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ATD Blog

3 Must-Haves of Modern Learning

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

In my recent post, Moving Modern Learning Beyond Buzzwords, I discussed the latest buzzwords, like agile, embedded, micro, and so on. And while chasing trends may be fun and interesting, what we’re really striving for as L&D professionals is achieving results.

Indeed, we want prove that our efforts are driving outcomes like improved employee performance, consistent customer success, a more energized culture, and reduced risks for the company. We want to know that our programs are aligned with and positively affecting the goals of the business. In fact, the 2018 HCM Outlook by Brandon Hall Group cites that 76 percent of companies see aligning the learning strategy with the business is an important or critical priority for achieving business goals. That’s what modern learning is all about.

I recently co-hosted a webinar with ATD on this very subject. (If you’d like to hear my full spiel, please check out the recording of The Down and Dirty Realities of Modern Learning: Beyond Buzzwords.) In this post, I’d like to continue on this topic, but take it in a slightly different direction and examine three critical characteristics of modern learning.

Regardless of what types of learning experiences you develop and deliver, which LMS you use, and the devices your learners prefer, there are a few common threads you should weave through your program to truly call it “modern”—and more importantly, meet the needs of today’s workforce.


Granted, most organizations (Litmos included) have been talking about continuous learning for quite some time. However, delivering on the promise of ongoing learning is more attainable than ever because we now have the technology to make it possible—and possibly even easy. We can integrate the LMS with other platforms to interlace learning into people’s day-to-day workflows. Training no longer requires breaking away from your “real focus” to develop an isolated skill; it can be experienced within the parameters of your job function, while still expanding your expertise in that very function.


Continuous learning is simply a sign of the times. Technology has pushed the pace of business to unprecedented speeds. Professionals in any role and in any industry can attest to needing to know more new things faster. If we don’t continuously learn, our skills become stale (or worse, obsolete) at a rate that I doubt our grandparents could even imagine. Further, when we stop learning our motivation tanks and we either quit and stay, or look for new opportunities elsewhere. It’s our job as L&D experts to help keep our teams equipped to meet these changing requirements and to prepare people for ongoing success.


A variety of technologies now make it easier to offer engaging off-the-shelf content. Why reinvent the wheel developing courses on common topics like compliance, customer service, sales, leadership, to name a few? You can purchase excellent, professionally developed, video-based content that covers all of your bases without wasting a second attempting to animate a single graphic.


What’s more, using prebuilt content frees you up to work on the proprietary needs. Inevitably, every organization will have some amount of company-specific training that must be created in-house. The key point, however, is that a modern learning culture should shift the balance away from creating and more toward curating. There’s so much great training material available; it’s putting yourself and your learners at a disadvantage to try to shoulder the entire content burden without third-party help.


While traditional L&D models pushed courses to people and required them to be completed within an assigned timeframe, today’s learners are taking control of their own development. They’re actually reaching out for new information on a daily basis. A recent ADP study showed that 65 percent of employees report wanting as much training as possible to help them achieve their career goals. But they’re not sitting back patiently waiting for the next training to arrive. No, they’re actively seeking it.

We’ve all become accustomed to (and quite enamored with) a “search engine” mindset. When we want answers, we want them now. There’s no turning back on this reality. L&D departments must throw out old ideas about only making information available as it’s ready to be pushed. The new norm is to provide access to a rich library of on-demand content.

About the Author

Mike Martin is chief learning officer for Litmos by CallidusCloud. Over the past 20 years, Mike has lived many exciting professional lives, from facilitating team building programs and ropes courses in the woods, to authoring distance-based instructional resources online. He has been a full-time instructional designer, LMS manager, eLearning developer, corporate trainer and consultant, professional speaker, outdoor educator, and built and run training departments for billion dollar companies. Mike is an innovative and energetic leader dedicated to helping people excel, and prides himself on his ability to motivate and inspire those around him.

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