The Latest – Talent Development Platforms

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Back in January (2021), I wrote about the Talent Development Platform market and how I identified what is a TDP, among other items.

In March (2021), I identified where the Corporate Learning System market is heading, including the identification of three groups that will define the segments.

Both of these items are mentioned because they not only dovetail into one another (Group two), but a trend is developing that shows that Group three will splinter, with some bouncing into Group Two, by Combo mode no less, and others not, albeit a chunk (not a majority) will add just enough to spin it, as a talent development platform or some angle around that.

The Talent Development Platform space is especially fluid, far more so, I have found time-wise, compared to other learning system segments of recent note, including LXPs.

Skill Platforms (those that identify themselves as) will definitely be Group two. That is very clear, but one component, that I initially didn’t see, to be honest, and transparent, was how combo (they play at least 50-50, employees to customers, although many tend to skew 60-40, 70-30 employees to customers), would go when it comes to a talent development platform. Especially those vendors who have very strong e-commerce capabilities, and multi-tenant aspects (customer education, B2B/B2C requires a multi-tenant, and capabilities and reporting data on them, are all over the place).

This added to a further question, would a vendor who goes 60-40 or 70-30 customers to employees (customers being the higher number) push more into being a TDP, then say an LMS or some other type of learning system (a learning platform, digital learning platform, learning suite, ecosystem are just a few).

What I see trend wise, indicates that my initial forecast that Talent Development Platforms will become by 2025, the #2 segment behind LMSs, is on track.

There is though, no doubt in my mind, that many LMSs will offer TDP feature sets, without going full TDP, sort of half and a half here. Thus, some analysts and others will point to the TDP market as #1 and the end of the LMS (a favorite among naysayers who say this yearly).

Talent Development Platforms – The Initial Four

In my initial assessment of what a TDP requires to have the initial four components (and this still holds true):

  • Learning as the core component – Not a bit here, some capabilities here, or a streamlined angle – Learning with all at least 85% of the learning environment and 85% administration functionality as part. To see these items, please view/download my learning systems template.
  • 3rd party content marketplace – Has to exist. At least five vendors, although more is better. Some vendors are going deep integration with say GO1, which has over 250 publishers on it, or they have a partnership with GO1, and again the mass number of publishers. Open Sesame is a favorite among vendors as well, and they too have 200 plus publishers. This is fee-based content/courses here in the marketplace. Others you will often see with vendors include Linkedin Learning, Biz Library, Udemy, and Coursera (which I am still trying to figure out why). Only one vendor BTW, that I am aware of, has a partnership with MasterClass. That vendor btw is in the talent development platform segment.
  • Skills mapping tied to job roles – Some refer to this as career mapping – but you know it is all nomenclature here.
  • Skills tied to job roles tied to opportunities – The platform offers opportunities – from an actual job within the company, to say a project manager role for a specific project. The end-user will see what skills they have in relation to what skills they need to have for this opportunity. A next capability – which not everyone in TDP has, but I believe will – is the ability to tap machine learning into the skills missing and produce content/courses for the learner to take/complete OR focus on a specific content chapter for example, without having to complete it – leveraging the full power of why web-based training and thus e-learning was created in the first place. If the learner has all the skills required for the opportunity or thinks they have enough, they can then click a button that might say “Apply”. Some vendors will use another term, but it means basically the same thing. The manager or whoever will view the learner applicant and if they see a fit, ‘approve’ for that person to go to the next step – whatever that might be, for consideration for that role.

This does not mean the system includes a recruiting capability per se (, I think crosses the line into trying to be light parts of a HCM). The better route is simply connect with your own HRIS or HCM and push/pull data that way.

That was the standard four, but two new components have popped up more than enough times, to say they must be included for the TDP segment.

  • Skills/Job Roles Library – This isn’t just the client adding their own skill dictionaries or skill whatever into the platform, this is via a third party whether fee-based or not (paid by the vendor, not you) that appears in the system (on the back-end). The administrator or you, or combo, can go thru and see all the skills available, and job roles, and even add their own/remove ones not relevant that they are going to use. In some instances, the removal is not doable, but the adding is pretty constant. This is for skills and job roles. After all, Chief Happy Clown is not a common job role you see, but maybe at your company, your boss is one! HA!

Vendors go lots of different ways when it comes to skills/job roles libraries (an industry term, that vendors may or may not use), and this feature appears across quite a few learning systems today, not just TDPs.

The two biggest 3rd party players for skills/job roles are EMSI and Burning Glass. They go deep integration via multiple APIs (for those who are curious tech-wise, but again it is already set up in your system – since that tech stuff is for the vendor). The data is constantly updated, and any redundancies are removed. EMSI for example has over 33,000 skills, the job roles (it is quite extensive number too), is data pulled from job postings from over 1,000 sites. I can’t recall Burning Glass’s numbers.

Vendors in some cases will also scrub Linkedin for data (skills/job roles), other job boards (always a risky endeavor, if they don’t know which ones to really tap into), ask clients to add their own (very common), come up with some competency model (common), and other sites that publish public data. There are a couple of vendors who acquired platforms/systems that already have large skill/job role data pieces, and then there a few who go IBM Talent Watson as their core.

Personally, I think the best fit are those who let a 3rd party entity, who does this every day and pulls the data every day, and thus has checks and balances set up, and have that go into the system/platform – via a series of APIs via deep integration. Then, allow clients to add/remove and that’s it.

Anyway, a TDP is going to have the above. There are vendors I should add who have EMSI say for skills and Burning Glass for job roles, although according to EMSI, the majority of their clients go with the full package of skills/job roles.

  • Strong Skill Management functionality – I refer to it as an entire category, but you can state it as strong skill capabilities

The list of all the skill capabilities is quite extensive, some of which are “future tech” – which means very little if any vendor has it today, but it will be there for plenty by the end of 2022.

View All Skill Capabilities – it is on a template, which you can use in any way you see fit, take a piece here or use it all.

Here are some key highlights that a TDP now must have

  • Ability to upload your own Skills Library (or skills categories)
  • System allows you to add/edit/delete skills within the system’s skill library
  • System comes with a built-in skills library
  • Future tech – AI in system can scan documents, courses, content, audio and video files and produce skill results (I should add, a vendor who is not a TDP, but a learning suite – Fuse, is launching this specific feature this Fall, 2021)
  • System can generate a playlist based on skill rating, skill level or any other skill related variable
  • Future tech – Learner can view “Coaching or Expert” list, and select individual(s) based on their expertise in a skill or skills
  • System comes with a video skills validation component with digital coaching and skill-based scenarios and role playing (There are vendors who have this today, ironically, none are TDPs)
  • TAGS- Administrator can create TAGS by Skills, Interest, Job Role, etc.
  • Administrator can create skills and skill taxonomies
  • Administrator dashboard shows information around skills – (Skill proficiency levels, top skills sought out by learners, Most Popular content tied to a skill or skills, Least popular skill or skills, least popular content by skill, skill comparison data) – One TDP already has this – okay most of it, but still!! – I think it is a must feature for not just the TDPs but any learning system. It could be AWESOME, not as AWESOME as Mr.Pibb (the soda), but very, very close.
  • Manager can see the skill(s) for each employee in their team/department
  • Built-in Skills Validation tool (Remember I prefer the term ‘validation’ over assessment)
  • Ability to add skills validation, prior to learner gaining access to content
  • Link to a career development framework and match skills, job level, and job role to available courses/content
  • Match a skill or a series of skills to a piece of content/a playlist
  • Identify by each learner, skills currently developing
  • The learner can self-validate themselves on a skill or skills
  • Manager can provide a skill-rating validation of an employee (who has completed their own skill validation rating)
  • The system identifies what each skill rating represents (1 to 5 scale)
  • The system provides proficiency details for each skill rating identified 1-5, thus someone who is 1 means they are proficient at only this and so forth
  • Curriculum/learning path can set by skills, interests, job roles matched to skill or skills
  • The system provides examples on how to develop your own skill taxonomy or assists you with building one (at no additional charge) – Some TDPs already do this.

What is now obvious and a change to the TDP framework

This was something that as noted way up at the beginning, I didn’t see. I admit I am not Nostradamus, but who is? Uh, besides him.

However, just like the sage of the past, I studied the stars, contacted the local wizard, and viewed the trend lines as many do, when reading palms – I am certain he did this when he wasn’t involved in Alchemy. Oh, wait that was Newton.

What I am seeing, what is coming to the TDPs are vendors who will have full e-commerce. Not everyone mind you, the majority won’t, but this little (okay not little) feature/functionality tapped into multi-tenant, will arrive in the TDP space. There is one TDP with complexity at the multi-tenant level already, and basic e-commerce (although my gut says they will go full tilt here), and that is Schoox. But from the TDP side of the house – the multi-tenant is already there (Degreed and Juno Journey each have that capability).

The group that will arrive into the TDP space, at a higher rate than what I initially saw are Combo systems, those employee/customer education systems. They will come. Not just like those who arrived for Field of Dreams (“They will come, Ray”), but everyone who isn’t a baseball fan (sorry movie reference).

I mention in all seriousness, the number of Combo systems that will bounce into TDP. This is because they will hit the 80% threshold for being a TDP, and then hit the 80% threshold of a system who is at least 30% customer education/B2B/B2C, and thus could even tap into the association market (that follows a B2B/B2C approach when it comes to learning/training).

There will be combo systems that do not call themselves a TDP, then there will be combo systems who call themselves a TDP or say they are a TDP as though it is a component, and yes, there will be those who stretch the truth, like you, as a child stretched a piece of gum.

However, there will be quite a few who will be Combo TDP. Today, TDPs are all about employees, but one already has seen the B2B/B2C side, and is moving in. Another will take those folks, but they still are more on employees (like 95-5) here.

What none of them see, are the combo systems as even a threat. Yes, they are seeing them when it comes to RFPs and competition, since many people are unaware those vendors are TDPs and thus quite different in many ways to an LMS, LXP, or some other type of learning system.

Make no mistake though, that these combos, the ones who really want to grab a greater customer base and are already pushing heavily into skills and job roles, will arrive. And because they are combo, they will have feature sets that the TDPs are lacking, simply because many today, those combos, are LMSs or some learning system that has the LMS standard functionality, but refuses to call themselves that.

Again, I stress that not every combo system today will go Combo TDP. But many, many will. I believe a chunk will go right up to the edge, spin the TDP angle – push heavy on skills and job roles – otherwise who will know – but stop short of saying Talent Development to their customers, with the exception via their website or some marketing.

Who is the first one likely to cross over?

EdCast XP. EdCast XP, for an additional fee, can go customer education here with something called Customer Academy and if you add “Career Mapping” an add-on today, you are now a Combo TDP. If you only add “Career Mapping” to EdCast XP, you are now a TDP.

I would like to see them just make the jump already, include “career mapping” as part of their system, and call themselves a talent development platform – again, this is for EdCast XP. Then if you want the true Combo TDP, add customer academy.

This is EdCast XP, not Spark.

One Final Note

The Talent Development Platform market is very fluid. Don’t be confused that a Talent Management system or Performance Management System is the same as a TDP. They are not. That would be like comparing a Model T-Ford to a Tesla, with the TM system, being the Model T.

Bottom Line.

The other day, as I pondered this new trend, a visitor to my property came out of nowhere, clearly expressing an interest in the topic.

Javalina recognizing the impact of Combo TDPs in the TDP segment

As they say, if a Javalina is interested.

So should you.

Because Combo TDPs are coming.

They will disrupt.

They will shake TDPs to add functionality they never even thought about.

Because their potential customers will.

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