A gaping hole in the Learning & Development space is hurting companies’ bottom lines. It’s making it tougher for them to compete against traditional rivals and startups. And it’s blocking their efforts to build up the workforces they need for the new age of technology.
The hole is a disconnect between learning and career advancement.
Today’s companies know that learning is critical. Deloitte found that 84 percent of executives rate it as important or very important. But only 37 percent of companies believe their current programs are effective.
Why the poor track record?
Because the current learning systems at most companies don’t show employees how they can use learning to move forward. They have no incentive to commit to it — and, even after they learn something new, they have no way to seize opportunities as a result.
A talent development platform fixes that.
What is a talent development platform?
With all these tools and the information they collect integrated into one place, employees and employers can strategize ways forward like never before. The platform smoothly aligns employees’ own career goals with organizational growth goals.
It makes clear to each employee what he or she needs to learn to advance to a new role and what opportunities are available. It shows the company what skills it already has across its workforce and who the best candidates are to learn new emerging skills. And it allows everyone a chance to both teach and learn just about anything.
Talent development platforms are open
Unlike a traditional Learning Management System (LMS), a talent development platform is an open digital network. This gives it two crucial advantages.
First, it communicates with the rest of a company’s talent stack — from the LMS to Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS) to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and more. HR teams generally use all of these different components that simply don’t talk to each other.
Being open also means employees get a wide variety of Learning & Development options, and can add whatever they wish. They can bring in externally available content from across the web — articles, YouTube videos, TED talks and more. And they’re able to create and offer content to share their own expertise.
A traditional LMS, which serve a valuable purpose, is by design less flexible. Its content has been heavily vetted and engineered by HR and management. And the LMS serves as top-down system in which companies make certain content available but don’t allow everyone to contribute.
Talent development platforms evolve
Visa, which created Visa University using the Pathgather platform, finds this flexibility exciting. It “can be adopted for really interesting uses,” said Matt Peters, Visa’s director of technical learning and development.
Talent development platforms also respond to user activity. The popularity of an offering makes it “bubble up to the top,” so over time “you get the best stuff” simply by signing in, Peters said. This means HR teams don’t have to go digging to find, highlight, and push particularly useful offerings. “It makes my job so much easier.”
Because of their restrictions, closed systems like the traditional LMS are much more limited and inflexible.
As Deloitte explained:
“At most companies, the learning management system (LMS) is among the oldest and most challenging to use. Today a new set of learning tools has entered the market ... These tools provide curated content, video and mobile learning solutions, micro-learning, and new ways to integrate and harness the exploding library of external MOOCs [massive open online courses] and video learning available on the internet.”
Open platforms typically are harder to build, but offer much more. The history of technology has shown that, sooner or later, open platforms almost always win when in direct competition with closed systems.
Transformational, revolutionary and money-saving
The McKinsey Global Institute said talent platforms are “poised to transform the world of work.” They offer a chance to “revolutionize” talent development. And they have “enormous room for growth.”
The institute says there are different kinds of talent platforms. Some, such as LinkedIn, Careerbuilder and Glassdoor, help people find jobs. Others, like Taskrabbit and Angie’s List, help people find contingent work. Talent development platforms fit into the third category McKinsey lists: those that focus on talent management, enabling users to assess candidates’ attributes and skills, personalize onboarding and training, optimize team formation and determine best options for training and skill development.
All the online talent platforms combined could add $2.7 trillion, or nearly 2 percent, to the global GDP by 2025, McKinsey said, adding that when companies use online talent platforms their output can increase by up to 9 percent while their costs drop by up to 7 percent.
A talent development platform’s key elements
To serve their function, these platforms have three key elements:
The platform shows the company its current talent inventory, including where its strengths and weaknesses are. This also helps management discover skills it didn’t know were within its ranks. And rather than having to hire externally for certain talents, the business can focus on building up key skill sets.
On an individual level, the platform helps each employee assess his or her own strengths and skills and see how they match up against the company’s talent needs.
A good talent development platform provides the tools necessary for the company to get where it wants to go. It can include easily accessible digital courses aimed at beefing up skills in strategic areas, and it intelligently recommends them to the right people at the right time. And it connects workers to colleagues — both peers and mentors who have knowledge, skills and experience they’re willing to share to help others level up.
Platform analytics can also help businesses track the progress of individual learners and the business as a whole.
The platform also makes clear what opportunities exist.
By using the information in the platform to see the organization’s talent shape and that of the competition and the industry as a whole, top executives can spot opportunities to take advantage of new technologies and edge skills.
Similarly, individual employees can discover opportunities, not just for online or peer learning, but also through cross-functional projects that will give them hands-on experience with new skills.
Employees can also discover career possibilities inside the company to apply to and work toward, and the company can easily find internal candidates who match needs for open positions, rather than looking externally. The platform benefits everyone by taking the mystery out of career advancement and making opportunities clearer than ever.
Platforms benefit all kinds of companies
Their power and potential explain why leading companies have taken on talent development platforms. AT&T said its “unified platform will enable workforce planning, talent management and learning strategies to seamlessly align and transform together.” HP built one that “looks and feels like what people are expecting these days.”
From professional services to high tech, from banking to manufacturing and retail, these kinds of platforms offer widespread positive impacts, McKinsey found.
That helps explain why the “fastest-growing segment in HR technology spending is now the adoption of new employee learning systems,” according to Deloitte. “Companies are seriously looking at replacing their employee learning infrastructure and shopping for new tools at all levels of the learning technology stack.”
When they find the right talent development platform, companies see that they don’t need to upend their existing stack — they just need to connect it all.