Learning Luminary Interview: Todd Tauber, Bersin

By Joy Church Millard, Sr. Editor, Expertus

Learning Luminaries by Expertus -  Conversations with innovative minds of enterprise training and development

Editor’s Note: Welcome to the fourth interview in our “Learning Luminaries” series — where we showcase conversations with the brightest and most innovative minds in the world of enterprise training and development!

This month, we feature Todd Tauber, VP of Learning and Development Research at Bersin by Deloitte, where he analyzes all facets of workforce learning, learning technology, and high-impact learning organizations.

I spoke with Todd soon after Bersin released its 2015 Enterprise Learning Trends report, which Todd co-authored with Dani Johnson, Research Manager, Organization Learning. Our discussion focused on the report’s top trend — corporate learning transformation.


Q1: You just unveiled research on key learning trends in business. What is top-of-mind among CLOs?

Todd Tauber Bersin Learning ResearchTT: The biggest priority I’m hearing is reinventing corporate learning — transforming L&D infrastructure, people and practices to make workplace learning better and faster, not just less expensive.

The problem CLOs are trying to solve is that employees, jobs and businesses are evolving faster than L&D. Market changes and business threats now come from all directions, often without much notice. So workers have to constantly develop new skills and knowledge to keep up. Product features, for example, can sometimes change in days now. Yet, in many cases, it still takes four to six weeks to design and deliver training that helps sales or customer service people catch up on those changes.

To operate more effectively in this environment, L&D departments are trying to update their structures and capabilities. But they’re not really built for speed and flexibility — they’re typically designed for efficiency and standardization.

Q2: What about workers? How are they handling the speed of business?

TT: It’s become harder to reach workers through formal learning. They’re working remotely, across time zones and on-the-go. Plus, they’re overwhelmed. So they often put training last (and so do their managers). Today’s workers demand learning that’s more flexible than classroom training, or even conventional virtual and online courses. Plus, they’re now empowered — through search, social networks, MOOCs, online video, and all kinds of other resources — to learn what they want, how they want, on their own. A lot of workers are doing exactly that.

Q3: What does this mean for learning organizations?

Learning engagement is a struggle

TT: For starters, they have to redefine what learning means. Historically, learning meant formal training. That’s what most people — L&D, HR, managers and employees — think of when they think of L&D. But people learn in many ways: Through formal education and training; through on-the-job experiences, through exposure to other people, and through environmental performance support.

Most organizations know that. They provide coaching and job rotations. They offer videos, job aids and social networks. The problem is, they don’t use those things enough. Too many L&D teams still rely too much on formal methods. The bigger challenge, then, is to start allocating people, time and budgets differently. According to our benchmarks, mature learning organizations already deliver 50% more learning through experiential, social and on-demand methods than less advanced organizations.

Q4: Performance support; that’s tricky. How do companies control this, so workers aren’t misled by the wrong information?

TT: One way is to invest in dedicated performance support tools. But the simplest way is by enabling better search. Search is actually one of the most common learning tools workers use today. Unfortunately, it’s often easier to find information outside organizations than inside. So some LMS vendors now have pretty sophisticated search tools that can narrow down results based on context or more specific criteria.

A lot of search-related learning happens outside LMSs, too. People now routinely turn to search engines, social networks or specialized Q&A sites for answers. So organizations can also do a better job leveraging other systems, like knowledge portals and enterprise social networks and social learning platforms, to connect learners to answers through both content and people — subject matter resources.

Q5: Let’s focus on learning technology. Where are CLOs investing?

Mature learning orgs deliver more social learningTT: A lot of the money CLOs spend on technology goes into tools for formal training — especially LMSs, but to a lesser extent, virtual training systems and content creation tools, too. Many of the most advanced organizations are also investing in informal learning tools. For example, content management and collaboration platforms are pretty common; more than two-thirds of L&D professionals we recently surveyed say their company uses them for learning.

We are starting to see more interest in technology to enable true continuous learning — that continuum of education, experiences, exposure and environmental support I mentioned before. However, L&D teams have been a lot slower to adopt these kinds of things.

For instance, there’s a lot of hype in L&D around gamification and MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses), but only about 10% of L&D organizations tell us they’re actually spending money on either of those things right now. The really surprising trend is video. In spite of how popular video has become in learning, only 16% of L&D organizations are investing in dedicated video platforms.

Q6: What’s your take on the growing importance of video in learning?

TT: Video has been a part of online learning courses for several years. Video on its own — or as the centerpiece — is what’s novel. However, a lot of L&D teams are still just figuring out how to use it. A lot of them are getting up to speed using basic tools — inexpensive web-based solutions, or video capabilities built into their LMS. So it’s just like what happens with LMSs: L&D departments get by with binders and slide decks until they can’t anymore. And they probably won’t know they need video management systems until they really need and understand how to use them.

Q7: Let’s jump back to MOOCs. They’re a hot topic. But your research says they’re not yet widely used in corporate training. Why?

TT: By our count, the five biggest MOOC providers — which were all founded in the past three-to-five years — have more than 25 million registered users. About half of these users are working adults looking to build job skills and advance their careers. Meanwhile, the five largest established corporate learning content providers, have a little over 40 million users. That tells me MOOCs are providing learning experiences people want, but don’t get at work.

Marketing Lessons for Learning Organizations_Bersin Research 2014L&D teams have definitely taken notice. While only 10% of learning organizations are actually investing in MOOCs, 44% tell us they are experimenting to better understand MOOC offerings and applications. More organizations are cautiously exploring the options. So there is a lot of interest. The main reason MOOCs aren’t more common in L&D is just that they’re new. A lot of L&D professionals simply aren’t familiar with (or even aware of) them yet.

For those who are familiar with MOOCs, the major challenge is making them work within today’s enterprise learning and IT infrastructure. Almost half of the organizations we surveyed complained of difficulties integrating MOOCs into their LMS catalogs; tracking participation and completion data, and making MOOCs compatible with data security policies and single-sign-on protocols. That is changing, though.

Q8: How can companies keep up with new learning behaviors?

TT: As I said earlier, employees and managers are empowered in a way that they never have been before to take control of their own learning. One obvious thing L&D professionals can do is to explore those same innovations. A lot of them come from startups that most L&D people probably haven’t heard of yet. But there are also a lot of new solutions from established learning solutions providers. Several LMS companies, for example, now offer ways to capitalize on social learning and MOOCs, and there are all kinds of new, dedicated tools to create videos and simulations, to manage coaching and mentoring relationships, and to find, access and track learning content from around the web.

Q9: How are L&D professionals adapting?

Mature learning orgs are more focused on business needsTT: They’re beginning to reinvent themselves. With formal learning, L&D’s job is to create and manage it. However, with informal learning, L&D’s job really is to shape and enable it. That’s a big shift in the way learning professionals view – and do – their jobs. And that means evolving or reimagining some traditional L&D capabilities — like instructional design — to create very different kinds of blended learning experiences. We’re also seeing that it means picking up new skills and new tools — like data analytics and business acumen — to dig deeper into the root causes of performance problems.

Q10: Interesting changes. What should we conclude about the future of L&D?

TT: My big takeaway is that learners and managers are now empowered to get the information, knowledge and skills they want — whether L&D delivers it or not. Learning organizations are aware of this, and the smart ones are changing how they operate and structure themselves, and how they spend their time and money. Organizations that delay or resist will have a challenging future. Already, almost two-thirds of L&D organizations tell us they’re having a hard time competing for employees’ attention.


Editor’s Note: For more details about the survey results discussed in this post, watch the on-demand webinar, available to Bersin by Deloitte research subscribers: Rethinking L&D: Enterprise Learning Trends for 2015.


Note from Expertus: To find out more about how next-gen LMS platforms help organizations transform learning, visit ExpertusONE online. Or contact us to discuss your company’s learning needs and see a personalized demo.

Image Credits: Bersin by Deloitte

4 thoughts on “Learning Luminary Interview: Todd Tauber, Bersin

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