Mind the Gap
How L&D vendors must evolve to win in the new learning ecosystemTuesday 26 September 2023
Structural skill gaps faced by businesses today are driving a change in approach to learning and development (L&D), fast. This includes both what the learning goals are, as well as how that learning occurs.
A number of key human capital challenges - low productivity, difficulties recruiting & retaining talent, alongside a shortening tech cycle – and a need to drive mission-critical digital transformations are putting skill development at the top of the C-suite agenda. Companies are shifting from acquiring to building skills; learning goals are becoming outcome-obsessed, and focussed on digital.
How this learning occurs is also changing dramatically. The pandemic accelerated a shift to digital learning that was already underway – almost overnight, instructor-led training became virtual, with some shifting even further to a fully digital self-paced model. As lockdown restrictions have unwound, some of this has since returned to classrooms, as both learners, their employers, and L&D vendors have developed a better understanding of the most suitable mode for different topics.
Today, learners expect flexibility, and in a world of increasing content choice, they need help finding relevant material. While L&D buyers need to demonstrate the investments being made in training deliver a tangible impact on business performance.
Implications for L&D vendors
For L&D vendors, there are four key implications they will need to grapple with; success in the coming years will depend on decisive positioning and execution against these.
1. Multi-modal will be the new norm of tomorrow
The historical division of online content players and instructor-led training is blurring. L&D buyers and learners increasingly expect a digital-first approach, with higher-cost instructor-led programs used as a supplement for critical skills. While this instructor-led element will continue to be crucial to drive true expertise or deep knowledge of a topic, it must fit in with the broader digital L&D programme.
No one player has the winning blended model today, though there are clear signs that this is the direction of travel. Vendors must ask themselves how they fit into a multi-modal world, where they need to build or buy capabilities or develop partnerships, and how to go to market.
2. Demonstrating the impact and ROI of training has become critical
Pressure is increasing on L&D buyers to demonstrate that the investment in training is having an impact on business performance. In a challenging economic environment, learning budgets, whilst increasingly prioritised, remain discretionary. Businesses need to find the best value-for-money means of achieving their skills goals. For L&D vendors, this means that finding ways to measure return on investment and demonstrate behavioural changes will increasingly be a key differentiator vs. the competition.
3. Learning Experience Platforms (LXP) innovation is threatening the LMS proposition
LXP players are innovating rapidly, moving towards the ‘learning holy-grail’ of mapping organisational skill gaps, measuring individual skills, and personalising learning around key gaps fuelled by best-of-breed content. While the deep HCM integration and standardisation that LMS provide today continue to resonate with large organisations, the AI-driven personalisation and ‘good enough’ administrative functionalities that LXP may be able to offer risks displacing LMS, or at least disrupting their value proposition.
4. Middle-of-the-pack content players risk being left behind
The rise of learning platforms, and their increasing role in selecting and filtering content is changing the competitive dynamics for content makers. For best-of-breed content players, who are able to link their materials to skill outcomes, this presents an important opportunity to secure their position; for those who have historically underinvested in content improvements, there is a major risk that they will be left behind in the platform age.