Content – Change the Narrative

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It was finished. All I had to do was click publish, but then something happened. Dinner.

Afterwards, I started to question the post.  Too many times I find that when talking about content, 3rd party content providers, content driven strategies from learning system vendors (which is quite hot) and marketplaces place more of a general approach to buying and pushing it.

The Grocery Store

A few weeks back, I was standing in front of the butcher area and mentioned to the person standing in line as well, on how they never seem to put enough spice on the meat. Her response was that they needed to consider everyone.  It was a valid point and one that we all run into every day, regardless of the consumer product.

Some eateries give you the option of mild or spicy, but most give you what everyone gets – general for all, not specific to you.

Content (formally known as courses as the main stay) follow the same suit. If your learning system provider offers content, take a look at it.  What do you tend find? Leadership, Business Skills, Safety, Compliance-related, Software, Coaching and Software skills.

Now think of your target audience – whomever are your learners – what do you they want/need.  Not “need” from the standpoint of they need to have safety content because you are concerned that if they mess up, you might be sued, or that it is part of their job role – that is different and not what this post is really focusing on.

If you are running L&D, or Training or even HR and are required to be the lead for your learning system, content is often based on each of your own perspectives.  Perhaps you rope in other departments and seek their feedback, but they again, are looking at it from their perception of what folks really need.

If I am never going to be selected for leadership development, why then, would I ever take a piece of content in leadership development?  If the company sells FS related offerings, why would I ever want to take forklift safety?  

Personal and Professional Development

Any workplace study (and we are talking about going back for decades, and up to now) shows that the number one reason, people leave companies is the lack of personal and professional development. Sure, money is factor, respect, management, all exist and yes, it varies among people, but from a research standpoint, it is lack of personal and professional development.

How many of your employees do you send or did you send to training this past year? How many were given the opportunity to attend a conference, related to what they do or have an interest in?  How many of you, the folks running training, L&D, even HR attended a professional conference tied to your area?

How many had to plead to their bosses to go? Then to hear back, the budget isn’t there, too much work, and other nonsense? 

We all tend to push the notion that we want happy employees, productive employees, and well-trained employees, yet when the rubber hits the road, that goes right out the window.  But, all those items can be delivered via online learning. 

I won’t get into the whole value of WBT, because again, this isn’t what this post is about, but it is relevant from the standpoint of the foundation for buying 3rd party content, aka as off-the shelf or canned.

Brand Names

It is weird on how brand names from a content standpoint is a key driver in choosing who is going to be with that learning system vendor.  If the vendor has a content marketplace (most do not), they will strike partnership deals based on a multitude of factors, including yes, name recognition. 

Top name drivers are LinkedIn Learning, Harvard Business and recently Pluralsight (which is also learning technology too).   In my own experience in talking to vendors, especially in the LXP space, LinkedIn Learning is often the top seller when it comes to clients buying 3rd party content.  Even vendors who list 50,000 pieces of content (way too much) or 5,000 pieces, if they have a partnership deal in place with LinkedIn Learning, LL reigns supreme.

But does LinkedIn Learning really have the best content?  The highest quality? The most interactive and engaging? The newest tied to SaaS products people use every day?  I’d argue they do not. 

What they do have though is an extensive amount of content, covering a lot of different topics and a huge fan base.   And there is nothing wrong with that, but Linkedin Learning isn’t at least IMO, very interactive, unless clicking is considered interactive.

Harvard Business is you buying a brand name.   Some people are wowed by a name, such as Harvard.  I’m pretty confident that if you had Walla Walla Business as the content provider, folks wouldn’t be screaming to take it.  Nothing against WW, but it is not Harvard.   I’ve never found their content to be engaging, Harvard that is.

Skillsoft is another brand name. At one time, it was the biggest brand out there, and a vendor who bought up other well-known content providers such as NetG and ElementK.

Skillsoft’s content is a mixed bag. Some of it is quite good, some average, some, underwhelming. 

In fact, I’d argue that no 3rd party content provider out there, outputs 100% awesome.  It is across the board, depending on the topic. 

Actually, let me re-state that, because back  in the day, ElementK published Microsoft Office content that was highly engaging and interactive and IMO the best Office content I had ever seen.  I know, because I bought it for my employees, when I ran training at a couple of companies.

Today, there are other providers who publish outstanding Office focused content, which is interactive and engaging – in that it mimics what folks seen when they use that particular product.  What is rare to find though is content for Office365, which is the product someone tends to use at home. 

At the workplace it is totally driven by the employer, so yes, there are companies out there still thinking that older versions of Office is ideal, and that Windows XP, may make a comeback.

Myths about content

Micro-Learning, which again, has been around since the late 90’s, does not automatically mean great content.  Just means short, and again, everything is dependent on the learning retention of the individual, and the subject matter.   A video that is 2 minutes long, about safety with someone who is old enough to be your grandfather on it, isn’t going to cause anyone to retain, let along synthesize that information. 

Micro doesn’t mean good.  It just means short and even then, I’ve seen vendors pitch micro, but the entire course adds up to more than three minutes.  They counter that, by saying that it has sub-sections, which most of us, would refer to as chapters, which in their angle is short. 

Check out that audience in the content

I still get a chuckle on all that content that shows an office where everyone is wearing a suit.  Look around your workplace.  How many people are wearing a suit?  Even in FS, in the summer, they often have casual.

Sure, if you are IBM and a time warp has returned you to the seventies, suits rule.  Black ones, with a starch white shirt and a tie.  Sweet.

People in safety courses often are wearing hardhats and safety googles.  How often do you see that when someone is using a lift to get items down in a warehouse?  Or using that forklift in a warehouse? 

I’ve seen content where the person is wearing casual clothing, but the computer on the desk is outdated and people are sitting behind high quality desks.  What happened to cubes, which are still used more than someone sitting behind mahogany.

Leadership content tends to push the narrative of being serious. What you can’t have a personality?  Who wants a boss who never smiles and comes across as being a jerk? (Don’t answer if you say – your boss)

How many Leadership courses have you seen, where the leader is a woman?  In my research, I’ve seen a few, but it is heavily skewed men.  Or how many pieces of content, videos and courses themselves, where someone under 35 is the boss, and the employees are across the board in age?

Why does it seem that if you are young that everyone around you has to be young too?  What is this a theme park?

How many leadership courses do you see the boss who is a minority? 

When it comes to business skills the content I have seen that displays people tends to skew heavily towards white males.  

In my research on gender in the workplace, it was hard to find content that was female specific in management.  One vendor who offered it is Skillsoft, and they had one course. 

Who are you?

I’m referring to the employee here.  What skills are they interested in?  I’m not referring to their job role here, I’m referring to them as a person.

It is hard to find foreign language content that is available in a vendor marketplace for content.  One vendor I know told me that they didn’t see it as a big need, because they never get inquires about it and is it something folks really want?

My retort was look at how many people are taking foreign language content on their mobile devices. 

Duolingo. Babbell. Rosetta Stone are just three, and there a way more than that.  Learning a foreign language is a popular subject for folks to take online.  If anything was made for online learning, that is interactive, it is a foreign language, most of it in the app form using gamification.

Rosetta Stone has recently jumped into the partnership resell channel with some vendors, but in my experience, there is a hubris mentality with them.  Only some vendors get this opportunity.   I never understood this approach.  I thought they goal was to make money. My bad.

Who else is out there? GoFluent is one, they focus on business with their foreign language offerings, rather than general per se.

And how many times do you see them in a marketplace?  It is rarer then the steak you ordered last night.

Microsoft Office is hugely popular with consumers, who uh, make up your employee audience.  Just because you do not have Office365 at your workplace, doesn’t mean they are not using it at home. 

Why are you then not offering it to them in your catalog on your learning system?  If you are using Slack in the workplace, where is it on your learning system?  There are content providers such as Intellezy that offers it. 

G-mail is another one.  Do you offer it in your content marketplace (talking to you vendor)?  And if yes, do you – the client – purchase it for your learners?  A lot of people use it. 

Non-business skills content – how many vendors offer that?  Do you think people are only interested in learning business skills? Is that going to drive people back into your learning system and the content itself, over and over again?

If you offer vertical driven content, i.e. you are in FS, and thus the content is only FS, do you think people are robots? Do you think they might have an interest in another topic that is not FS related? 

When you leave the workplace and go home and watch TV, are you only watching CNBC, Fox Business or other business related channels?  Is your only reading the Financial Times?  Or do you like learning other subjects as well?

If you said yes, they why are you not offering the same opportunities to your employees as well?

Bottom Line

People are different. 

They have different interests. 

Not everyone is the same.

We know personal and professional development is essential, and data backs up that it leads to more productive and happy employees.

So, why are we still focused only on the job role or on subjects we – the folks selecting the content for our employees – think they are interested in?

Because often

they aren’t.

E-Learning 24/7










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