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6 Things Not to do when Selecting Learning Technology

Learning technology is a confusing space, with thousands of vendors and unhelpful jargon. For those looking to navigate this market and select the right learning technology for their organisation it is easy to make mistakes which can cost your time, money, heartache and ultimately lead to the failure of your project.

Across our combined 35 years in-house experience of buying learning tech and other HR services and technology, the team at The Learning Effect have identified some common mistakes. In our work with clients, we see how easy it is to fall into these traps.

1. Copying Others

Now this is one that people find strange as often they want to emulate or mirror the success of others. However, we have seen time and time again Company A try to replicate the success of Company B by buying the same technology or following the same plan. Unfortunately, this rarely works as the context in which you are working is likely to be very different. Company A and B might both be in the same industry and this makes it easy for Tech sales teams to try to show you the success you could have. The point this will miss is the company context i.e., the culture, resources, approach to learning, budget, infrastructure. These aspects will have a far higher impact on success than industry fit.

2. Forget to Involve your Stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement is key for any project to succeed and getting the right level of engagement can be a difficult balance to strike. The worst thing you can do is not involve stakeholders early enough. We have seen lots of projects derail where a critical stakeholder has not been engaged or chosen not to engage until later in a project. At the other end of the spectrum involving stakeholders without a clear plan and approach can lead to your project being hijacked. A common example of this is where an IT, procurement or finance team might push their agendas and you end up with a suboptimal system which works for It or is perceived to be cheap but does not deliver what the business really needs. This is not to say there is any mal intent from these departments, it can just be that they do not fully understand the importance of what you are looking to achieve. Involving them early getting them to buy-in and shape your vision can be an excellent way of setting up success.

3. Move your existing offer to your learning system

There are many different approaches to using technology to enhance learning and business performance. Those approaches which work the best are those whereby the team step back and try to understand what it is they are trying to achieve and then work to understand how digital can support of enable this.

A quick and easy way to move along is to take what has existed in person and move this directly online. Or a similar issue is to flip was you have done in your old system over into your new system. This was particularly evident in 2020 as lots of businesses lost the option to safely provide face to face learning and workshops. Organisations in some cases moved classroom sessions onto Zoom or converted PowerPoint decks into e-learning. Whilst this can be seen as quick and easy, the results and impact are likely to be suboptimal.

4. Design for Others

It is critical to remember that the people who are most important in making your system a success are your learners. You need to think about why and how they will use your technology. Think about their experience and what will motivate them to engage with your learning technology. When doing this engage these people in your process. Don’t fall into the trap of designing for what you think others may want or need. One challenge we see is teams who may choose to develop for “millennials” or “Gen Z” without really engaging with these groups.

5. Try to have something for everyone

One of the common questions when launching a new platform is how can I make sure there is enough content? How will there be something for everyone?

A quick solution to this can be to plug in off the shelf content libraries or tools which automatically curate content into your system. Whilst these will quickly fill up your system and even keep it looking up to date and fresh every time a user logs in, it often masks the core question of what is the system there to do, and how will this become value adding to your people. Off the shelf content can end up overwhelming your people, leaving them not knowing where to start or putting in front of them content which is not aligned to their context or pitched at the wrong level.

A better approach can be to start small and focus on the business problem your people and facing and deliver content and approaches which are targeted to them.

6. Chase Vanity Metrics

Many companies have a learning system where their people only visit when they have to or are forced to. So, in comparison a system where user log in daily can appear to be a tantalising prospect.

We have seen this expectation become a real challenge for many projects. This happens because those in the project want it to be successful and an early measure of success in engagement, but not every usage or business case will require this level of engagement so a false expectation can be set. This in turn can drive a team to focus on engagement rather than the real business outputs they should be focussing on. If a Vendor is leading their sales pitch with engagement figures try to get past these to see how they have worked with customers to create ongoing value to their customers.

Have the courage to understand what your goals are and set your goals and metrics in line with these.

Written by James Poletyllo, Founding Director of the Learning Effect

The Learning Effect exists to help businesses enhance their performance through their approach to learning. Our wealth of in-house experience combined with our knowledge of the learning tech market and results driven approach make us your go to partner if you are looking to review and change your approach to your learning strategy, the structure and skills of your learning team or your learning technology get in touch.

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