Day 1 for a new employee typically means live onboarding training, which too often also means information overload for the new employee, who is still learning co-workers’ names and other workplace basics. It’s challenging to also retain that flood of critical information.

Even worse, new employees are often sent to their desks and asked to log into a traditional learning management system (LMS) and click “next … next … next” until they have completed all of their required modules. They may not have a frame of reference for what they’re reading, but they are determined to push through and finish the training as quickly as possible.

At the end of onboarding, instead of feeling empowered with knowledge, employees are often simply relieved that they can check one more item off their to-do list. Sometimes, sadly, training is more about covering the content than it is about actual learning. Unfortunately, this approach is not the way to engage a new employee — or a current one.

Thankfully, times are changing. Technologies, training needs and employee expectations have evolved, and the old ways of learning are no longer effective. Traditional LMS solutions may have met organizations’ needs for reporting on the fact that employees had been “trained” in particular topics, but consider this: Eighty percent of the global workforce is deskless, which makes on-the-go learning mandatory. While technology can support mobile education, not all LMSs have evolved to help employees access educational content wherever they are.

At the same time, evolving technology increases the need for continuous upskilling, which means employees require more training that is immediately applicable. However, on-the-job learning programs are not meeting the needs of the workforce. Employees want to learn and expect their companies to help them do so. In fact, in a 2018 Docebo survey, 48% of millennials said they would quit their jobs if they did not have opportunities to learn and develop, but in a 2019 survey by Intrepid by VitalSource, only 27% of respondents said the training they receive is meaningful and useful.

When done well, learning and development (L&D) not only helps prepare employees for present and future positions, but it can also be a powerful recruiting and engagement tool. LinkedIn Learning research has found that 94% of employees would stay at their company longer if they invested in their learning and development. Employees want to learn, and employers need them to develop critical skills. When this growth and engagement takes place, employees become more productive, with skills that ultimately help the company’s bottom line.

Given this long-standing need for learning, as well as the arrival of a new generation of learners with new expectations, we must take a fresh look at how to enable effective learning programs.

Leading the (r)Evolution: A New Breed of Modern Learning Platforms for Modern Learners

Today’s learners prefer and, in turn, perform better in environments that take a more modern approach to learning — including having ongoing access to effective learning platforms.

Remember those new employees sitting at their desks with traditional LMS training? Imagine that they could access the learning platform, find what they need, learn it and apply it immediately to their job. Imagine if they could go through simple learning pathways on a mobile device, on an as-needed basis, or while shoulder-to-shoulder with their manager or peers. Imagine that they could do so in a way that showed them what content was available now and, more importantly, what content would continue to be available to them via a quick search in their moment of need. Imagine if you could ensure that the content and knowledge that differentiates your company from your competition were available to your employees, anywhere, anytime and on any device. Achieving this vision is the goal of modern learning.

Now is not the first time learning technology has evolved. In his article “Learning Technology Evolves: Integrated Platforms Are Arriving,” Josh Bersin describes how LMS solutions became stale, ushering in the next generation of continuous learning and microlearning. But with the plethora of technology solutions now available, it is imperative to integrate vendors into a vertical technology stack — one that provides an end-to-end learning experience.

Here are six ways modern (and, as Bersin points out, more integrated) learning platforms can help organizations in the next evolution in learning:

1. Connect the Most Important Dots

Any L&D manager knows that it is tough to sift through the vendors in this space. According to Bersin, with 200 LMS vendors, 30 learning experience platform (LXP) vendors and thousands of independent vendors, companies often have over 20 different learning-related solutions. This approach is expensive and creates duplications and inefficiencies. New platforms are emerging that flawlessly connect some of the most important dots in the learning ecosystem, like modern content authoring, simplified learning management and an intuitive mobile-friendly user experience, in ways that can help drive business results.

2. Move at the Speed of Business

As the pace of business increases, employees — whether new to the company or new to the job — need to learn faster so they contribute sooner. They also must be empowered to learn when and how they want. A study by CEB (now Gartner) found that 57% of employees expect just-in-time learning. Being able to search for information, and having it be immediately applicable, is key.

With all of their learning resources in one place, employees and L&D administrators can weave together the best collection of knowledge from all available sources, providing variety and relevancy. The process of identifying and completing a lesson is easier and faster, enabling the employee to put their new knowledge or skill to work immediately.

3. Offer Solutions That Match How People Learn

Employees are trying to fit in learning when and where they can, so training must be concise and relevant. Employees also need options that match their different learning preferences. For example, in 2018 research by TechSmith, more than 64% of millennials said they process information more quickly when it is presented visually. And we all learn best when the content we are navigating is presented in a way that is intuitive and consistent, instead of as the output of an endless list of content creation tools.

Modern learning platforms bring learning to the learner, allowing employees to direct how they receive information in real time and in the flow of work. They also ensure that the content is on brand, consistent, interactive, engaging and always in the right hands.

4. Engage the Multi-generational Workforce in Learning, and Match Employees’ Expectations as Consumers

With more generations now in the workplace, learning solutions that don’t look and feel like how we learn in our “5 to 9” off hours will not be acceptable in our 9 to 5 work hours. Employees are used to accessing information on demand by clicking on a YouTube video, searching Google or asking Alexa. They expect their work applications and user experience at the office to be similar.

Modern learning platforms offer an unheralded simplicity that reduces friction and makes learning more enjoyable — and likely to occur. A streamlined platform makes it easy for employees to identify the learning options that work best for them, increasing the likelihood that the information will be relevant and useful.

5. Improve Learning for Mobile and Distributed Workers

Although many LMS applications offer mobile learning, most vendors have not approached it from a mobile-first perspective. As a result, deskless and mobile employees suffer. Even if the LMS is functional, the mobile-unfriendly content in it likely isn’t. A mobile-first integrated learning platform provides a frictionless way for deskless employees to learn wherever they are.

6. Attract, Engage and Retain Employees

With a historically tight labor market, workers are looking at more than salary to make a difference in their employment choices. Gallup’s report that 85% of employees are not actively engaged at work emphasizes the importance of a culture of learning. Self-directed opportunities to learn, both for job-specific tasks and for career growth, come together on an integrated learning platform, offering employees the paths and pacing they desire.

According to Deloitte, people rate the opportunity to learn as a top reason for taking a job. That fact is not likely to change, and neither is employees’ need for professional development or a company’s need for employees to gain new skills as technology advances. We will always need to learn. Making sure that the process is useful is critical.

Integrated modern learning platforms will become increasingly visible in the coming years. Organizations that want to be at the forefront of the next generation of employee development should keep a close eye on this space.