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World of Learning 2014: TZ meets Cheryl Clemons

1st Sep 2014
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We chat to Cheryl Clemons, CEO of LearnerLab, to find out about the importance of user experience when engaging learners and what she thinks will be the main challenges in workplace learning over the next year.

Tell us about your talk at World of Learning.

L&D and corporate learning has had a serious identity crisis over the last decade as it has had to catch up with the way the world is doing business. Fortunately, many teams have now regained a sense of self and are getting on with it, using digital and building positive meaningful relationships with their internal customers. Brand is a really important topic for forward-thinking L&D professionals as they aim to engage an increasingly tech-savvy and networked, time-poor audience with business-relevant solutions. 

Progressive corporates are focusing on their purpose and why they do what they do. They also understand that many customers are becoming more discerning and make purchasing decisions based on more than cost, convenience and quality. Trust, relationships, and making a difference are important. Progressive L&D brands need to do the same.

I’ll be talking about why brand is more important than ever to L&D but I’ll also be exploring and sharing strategies that can be used to build a strong brand narrative and create demand for learning using resources and stories around you, such as: understanding and communicating your brand values and vision, converting your learners into advocates, making success stories central to your brand strategy, and winning over business sponsors by demonstrating value.

Why do I think brand is particularly important to L&D now? There are several factors, including:

  • L&D brands are becoming more important as learning shifts from top-down courses to performance support resources and pull-based services. Brand is important to engagement in creating a relationship for ongoing demand.
  • More colleagues are using online resources to problem solve and support their work. As L&D teams enable or provide digital learning solutions they are competing with Google and social media, plus they can’t control exactly how support is received, so building context and credibility is not only important to brand but also providing impactful, usable solutions for colleagues.
  • More and more L&D teams have ‘building a learning culture’ as a priority or moving to a 70/20/10 model. In this context, a brand which gives people permission to share, to learn and collaborate, and speak to leaders and colleagues with a strong value proposition is critical.
  • Learning and marketing has been fusing for some time, and the shift from delivering training to enabling learning has put the onus on communications and L&D to become community managers.
  • There’s a need to cut through the noise. If you’ve got a strong brand and a ready audience you’re not building from scratch with every initiative or campaign.

How does user experience (UX) play a role in employee engagement when it comes to learning?

Learning is competing for attention - good UX makes it easier for audiences to engage and supports a positive brand experience. Across lots of different channels, consistent UX makes it easier for audiences to move between platforms to suit their own preferences. Consistent UX and digital experience allows users to focus on the purpose, the content and not the interface. Navigation becomes second nature allowing the brain to focus on learning. It's essential that audiences get clear direction and reward from learning on digital channels -this will be rewarded with attention and loyalty.

What are the challenges in workplace learning going to be in the next 12 months?

Many organisations are undergoing transformations and restructures. In many cases, one aspect of this transformation is enabling 70:20:10 and a learning culture. Effective communication is essential to show the value of this to individuals and business. There appears to be a rise in organisations taking learning in-house and managing assets as part of this process – one of the challenges will be ensuring implementation goes smoothly and meets the expectations of users. A range of digital, learning and marketing skillsets including UX, community management and audience research will be required to support success. There will be an ongoing debate about evaluation. How do we tell compelling corporate and employee success stories that increase engagement and continuous improvement? Insight is important and so is the narrative. There still seems to be a gap in bringing these components together.

What do you think the themes to come out of this year’s event will be?

  • That people are successfully implementing 70:20:10-based initiatives and learning is acknowledged more as part of workflow.
  • Social/informal. More examples and discussion about how the capital (as knowledge and network) of the audience can be used effectively in the learning (by sharing and collaborating) and in communications (by sharing and advocating).
  • Engagement is at risk of becoming an empty term through its ubiquity and generic nature, but it will continue to be top of everyone’s lists. As a result the engagement debate will mature with more focus on what organisations are trying to achieve through engagement with more case studies coming to the fore.
  • The importance of a learning culture isn’t going away, as the need for colleagues to adapt to market and customers increases, and enabling swift flows of knowledge and learning between people continues to be key.

Cheryl Clemons, CEO of LearnerLab, is speaking at the World of Learning Conference which takes place 30 September – 1 October at Birmingham's NEC.

Her session is as follows:

How strong is your L&D brand?

  • Five reasons why your L&D brand is more important than ever before
  • An anatomy of your L&D brand and how to judge its health
  • Strategies for building an L&D brand people can believe in
  • Engaging learners and other people who matter for the long term
  • Creating a consistent digital experience for your internal customers
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