The employee value proposition is a concept that according to Forbes ‘has been kicking around since the late 1990s’ as a key piece of the ordinance in what was then being called ‘the war for talent’.
Organizations were urged to focus on everything that might help them to attract and retain talent – including not only pay, benefits and working environment, but also career development and training opportunities.
Opportunities to develop skills and progress in their careers have scored highly in surveys over the years among the non-financial benefits that really matter to employees. Clearly, the learner experience forms an important part of the employee value proposition (EVP).
Two decades on, hostilities would seem not to have ceased in the talent war, with Gartner asserting that ‘hyper-competition in the labor market demands a strong EVP’. It is possible that the hyper-competition of which Gartner speaks has been an artifact of the low unemployment figures developed economies have experienced in recent years. In the middle of a global pandemic that is producing record jobless figures (as we are at the time of writing), it might be argued that the intensity of this competition for staff will decrease somewhat in the short to medium term.
However, the skills gaps that provoked the talent war were always in highly specific areas and driven by large-scale technological shifts in the nature of business and society that are not going away any time soon. So whatever happens in the wider economy, the need to provide a compelling value proposition that will help an organization attract and retain the specialized talents it needs most looks like it’s here to stay. And learning and development opportunities will continue to form an integral part of the package.
Why experience is everything
There are problems, however, with the way that many organizations have gone about their EVP programs. EVP has been described as a copy-and-paste from customer value proposition, which comes out of marketing and perhaps places too much emphasis on comms. It’s all very well messaging to your employees about how tirelessly their organization is working to provide them with great employee experience, but if their actual day-to-day experience at work is something less than great, you could have a dangerous credibility gap on your hands.
Meanwhile, social media and sites such as Glassdoor.com now give much more transparency (if you’ll forgive the pun) to the employee experience at a given firm.
It’s not enough just to tell people they are enjoying a great employee experience: they have to feel the value. In a world where only 12% of employees put much trust in what their employers say about themselves, what you say is therefore far less important than what you do. Experience is everything. And the learner experience, as we have seen, is a key part of that employee experience.
So how do you ensure that the learner experience plays its part in making your organization a great place to work?
A new, experience-based approach to learning
Fortuitously, trends in L&D have been moving in a very helpful way for EVP.
The first wave of digital transformation in learning from the 1990s onwards focused largely on automating the administrative functions of training and on finding ways to author, deliver and track digital learning content. But learning is a much more diverse and complex beast than that. If learning was truly to be transformed (not just changed) with the help of digital, we needed to think about much more than just content.
Interest soon began to grow in more learner-centered ways of using technology to support learning, and we saw the growth of learning experience design as a new practice area.
When we at Learning Pool recently began to research the whole area of learning experience for our white paper: Experience: Theory, Design and Supporting Technologies for an experience-based Learning Culture we quickly realized that it operated on three distinct levels, with the most granular being design of individual learning experiences (e.g. a workshop, a video or a coaching session) and the top-level referring to the learner’s overall experience of learning within their organization. It is at this macro level that we have been able to describe how an experience-based approach can help to nurture a learning culture, with a positive impact on EVP.
Five ways that learner experience impacts on EVP
The core of L&D’s ability to impact EVP lies in what it can make available to the individual, and how it communicates what is expected of that individual when it comes to learning. Our white paper goes into detail about this subject, but here are five key ways in which an experience-based approach, using technology such as Learning Pool’s LXP, Stream, and modern design approaches, impact EVP.
While training traditionally took place in cohorts, digital technology and AI now enable a far higher degree of personalization in learning. The individual’s ability, preferences and prior knowledge can all be catered for, enabling more efficient use of training time and a greater ability for learners to focus on their individual career development goals.
It is not just people who are handling the personalization chores. In fact, the personalization now required and even expected within learning systems would be impossible without the help of artificial intelligence (AI). AI-driven recommendations, search and bots allow LXPs to take the friction out of the discovery of experiences and help the learner to know easily what her next step is.
This also allows for greater individual choice in what is learned – where that is felt appropriate.
In this regard, it should be understood that there are two distinct types of personalization: personalization for the learner and personalization by the learner. The degree to which systems favor one or other of these two types is reflective of the amount of direction desired.
Personalization delivers more autonomy and independence to learners, which research shows are much desired by employees, who have exhibited an increasing tendency to want more control over what and how they learn.
In practice, a completely unstructured provision of learning is not likely to be that effective, and most organizations will want to give learners at least a degree of support and direction.
The culture of the organization in question will be an important factor in deciding the amount of structure to be provided.
The LXP offers a great deal of flexibility in the ways that learning experiences can be organized and served to the learner – in patterns that can vary widely from one program to another. For example, a program could combine mandatory experiences and resources that have to be accessed in a pre-ordained sequence, with elective ones, which the learner can choose or ignore as they see fit.
Learning in workflow
This greater flexibility and learner-centered approach also allows learning to take place within workflow, providing an at-need provision for performance support. Through the use of learnbots and integration with popular comms environment such as Slack, Teams or Salesforce, learning becomes accessible within the context of daily work, supporting and empowering employees.
This capability is a valuable service offered to employees that enhances the EVP.
The needs of the individual intersect with those of the organization in the EVP, with skills forming the nexus of that connection.
For the individual this means the skills they might need for a given career path, to join a multifunctional team, or just to improve in their role.
For the organization, it might mean the future skills the organization needs to underpin its future success, to fight off competition or to transform itself. An LXP such as Learning Pool’s Stream allows these two views of skills development to be harmonized and aligned.
Another important enabling technology that sits alongside (and sometimes inside) the LXP is the learning record store (LRS) powered by the reporting standard xAPI.
Together they make possible the describing of learning experiences – content-based and non-content-based, online and offline – in a common language. This enables analysis and reporting on a much fuller range of learning activities, and the recognition of a lot of learning that is not necessarily formal in character, some of which might not previously have been thought of as learning within certain organizations. They also allow this data to be combined with performance and other data – linking training to organizational impact in a dynamic way.
Employees benefit from having their learning activities recognized and seeing its results in improved performance, a positive feedback loop that makes them more effective learners – and more successful employees.
If you would like to read more about how the learner experience can be improved with positive impacts on learning culture and EVP get the white paper now.
Anna is a highly experienced digital education and training specialist, working in education and training product development and management for the past 10 years.
Having worked as a senior leader in large education companies, Anna has lead teams developing and managing a wide range of learning products reaching hundreds of thousands of learners.
Outside of work, Anna volunteers as a Beaver leader for the Scouts.