Blog Post

Driving Business Outcomes and Value Using Modern Learning Ecosystems

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018

This post was motivated primarily by two ATD videos and my own experiences as a L&D professional trying to "walk the talk" in an industry fraught with old paradigms and culture. The two ATD videos are Dr Tamar Elkeles' The Chief Talent Officer: The Evolving Role of the CLO; and Tim Chudy and Sarah Danzl's video, RFPs for a Modern Learning Ecosystem. I commend them both for your viewing and knowledge acquisition. 


Is the LMS Dead or Not? 


Essentially, Dr. Tamar Elkeles, asks us is the LMS dead and outdated or do we just have to rethink our acquisition framework when it comes to the LMS? For those who just want the quick answer-- according to Chudy and Danzl, no, it's LMS "AND NOT OR".


Dr   Elkeles   she lays out a well articulated vision for the CTO that covers everything from the central job of attracting, developing and retaining talent to Talent Risk Assessments and Outcomes and preparing for jobs that don't exist yet. 


Active engagement and pursuit of learning is required to help build a sustainable business


While the CTO video speaks to active engagement and the pursuit of learning as key to building a sustainable business, the RFP video paints a modern picture that speaks to learning ecosystems or how people actually learn as the framework for an organization's modern L&D and business drivers.


In the course of laying out this pursuit, it was suggested that the LMS as it is currently being employed, may be past its time as this is not how people actually learn and that mobile learning may be one answer to this. Chudy and Danzl, suggest, however, that it depends-- but that there must be an entire ecosystem of learning if we are to drive business outcomes; e.g., Apps, mobile learning, searches, videos, MOOCs, coaching mentoring, online courses-- to name a few. How people actually learn and not just what the business wants (e.g., compliance and function) as only about 21% are using the LMS anyway. 


It’s a Digital Jungle and uncertain World out there


The Dr. Elkeles, rightly points out that it's a fast paced digital jungle and uncertain world out there and being prepared for that uncertainty, and as we all know-- the only thing that is constant is change and uncertainty. We need every edge we can get to stay relevant and sustainable as both individuals and as a business. A mentor of mine once told me, “...stay current and you’ll always have a job”! I think that's really what they both are saying, stay current, continuous assessment, anticipate, respect the learner, etc. Chudy and Danzl, suggests that we must "move beyond just completion status" of courses and counting "butts in seats" and understand how to build effective programs that drive business success and outcomes through balancing both the learner experience and required performance metrics that are both insightful and aligned with the business strategy and outcomes through relevant L&D activities, i.e., an ecosystem of activities designed to drive those business outcomes. 


The Evolution of the Chief Learning Officer to Chief Talent Officer



Dr Tamar Elkeles' bold suggestion about the usefulness of the LMS as it is currently employed-- i.e., it has seen its day and has less relevance in helping to drive business results in today’s environment should be a wake up call! Instead, a more flexible and relevant mobile learning strategy and more that helps drive business results is what’s needed. She mentions Pathgather and begs the question, think about it hard, “What do you really need that LMS for?” She goes on to suggest that the C-Suite may have created this mandatory LMS exercise by requiring learning professionals to count “butts in seats” and now we’re stuck with these mega systems that we can’t get rid of, people don’t log onto to and doesn’t deliver the results it promises (her thoughts, not mine).


Chudy and Danzl, go on to suggest programs AND portfolios, creating content AND curating experiences, training classes AND managing communities, administering LMS AND integrating/ managing products as the balance and approach when looking for technology and driving business success. 


Valuing the organization, strategy development and C-Suite challenges


As a Chief Talent Officer (CTO), Dr Elkeles, talks about adding value to the organization by attracting, developing and retaining talent; developing strategies to evaluate the learning role in the broader context of talent; understanding the C-Suite challenges and priorities; and understanding the latest tools for managing talent in the organization. Chudy and Danzl, speak of similar value but in terms of designing for a comprehensive and holistic modern L&D ecosystem with the end in mind, continuous improvement, relevance, empowerment, engagement, personal development and compliance.


Increasing complexity, technology and disruption


On key global business challenges, Dr Elkeles, Chudy and Danzl speak of increasing complexity, competition and change. The rapid technology evolution, disruption and speed of emerging markets and global growth. These challenges, therefore, require forecasting the future and developing people for jobs that don’t even exist yet! A modern approach to this issue is thinking in terms of ecosystems and the possibilities. This means creating a company culture “that maximizes employee growth, engagement… and retention to drive business outcomes”; I might also add creating a culture that values the employee as well. 


Understanding our talent risks and talent outcomes now and in the future


In conclusion, a few take aways from the evolving role of the CTO and last thoughts on the modern L&D ecosystem; from Dr. Elkeles-- understand the disruptors, give great feedback, give personalized service to both customers and employees, utilize human capital analytics, understand our organization’s value, create a compelling workplace, look for opportunities to embed culture into the employee and thus organization, be proactive problem solvers, understand the key talent focus areas and understand what both our “talent risks” and effective talent outcomes are.


As for modern L&D ecosystems and not just leaving the idea of the LMS being dead or totally outdated, as mentioned-- a number of innovators in the Learning & Development (L&D) industry suggest "AND" NOT "OR" some other system. Further, acquiring a LMS not as an annual or 3 year exercise, but as an exercise in helping to drive business outcomes (being connected); business metrics vs busy metrics/ "butts in seats"; as "Modern L&D Ecosystems" vs a scalable, standardized and efficient LMS, i.e., just what the company wants. Only 21% of the people are getting their learning from a LMS. Only 5% of those LMS' are actually tied to the business outcomes. According to Chudy and Danzl, we must Integrate, Personalize, Curate (mix/make experiences matter), Collaborate and Motivate (consider what employees also want to learn, e.g, career enhancement).


Finally, approach the acquisition of learning not from a features or capabilities point of view-- as a LMS can be a central compliance tool, but from a holistic ecosystem point of view that also considers single sign-on, relevance, compliance, formal, informal and how people actually learn.


Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments and suggestions.

About the Author

American Expat and retired U.S. Navy (LCDR, ret) married, living and working in Malaysia. Working at a maritime institute as a lecturer; BS POLSCI, MBA and Toastmaster (ACB, CL). Passionate about learning, active online and eLearning Developer, blog (

CPLP; Motto; where passion, purpose and competency meet-- all things are possible! 

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Erica, thanks for the comment. Having written the article, I do understand that learning and development professionals get this information and want to make change work-- however, they also have difficulty with organizational processes, C-Suite and management in trying to implement such changes as I mentioned. If it was easy, everyone could do it! Your comments energize me to keep trying, thanks again!
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Oh my gosh! I have actually been attempting to communicate this inside my organization with "hit and miss" results but I think you are exactly right about the learning ecosystem! Thanks for giving another perspective that will hopefully help me make the case with more "hit" results. I have always believed that active learning and the pursuit of ongoing learning is what provides sustainable results. Great 5-star post - if only I could rate it!
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