The digital learning industry is changing rapidly. Learning strategy has become less learner-fed and more learner-led, as organisations recognise that everyone’s learning needs are unique.

Given that more than 90% of CEOs say they are unable to see the business impact of their corporate learning and behaviour change programmes, it’s a much-needed development. And it’s digital learning leaders who are driving this change.

However, to be the real architects of change — creating impact for organisations, not just content — learning leaders will need these three key skills to make 2018 a breakthrough year.

1. Digital designer

The need to modernise digital learning is critical. When surveyed by CIPD, 90% of organisations said they planned to utilise mobile learning in the next two years. They recognise the benefits digital tools offer — but choosing the right technology to enhance their learning and development strategies can be overwhelming.

The good news is you don’t need to be an IT expert. However, to be able to think dynamically about learning experiences you need to have a deep understanding of the technology landscape. Without an overview of what’s out there and what’s new, it’s difficult to inspire staff and influence leaders.

The best starting point is to identify what the learner needs. Think of your colleagues as customers and design with them in mind. The modern workforce is increasingly agile, so use technology that brings speed, flexibility and innovation to the modern learning experience.

When researching the key practices for high-impact HR, Josh Bersin found that the most successful organisations also offer collaborative solutions to support constantly shifting team structures.

This is our experience too: On our Hive Learning app, a group of 300 senior leaders generated more than 4000 learning interactions in a month. We have found that this collaborative approach is 50% more effective at making learning stick than the traditional learning model.

Ultimately the best digital technology will bring an instant solution and drive employees to want to learn more. Given that the average worker is easily distracted (people unlock their smartphones up to nine times every hour) and often overwhelmed, you must be able to offer digital learning that will really grab their attention.

2. Behavioural economics

Digital technology alone does not guarantee success. It needs to be allied with an understanding of how people learn.

Behavioural economics looks at the psychology of the decision-making behind an economic outcome; it attempts to understand why consumers do what they do.

Put yourselves in the learner’s shoes to establish what they need. Establishing a learning habit within an organisation is THE big challenge and employees are more likely to engage when they understand the benefit.

You also need to accept that modern professional learners like to make their own decisions.

As Dan Pink explains in his book, ‘Drive’:

Human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives. The opposite of autonomy is control. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.


So, think about how you can facilitate continuous learning among employees. Think about the behavioural characteristics of the individual — their habits, actions and intentions. Understand when and how learners are learning; when to create and when to curate.

The end goal is the same; helping individuals improve and develop, while demonstrating a business impact — the number one measure desired by CEOs.

3. Learning maniac

The most effective leaders are the most insatiable learners. If new learning strategies really are to provide solutions, you as a learning leader need to upskill and reskill yourself.

Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40, has presided over huge growth by building an organisation of ‘learning maniacs’. His favourite question to colleagues is:

“When’s the last time you did something for the first time?”

As Bill Taylor observes in the Harvard Business Review, ‘Leaders who are fit for the future are determined to keep learning as fast as the world is changing.’

Another important skill leaders need to master is learning to unlearn. This phrase was coined by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn. As industries change, so must you:

“To unlearn, you have to let go of what you thought was true,” Hoffman explains. “And to purge the core that made you successful is very hard to do. For example, if I tried to start a new consumer internet company, and I tried to do that the way that I started LinkedIn, I’d fail. The platforms that people are using, they’re all different. So you have to use a different set of techniques in order to do this. And that’s part of the learning and unlearning.”

Perhaps George Bernard Shaw summed it up most succinctly when he said

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

It’s the learning leaders who are driving the change in the world of digital learning, which is developing at a rapid rate.

Do not be a passive observer; adapt your skills so that you can embrace modern platforms, understand your employees’ needs, and understand what is required of you.

Then your teams will reap the rewards.

Angus McCarey is CEO of Hive Learning, the collaborative learning app for leaders, teams and organisations.

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