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5 Reasons Why External Learners are Different than Employee Learners

Extended Enterprise Learners are different

Making somebody do something is different than making somebody want to do something.

Recently, I attended a prominent talent industry analyst webinar on a very surprising topic — integrated talent, performance and learning management.  I saw the same tired slides showing the lifecycle of an employee from recruiting through off-boarding. I heard all the same benefits I always hear about integrated performance management since all the big boys bought learning and performance technology companies.  Boring as all get out.

The thing that struck me most though was that I heard the word compel multiple times from the presenter.  Compel in the sense of make your employee users do something.  The tone of the presentation completely disregarded any empathy or thought about the employee.  My stomach hurt and I groaned morosely for 30 seconds every 30 seconds until the hour long session wrapped up.   I will never get that time back.

The word compel is my problem.  Our entire talent management industry is focused on forcing users to do something. There is very little “voluntary” about using any part of internal employee talent system. If you like your job and want to keep it, do what we say.  Compel has always been the big HCM suite customary approach and now it covers learning.

I have my theory on why this is.  Integrated human capital systems cost a lot, were sold on a thin, tough-to-measure business case and productivity must be measurable increased.  The HR organization is compelled to show a return on investment, the users are compelled to do what their told.  Maybe this is how it will always be for employee learners.  I feel like the LMS industry sold our soul a bit when we sold out to the global HR companies.

This is one of the main reasons I’ve gravitated to focus solely on extended enterprise learning technology solutions. At the the beginning of my career in ’97 as an instructional technologist, I lucked into some cool extended enterprise cbt projects and enjoyed the stark difference of approach and feel.  I’ve been engaged with extended enterprise projects on a content and enterprise LMS perspective ever since.    Extended enterprise learning technology solutions include corporate channel and customer learning, association learning, public sector learning, e-commerce learning and academic initiatives and in all types of solutions, users are mostly voluntary.  You can’t compel the users to come to your site, compel them to buy content, compel them to come back.  They want to come, to learn, to share, to buy — if you are doing it right.

Here are my Top 5 differences between external users and internal employees that drive a difference in approach and functionality:

  1. External learners only interact with the LMS if they feel it is worth their time, effort and money.  Internal learners interact when training is due.
  2. External learners frequently have to purchase content as individuals or as an organization.  Internal learners take assigned content.
  3. External learners have more than one source to go and purchase and interact with content.  Internal learners can go anywhere they want as long as it is the corporate LMS.
  4. External learners enter the LMS from every conceivable technology platform, bandwidth speed, mobile device and global location.  Internal learners are always known users, with known devices and known points of access and authentication.
  5. External learners do not hate taking content.  Internal learner’s content and LMS experience is usually worth hating.

All of the above reasons encourage external enterprise learning technology professionals to focus on attraction and retention of users. Every part of the experience from access, content consumption and interaction needs to be fun, modern and exciting.  It needs to be more inviting like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and E-bay and less LMS or integrated HCM.  Tools, virtually unknown in internal employee solutions, such as marketing automation, social media, gamification, mobile, e-commerce, taxation, search engine optimization, marketing, advertising are key concerns and competencies in our bag.

To succeed in extended enterprise learning, you have to have a passion for your own lifelong learning to bring out the passion in your audience.    If you don’t, you will fall behind and your users will vote you out and go elsewhere.  This goes for both the vendors and extended enterprise program owners.

This is the new 2014 face of extended enterprise learning.  One part learning, one part marketing, one part technology and whole lot of fun.

Thanks for reading!


Now Available:  LMS Almanac:  Corporate Edition

It’s here folks and it is good.  The LMS Almanac:  Corporate Edition 2016 will help LMS buyers cut through all the fluff in the industry and get a true view of what is going on.   Deep detail and statistics about the corporate LMS market trends, 75 vendor profiles, 100+ comparison graphics and charts, , learning, tech dictionary and more.   If you are looking for an LMS for your employees, channel partners or customers, this report is vital to helping you quickly qualify vendors and find the best for you.

Recorded Webinar — State of the 2016 LMS Market

Have you struggled to understand the 2016 LMS market and the hundreds of LMS options?  You are not alone.  LMS buyers and sellers globally are lost.  In the last two years, I reviewed 111 LMS vendors (and counting) after spending 13 years selling high-end LMSs.  Let me, John Leh, sort it all out for you.  With the evolution of cloud LMS providers, the market has shifted from behemoth generalists to nimble specialists.  Gone are the two oceans of academic and corporate LMSs, replaced by 675+ ponds of specialization.  There are LMSs for every industry, business need, organizational size and budget.

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John Leh
About John Leh (135 Articles)
John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, LLC. Named one of the Top 20 Global Elearning Movers and Shakers of 2017, John is a fiercely independent LMS selection consultant and blogger who helps organizations develop and implement technology strategies – primarily for the extended enterprise. John's advice is based on 20 years of industry experience, having served as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to more than 100 learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $65 million. He helps organizations define their business case, identify requirements, short-list vendors, write and manage RFPs and negotiate a great deal. You can connect with John on Twitter at @JohnLeh or on LinkedIn.

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