L&D Best Practices

Why L&D Pros Are Now Curators—And How to Do it Well

Melissa Suzuno

HR and L&D Insights Writer at Udemy for Business

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L&D Best Practices

June 7, 2018

As an L&D professional, you’re no stranger to taking on different roles. You may switch between being an educator, mentor, coach, confidant, and strategist. But one of the newest titles that are being used to describe the L&D professional is “curator.” In a post in HR Times, Managing Director of Organization and Talent for Deloitte Amy A. Titus and Learning and Development researcher Dani Johnson define curation this way: “Curation is the art/science of identifying the best information for the organization and providing context and order to it.”

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Rather than creating everything in-house or designing a rigid program that’s mandatory for employees to follow, the curation approach allows an L&D team to gather resources and present a variety of choices for employees. Curation can also involve adding context and insights, but ultimately employees have the ability to review what’s available and decide what’s most relevant to their needs.

The shift to a curation mindset

There are many reasons why L&D professionals are shifting to a curation mindset. A Chief Learning Officer article outlines three major contributing factors: The fact that the pace of change in the workforce is increasing and affecting how people do their jobs, the trend that people are moving away from linear career paths, and the influence of millennials, who have a strong desire for learning and development. It’s unrealistic to expect that an individual—or even a team—of L&D professionals could keep pace with all these demands, which is why Bravetta Hassell writes in the CLO article, “Learning leaders have to shift to being curators from exclusively being learning content creators.”

Research has shown that employers are turning to L&D to address the skills gap: ManpowerGroup’s 2017 Talent Shortage Survey found that 40% of global employers reported difficulties in sourcing skilled talent. At the same time, the number of global companies addressing skill gaps by retraining people internally has doubled since 2015, from just one in five to more than half.

In addition, research has shown that the majority of learning that takes place at work occurs during informal activities such as conversations and networking with coworkers rather than through formal training programs.

These circumstances mean that it’s not enough to simply create a single workshop or course—Bersin by Deloitte suggests that it’s time to move away from one-off events and “build L&D into everywhere employees go and everything they do.” If organizations shift to this model, it is simply unrealistic to expect that the L&D professional can be there at every moment when an employee is learning. This is why content curation is so powerful. It can involve everyone and create a living resource that’s accessible at all times.

Now that we’ve considered why it makes sense for the L&D team to take on the curator role, let’s look at 5 tips to guide your approach to content curation.

5 tips to guide your L&D curation

1. Assess your organization’s needs & learning moments

If you’ve decided that curating content is the right approach for your L&D team, it can be tempting to jump right into researching and gathering resources. But as with any L&D initiative, it’s important to “begin with the pedagogy and start by defining our learning challenge and goals,” writes Udemy’s Head of L&D Shelley Osborne. Before you start, you’ll need to ask important questions like who are you curating for and why. By spending time initially understanding your organization’s needs, you’ll boost your chances of finding content that’s relevant and useful.

Keep in mind that there are many different reasons for employees to learn at work. Research we’ve conducted here at Udemy identified four major learning moments: learning to grow, learning to catch up, learning for external change, and learning for the sake of learning. Each moment comes with its own motivation and requirements, so L&D teams should be aware of this when curating content. See How to Craft L&D Programs That Motivate Employees to Learn.

Similarly, HR Dive points out that there are a few skill areas that training tends to focus on: “device training; using machines or digital skills; compliance training; process training—how we do something; and skills enhancement for things like leadership and communication.” There’s also keeping technical skills like programming up to speed with new technologies and innovations. Be sure to consider the different learning moments and training types that will be most relevant to employees at your organization.

2. The new learning stack

The shift towards curation means that the L&D professional needs to prioritize having the right technology and infrastructure. In many cases, this means rethinking the traditional Learning Management System. A People Matters blog post explains that Learning Management Systems “are no more ‘be-all-end-all’ learning systems. Instead, they are becoming more of a ‘middleware’ application, with other systems underpinning them and the experiential interfaces taking the front-end.”

This is why Josh Bersin cites the need to deliver a “learning platform” rather than a “learning management system.” Bersin writes, “There’s a huge difference here—these products bring YouTube-like experiences to your employees… and include features for curation, career recommended learning, and data-driven recommendations.”

What does the new learning stack look like? There is an increasing number of tools that help L&D teams collect and share curated information, such as Anders Pink and Scoop.it. But L&D teams don’t have to curate everything themselves. They can also tap into external libraries of curated content from learning platforms like Udemy for Business, YouTube, TED Talks, and social tools like Slack for peer to peer sharing, to name a few.

As you research different systems and tools, be sure to consider how your content will be hosted and accessed, which devices learners can access the content from, and how this technology can integrate with any existing systems you have in place.

3. Create opportunities for personalization

As with many aspects of the digital experience (think recommendations on Amazon and Netflix based on your past activities), curation has the potential to create a highly personalized experience based on employees’ specific needs and preferences.

Personalization is a powerful tool that can make learning much more meaningful and actionable. On the CEB blog, Sharon George writes, “L&D teams need to create a relevant, personal interaction for employees that enhances their experience. It should use insight based on the recipient’s personal data, as well as behavioral data about the actions of similar employees, to provide an experience that meets each employee’s specific needs and preferences.”

You can see this type of personalization in action on Udemy for Business. We offer individual learners recommendations based on patterns of our 20+ million learners. People can see which courses others tended to take together and which courses they took next, creating a personalized pathway so they stay engaged and motivated to continue their learning journey.

L&D chatbots or automated personal assistants can also offer a more personalized learning experience. Imagine employees asking a chatbot questions as they arise on the job and having these “personal assistants” point them in the right direction within curated libraries of content.

4. Get managers involved

So far, we’ve looked at ways that the L&D team might facilitate curation, but curation responsibilities can be expanded to others, particularly managers.

A true learning organization leans on team managers throughout the learning process. Managers’ close relationship with their team members puts them in a better position to identify the skill gaps and career goals of their employees, setting the stage for a more personalized learning journey.

Technology can also enable managers to get involved in curation. On the Udemy for Business learning platform, our new “Group Admin” role allows L&D leaders to designate managers or team leads as Group Admins—enabling managers to select specific courses for their team to learn. Given the close relationship between managers and direct reports, individuals are more likely to listen and follow their manager’s guidance—key to boosting learning engagement across the organization.

5. Get grassroots feedback on your curated content

Setting up a successful L&D curation offering is not a “set it and forget it” situation. “It is important to market the stack, keep conversations going about its benefits and success stories,” according to People Matters.

So how will you know if your L&D curation efforts are successful? The best way is to let employees rate the content they’ve used. This will enable you to discover the most popular content as well as understand each individual’s preference. From this information, you can recommend more personalized curated content. External curated libraries like Udemy for Business can help you leverage this more grass-roots approach to curation. By letting your employees and the wider market decide what content is useful, L&D teams can also share some of the responsibility of curation with employees themselves.

You’ll also want to tie your curation efforts to business outcomes. For example, if you curated content to address unconscious bias or help managers give feedback more effectively, your L&D team can track inclusion metrics during engagement surveys or manager performance ratings.

Inspiring growth

Taking on the role of a curator is an ongoing process. You’ll likely want to step back occasionally and assess your approach and results. After all, the required skills and competencies for today’s workforce are in a constant state of change. Your role as a curator is not just about finding relevant content. It’s about identifying content that will help your team to grow. In HR Dive, Riia O’Donnell writes, “Content that’s relevant is important; content that inspires growth is critical.” And that’s just as true for the person who’s doing the curating.

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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