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At first glance, learning models for employees in the workplace compared to children in elementary school may seem very different. Not so, says Dmitri Krakovsky, Senior Vice President of Global Product Management at SAP/SuccessFactors. In an interview during a recent broadcast of the video series, “Firing Line with Bill Kutik,” Krakovsky shared how his experience addressing his two young sons’ learning challenges inspired his approach to designing Learning Management Systems (LMS) software. The series is hosted by Bill Kutik, who is also a Human Resources (HR) Technology Columnist for Human Resource Executive magazine. Krakovsky actually took a leave of absence to navigate his children to the school most responsive to their unique learning requirements, ultimately improving one of his son’s reading ability fourfold.

“[Teachers] were using individualized approaches that play to each child’s strength, using multi-sensory learning mechanisms,” said Krakovsky. “Enterprise education has a similar one-size-fits-all approach where you have to fit in, and many people don’t. A lot of the things I built in our product, I drew the inspiration for what I observed in these schools that they did differently.”

Josh Bersin, Partner and Founder at Bersin by Deloitte, isn’t surprised by Krakovsky’s story. Companies invest more than $3 billion a year in learning management systems with good reason. Research shows organizations providing career growth, learning, and developmental assignments far outperform their peers in employee engagement, retention and customer satisfaction. Bersin told me that great companies use a variety of learning tools in an integrated way to provide opportunities for career growth, letting employees explore and use the modes that they like best

“Everyone learns in a different way - some of us read, some listen, and some like to talk and collaborate more. Corporate learning programs have to adapt to all types of learning styles, and include formal, informal, social, and experiential learning - including meeting experts, having time to reflect, and games to test your learning,” said Bersin.

According to Cushing Anderson, Vice President of Project-based Research at IDC, the goal should be less about accommodating learning preferences and more about offering material in a wide enough variety of ways to connect with employees. The issue is not about learning preference or style, but rather what’s most effective. “We all can absorb information in a variety of ways. Companies need to package and distribute content based on the amount, complexity and type of content. It isn’t a salad bar where anyone can select whatever they want. It’s up to the company to share content in the way it’s most likely people will understand it.”

21st Century Learning Metrics

Of course corporate learning requires a different kind of metric than school-age curriculum. Paul Belliveau, Academic Chair/Human Capital Management Advisor at HRPMO, said companies need proof points for the value of the LMS as it helps establish the worth of employees. He’s a strong believer in an integrated learning solution set that plays nicely with all the other HR feeds like workforce planning, employee goals, performance, development and career planning. HR can increase the visibility of learning as an incredible asset, provided there’s solid evidence it’s delivering results the business cares about.

“Learning systems should have a thread so you’re able to progress through various parts to get what you want, when you need it,” said Belliveau. “You need analytics that prove the value of the system through learning that realizes the potential of employees. Especially with this next generation of millennials, engagement has to be intertwined with learning, keeping the assets -- meaning employees -- in the company so there can be an ROI.”

Aligning employees with corporate goals

Anderson agreed corporate learning has the capacity to make employees feel more engaged by aligning skill development with overall organizational expectations and objectives. “Using an LMS, companies can foster a direct direction between the mission and providing the competencies employees need to help achieve it. For example, if mission is to create good customer service for everyone, the company says we’d love it if you guys all got on board with that, and we’re going to help you become that customer service expert with this development program,” he said.

Real-life experiences are integral to consumer software development. Now it’s clear workplace innovations have plenty to learn from the daily personal lives of everyone, including our youngest future employees.

Follow me @smgaler

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