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Fosway Group are Europe’s #1 HR industry analyst and their 9-Grid™ for Learning Systems report 2021 has landed.

Why this report matters

Every year, Fosway analysts — with research lead by Fiona Leteney who has more than 20 years’ experience in the space — crunch over 600 pieces of data per vendor and spend hours speaking to them and digging deep into their solutions, as well as speaking to their customers, plus 100s of other buyers.


The result is their take on the learning systems landscape. And it’s one of the most thorough assessments of vendors in Europe (in fact we find them to be more rigorous than some of the leading analysts in the US too).


In our world at Hive Learning, we most often speak to CHROs, CDOs, and Heads of People, Organisational Development, Talent, and Diversity and Inclusion. Folks who are most often looking for solutions to problems around accelerating culture change in their organisations, and keeping up with behavioural skill-building. This is a challenge particularly present now the world of culture-building has moved from being fixed to fluid.


My point is that our customers are looking for solutions to problems, not necessarily which bits of tech have the fanciest features.


So while we don’t often think about the work we do as a pure technology play, we do find the Fosway 9-Grid™ helpful because as well as depth of feature set, its different zones also assess things like:

  • track record of customer advocacy
  • track record of delivering enterprise solutions with varying levels of complexity
  • whether vendors are a specialist (focusing on delivering a few outcomes really well) or a suite (focused on lots of different areas but not many in much depth) — especially important in a world where we think about our tech stacks as ecosystems


This year, we were excited to graduate from the Solid Performer zone to the Core Challenger zone, identifying us as a “mid performing solution with a strong core suite of solutions capability, strong customer advocacy and good performance in enterprise customers”.


And we were identified as a Specialist in the Collaborative Learning category. But that’s enough about us.


The other great thing about the Fosway 9-Grid™ is that the analysts get such a holistic view of the market, that they’re able to spot key trends shaping the way we think about learning and talent development.


Here’s a summary of the headlines we thought were most interesting.


Headlines on 2021’s key trends

We all need to focus more on outcomes

In 2020, like many analysts and a growing number of people leaders, Fosway rejected the term ‘Learning Experience Platform’ as marketing hype. Ultimately, experience isn’t really a differentiator. The trend started out as a call for better UX and UI in a world where many LMS’s weren’t that user friendly. But now, good UX (in most cases) comes as standard.


Instead, Fosway suggests we should all focus on understanding the type of learning experience people leaders need based on the outcomes they want to drive.


All of our customers are focused on changing very specific behaviours with very specific outcomes in mind — this is the foundation on which high performing learning programmes are built. So it makes sense for us to hold our tech to the same standards. And by that I mean that having a nice looking platform that’s easy to get around is important, but it doesn’t mean your people will necessarily learn what you need to just because you put them in it.


They might be more likely to engage on the first visit and give you great feedback about how much better it looks than its clunky grey predecessor, but most of your organisation — although well-intentioned — find it hard to keep up the motivation to learn… and a nice looking interface with a plug-in to Teams won’t solve that problem.


For me, it’s the equivalent to the fancy hotel with nice food at the annual two-day offsite, which lacks a strategically aligned agenda, purposeful action-orientated content and an ongoing engagement strategy to ensure impact. Great for people who love a filo wrapped canapė, not so great for business performance.


Getting into the flow of work is important but Teams fatigue is real


Fosway’s report shows 84% of L&D professionals think a Teams integration is important. And there’s no doubt that being able to surface learning in the flow of work and create a connected development experience is really valuable.


But we do need to be thoughtful about what those integrations do and how they help us solve other challenges that social tools present. Fosway calls out that tools like Teams are getting crowded and in some cases are impacting productivity negatively.


We love collaboration tools at Hive Learning. We are avid Slack users. And to use Slack’s own tagline, for us, it’s where work happens. It’s how we get our jobs done.


But one trend we’ve noticed emerging over the past year across our customers is that tools like Teams and Slack don’t scale past, well, teams. Meaning in some scenarios, they create more silos than they break. They aren’t often that useful for bringing large groups of dispersed teams together to collaborate because they are noisy, hard to search in, and so content is hard to revisit. Plus, it’s hard to get at the data on who is role-modelling that collaborative behaviour when, how, and how often.


What’s more, way back in 2017, Tsedal Neeley — Professor of Business Administration in the Organizational Behavior Unit at Harvard Business School, and Paul Leonardi — Professor of Technology Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, identified that learning that happens on social tools like Teams doesn’t stick.


Learning on social tools is at a remove, so people don’t think of it as such.


People use these tools to get the information they need to get the job done, move on, and forget it. So learning retention is low.


One of our customers in the financial services sector simultaneously tested their well-used collaboration tool alongside Hive Learning to see which performed best when it came to developing a stronger learning culture.


They chose a very similar audience and very similar content in an attempt to get as close to an A/B test as they could.


Fascinatingly, engagement was lower in their “flow of work collaboration tool”, the conversation was lower and less rich, and most importantly fewer users took action on what they’d seen. The most common reason why? Users said they were simply not in the right mindset whilst in the flow of work, and didn’t want to revisit the tool when they did have the right headspace for fear of being distracted.


In 2021, we are already seeing more organisations being thoughtful about how social tools fit in their ecosystem and what they can do to support learning. While recognising that they don’t solve the whole problem.


Strategic learning programmes are hard to get right, and in the current landscape there aren’t many options

In the past three years, we’ve delivered over 20,000 peer learning deployments and generated more than 22 million peer learning interactions.


In the past year, we’ve helped multiple customers deliver peer learning to cohorts making up more than 100,000 users.


And we can attest to the fact that it is hard. Before many of our customers joined us and in a pre-pandemic world, they were having to deliver upwards of 500 hours of face-to-face training — flying across countries and even the world to make it happen.


Today, Fosway calls out that to deliver awesome strategic learning programmes digitally, we need a combination of factors.

  • the learning itself – perhaps in a pathway format with a beginning, middle and end
  • different content formats or modalities
  • real opportunities for collaboration
  • capability for scaling cohorts

We couldn’t agree more. We’d also add smart nudges and some degree of automated and human community management are key, plus tactics and tools to harness the power of the cohort to self-drive and create accountability. On our programmes where these factors were activated, our customers saw 88% of learners take action on the specific outcomes they were trying to drive — and this was consistent at scale.


There are endless opportunities to make programmatic learning better, and in 2021 we’ll be focusing our roadmap on making it even easier and more effective to deploy peer learning experiences at scale globally.

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