What We’re Learning from our Customers About Learning

To build the best workplace learning application possible, we turned to our customers to learn what they wanted in a system.

Amy Wilson April 26, 2016
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Learning something new—a skill or hobby that you know will make your life better or more enjoyable—is exciting and deeply satisfying. So why, in a business context, is learning all-too-often seen as a chore? The fault, it sometimes turns out, is in our software and systems.

Because we already knew that there was a huge, unsatisfied thirst for workplace learning, last year we embarked on our own journey to learn about what was missing. We wanted to take in as much information as possible, especially from the perspective of our customer’s employees—the learners themselves. We wanted to learn more about what a modern, useful, and dare we say it, fun workplace learning system would look like. We’re using this and other insights to build Workday Learning into the most engaging learning application possible.

We saw that there are already more than 600 learning solutions in the market. Some are from legacy vendors trying to accommodate new learning trends with old, inadequate technology, and others from newer startups that are more social and collaborative, but lack the data on individual employees required for a more personalized experience.

Almost all are standalone solutions that are disconnected from the HR systems that are integral to every employee’s working life. This connection is so important because a change in position, for example, should trigger learning requirements specific to a worker’s new role and responsibilities.

Lastly, most solutions don’t provide an engaging experience with user-generated content or video at the center, essential parts of a learning tool that employees will actually use.

As we’ve previously reported, “how to” searches are rising on YouTube by 70 percent every year. Because people have become accustomed to learning everything from web design to woodworking through online videos, we knew that giving workers a consumer-like video experience was crucial. Browsing, creating, sharing, and commenting on educational content is something that everyone should be able to do in their personal and professional lives.

Learning From Design Partners

To build the best learning application possible, we opened up our design partner program to find customers who could share candid feedback based on their own experience and expertise. A record number of companies threw their hats in the ring. We selected eight companies as design partners and another group of 11 customers as an advisory council. The strong response proved the market wants a better learning experience and the tools to support it. It also reinforced that continuous, well thought-out learning is increasingly becoming table stakes at any company that wants to keep growing.

The design partners we selected, which include California College of the Arts, CareerBuilder, Four Seasons, and McKee Foods, are vocal about the importance of learning, had experience with several learning systems, and live and breathe learning on a daily basis. As we move toward general availability of Workday Learning, we meet every other week with our design partners for input on features, functionality, and design. These meetings are vital to ensure we are building a product that employees actually want to use.

Lessons Learned So Far

One place where we adjusted course to respond to the needs of our customers was in our approach to user-generated content. While customers were very enthusiastic about the concept, they had trouble imagining putting it into practice.

Once we thoroughly understood their underlying concerns about quality and content mix, we found that customers liked the idea of turning user-generated content submission into a business process. This way, the submission and approval flow could be easily tailored to a company’s needs. We’re excited about user-generated content, and so are our customers—we’ll have a lot more to share on this in future blog articles.

We also tweaked our approach to course creation after customers told us that managers want a quick-start template whereas administrators often want to leverage a more detailed course template. Based on this feedback we plan to offer both kinds of templates.

The Road Ahead

Working with our customers and finding the right design partners was just the first step on our learning journey. In future articles, we plan on going deeper into what we learned on our journey. In the meantime, see what design partner Four Seasons has to say about how learning helps employee engagement.

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