Social Learning for a Retail Environment

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Retailers and other sectors are now looking for a new platform for their learners, not a traditional Learning Management System or LMS as they are commonly known.

Why is this?

Well.. it could be a range of factors.  

For example, many retailers with store locations have high churn rates and a younger population.  This younger workforce is demanding new modes of delivery for their learning and valuing it more than ever.

Another factor is the type of learning we like to consume these days,  affected in our everyday lives byt he use of social media websites and fast news feeds.  

We simply don’t have time (or the attention span) to focus on a learning activity for more than a few minutes.  Even the famous TED talks are becoming too lengthy for people!  

Finally, the learning experience has become more and more personalised to individuals. Clever technologies are employed such as machine learning where the platform learns more about you as you click.  Think about how Netflix or Ebay picks up more about you when you access their websites more offering you new content …

Earlier this year, Josh Bersin coined these new generation platforms for learning technology as ‘learner experience platforms.’  Ever since this, numerous elearning companies are promoting their own elearning experience which is … different.

Is the LMS really at the end of the road?

Unfortunately many businesses still require compliance training, often repeatable at certain points during the year.  This drives, on scale particularly for larger enterprise corporate entities, over 100,000 employees which equals a lot of their training.  

For example, in the UK the Financial Conduct Authority audits many corporates to ensure they comply with set standards.  This is where the LMS is in full play, often providing a blended learning programme for huge numbers of people.  Without this, there would be a huge administration overhead.

Why would you open a can of beans with a spoon?

So the approach of a new ‘experience platform’ is not to replace the LMS, instead it’s to complement.  

At Webanywhere, we have provided numerous projects to our clients where they are looking for a platform for different audiences.  So, we generally provide a LMS (Totara) along with our experience platform Promatum.

How does this all relate to retail?

Retail is fast-paced, often about sales and product knowledge in store to drive efficiency and numbers.

The experience platform is really useful in this area as it can provide personalised, mobile content, when you need it.  We can also leverage the 70:20:10 method of learning, particularly the 70% on the job as the experience platform is integrated into the customer experience, for example, through effective questions of a new customer in store.

It’s important to understand the context here if you are reading this coming from a retail background.

The LMS will still exist. It will still have a requirement (especially in the compliance world).  The social learning comes into play with the experience platforms, as Bersin comments.

Very close to the style of learning from a experience platform, is a communications platform.  This is different.

For example, all the ‘new in class’ enterprise collaboration platforms like Yammer, Slack, Salesforce Chatter and Facebook for Work are all for communications.  It could be argued there is an overlap between the two.  

For example, within a ecosystem like Slack, an employee could post a question, a colleague could then comment on this and provide a link to a useful resource … this is all learning and social.

The challenge for the ‘new in class’ enterprise collaboration platforms is that they have not been designed for learning.  

This is where you need to be careful

If you are using enterprise collaboration platforms for learning, then they are becoming bent for another purpose.  Instead, focus on what they are good at, communication.  Yes … you got it, they are all trying to reduce your inbox from over 100 emails every day!

The experience learning space is an interesting one and growing fast.  

Many large corporates such as Caterpillar, Visa, Sears and GE are already using them.  But these haven’t necessarily replaced their LMS, instead they are complementing them.

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