purpose and direction they need to help them grow in the areas most important to them, you, and your business. Whether that’s embedding your business values, learning how to be a better leader or creating a more diverse and inclusive culture, giving your teams direction is key.
You can create guided learning programmes full of relevant, stimulating, interactive and engaging content, in a way that a learning content bank and its generic content can’t.
That may be a daunting thought but fear not. Guidance doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as you might think. In an age where the habit-forming tools we use in our personal lives are making their way into our work lives too, new and innovative learning tools are taking the lead from the likes of Google and Duolingo.
These tools harness the power of machine learning and AI to deliver intelligent content that’s relevant to learners at their point of need. They use strong social ranking signals to indicate the quality of content, what people like you interact with and what they’ve expressed an interest with in the past.
All these tools require is for you to define the most important topics and sources for your learners. Then they can deliver content directly to learners in the flow of work.
Which brings us to step three…
3. Embed learning in the flow of work
Perhaps the most critical component required to ensure that your learning resources are read is to embed them in the flow of work.
According to Josh Bersin:
“When I talk with CLOs and other learning and HR professionals I’m always asked the question, ‘How do we get people to use the content we’ve built?’ Learning in the flow of work is the answer.”
He continues, “If you want to make learning relevant, give people access to just enough information to do their jobs, deliver it when and where they need it, and use intelligence to make sure they get enough spaced learning and macrolearning in the process”.
We unlock our smartphones 9 x per hour, so make sure that your learning resources are designed to capture, not compete, with learner attention.
To help employees learn in the most natural way possible, make sure that your learning content is available anytime, anywhere.
Then amplify your content by sharing powerful daily nudges and notifications that highlight all of the relevant content you’re creating for employees through your combination of guided programmes and AI.
Most importantly, to create a learning environment that’s practical, inspiring and engaging, use your learning tool as a centre of collaboration and knowledge sharing. Only then will you be able to embed a culture of learning, and ensure that 90% of your learning resources DO get read.
About the author
Angus McCarey is the CEO of Hive Learning – the social learning platform to transform your workforce. Hive Learning helps organisations grow by creating a culture of habitual learning. Our next generation learning experience lets your people learn together anytime, anywhere, everyday. Find out more at hivelearning.com