Learning Insights: some initial reflections


If you’ve not yet read it, we’ve just launched our annual Learning Insights report. It seems it’s blowing a digital blizzard out there. But rather than battening down the hatches, let’s get out there and play.

A blizzard of my own

In the last year, I’ve been in my own kind of blizzard. One of nappies, wipes, Weetabix and, luckily, a fair amount of giggles. But now that my second child is a year old, I’ve returned to work. Wiping the cereal from my eyes, I’m excited to return to City & Guilds Kineo and find myself a bit reflective about my life in the L&D industry thus far.

As someone who started with the company when there were just seven of us, I could go on about how in the old days, a badge was just something you wore to support a band and get all nostalgic. But, actually, I’m all about getting excited for the future and where things are going.

I’ve timed my return well, as our annual report, Learning Insights, is out and very exciting. It reflects on the key changes and trends over the last 10 years, but most importantly, by talking with our clients, the report sets out their thoughts around where things are going in our industry, what the biggest game changers are, and what elephants are sitting in our rooms.

We asked our clients six core questions to gain their insights, and some strong themes shine through. If you’re yet to read it, there’s a central quote at the heart of the report.

'Trying to find the best thing for us, with all these new technologies and ideas coming at us and the sheer speed of it all, it’s like searching for true north in a digital blizzard.'

Rather than feeling chilled by the blizzard, it feels to me that we are in the midst of fantastic opportunities to overcoming the challenges we’re all being presented, which will lead to better and better design.  

What’s creating the digital blizzard?

Fundamentally, the rapidly changing face of technology and how it’s disrupting how business and learning takes place. It can be challenging for L&D teams to find or create a sense of order when performance support is becoming more and more a natural blend of formal and informal - where people are pic’n’ mixing from what’s available to them via Google, social forums or otherwise. How do you get your content to ring out amidst all that noise? How do you get it all to aim towards a common set of goals?

Then there’s the learning audiences. Whilst many are seeking out and taking control of their own performance support, others may feel bewildered. Even the keenest to improve may get lost in the bombardment of content.

In Learning Insights 2015, some of our clients share just how they are facing up to these kinds of challenges and trying something new. For some it’s about opening up to content curation models as well as mixing in resources with courses; for others it’s about focusing their L&D role on engaging learning audiences to use the available tools and resources well, and supporting the learner to make the most of it on their learning pathway. The role of many in L&D is perhaps about putting on a flak jacket and guiding and directing people through the blizzard to the relevant pit stops they need.

Why is it so exciting?

As a learning designer, I see all the opportunities available and can’t help but get excited. I love that these kinds of challenges make us lean (more) towards blended approaches that mash up internal and external, curated or created content, digital or not. I also love that learners have the ability to take a lot more control over what or how they learn, and that this is being respected. But to avoid getting people lost, and to ensure that L&D investments are put in the right places, design has to get more strategic and extra close to the business problems and the audience we want to help. We also need to design our content really well to ensure it not only stands out, but that the precious time we’re asking to be spent on it pays off. Four key reflections came to mind:

  1. Be human about a seemingly technological challenge
    Empathy still rules. This doesn’t mean creating learner profiles that take broad brush strokes and make assumptions, but really getting under the skin of individual’s needs and preferences. Engaging individuals makes them engage back. It pays off to chat, research and use analytics. Show you’re listening.

  2. Help filter and focus content
    Relevancy is king. Avoid content bamboozlement by filtering content for individuals to match their area of need. Enable them to filter for themselves too. 

  3. Be holistic and realistic
    Help join up the dots into meaningful experiences and journeys to avoid that blizzardy feeling. Consider how to pull content together so it supports a few big behavioural or performance changes rather than multiple disconnected objectives. Be realistic with how much you're expecting of your learners, and focus in. Align these big goals with those of the business.

  4. Simplify design and make sure it really hits the mark
    If you want good return on investment, keep learning time short but well spent. This doesn’t mean putting up a whole heap of random resources with a good search engine. Instead, apply UX design principles to ensure content and platforms are slick and sensible to use. This also requires creative bespoke design. Three minutes spent on a fantastic video-based experience or game may lead to more behaviour change than ten minutes of more ‘basic’ content. Go for high empathy, memorable experiences, from which you can link to other types of resource.

What stands out is that technology is an enabler in this scenario. So, if a digital blizzard is upon us, then I say, let’s get out and play.  

If you're not sure how to make the most of technology to support performance in your organisation, or want to take steps into trying some new approaches, then get in touch



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