Senior learning leaders from around the world gathered at the Executive Forum, one day prior to the DevLearn 2019 Conference & Expo, to discuss the business problems they are currently facing in their organizations. The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Frank Nguyen and Dr. Conrad Gottfredson, two longtime and highly respected industry leaders.

The morning began with an activity where participants wrote on a piece of paper the single most challenging problem they must solve for through learning strategy or technology in the coming 24 months (Figure 1). All papers were hung on the conference room walls; attendees then used sticker dots to vote on the ones most crucial to their organizations. This exercise enabled the group to narrow in on five major themes. These included:

  1. How to avoid information overload, delivering the right amount of learning to meet the needs
  2. How to manage learning execution and results in centralized, decentralized, and federated organizations
  3. Meeting employees in the flow of work
  4. Providing right learning; when and where it is needed
  5. How to build a learning and performance ecosystem to drive enterprise performance and strategy

Breaking out into five smaller groups, attendees took a deeper dive examining the challenge they most prioritized. Working collaboratively with their peers, they discussed strategies to address their selected challenge, identifying new and existing learning technologies to address it. Later, each group shared its discoveries (Figure 2).

Executive Forum participants identify their key challenges

Figure 1: Executive Forum participants identify their key challenges


Figure 2: Each group shared its discoveries

Workflow learning

Presenters addressed a variety of other timely topics of interest to learning executives. Gottfredson spoke in detail about the emergence of workflow learning, noting how 80 percent of training budgets today are spent on approaches that do not support employees on the job. “We are good at developing learning out of the workflow. We now need to figure out how to do it in the workflow,” he said. He cautioned that this must be done with care. “We can intentionally step into the workflow, but we are a guest,” he said.

“The best thing we can do for our organizations is to lessen the amount of time employees have to stop the flow of work in order to learn,” Gottfredson said. He noted, however, that not all learning can, or should, be delivered in the flow of work. Formal learning should be the method of choice when results can be catastrophic, for example.

Additional takeaways

Laura Whitaker, a learner experience consultant at SAP, leads the digital learning content strategy for a global workforce of more than 100,000. She shared four strategies that she believes make a learning experience exceptional. These include:

  1. Humanizing the audience and personalizing the experience
  2. Designing for mobility and accessibility to create seamless experiences
  3. Organizing content so relationships are mapped and expiration dates are set
  4. Labeling, describing, and tagging content to make it easier to find, use, and share

Gottfredson discussed adopting a performance rather than a learning mindset. He and Nguyen spoke about the importance of showing connections between learning and performance, providing tips about how to put data, measurement, and evaluation into action.

Josh Flower (VP major accounts at OttoLearn) and Irshad Rizvi (director of collaboration and learning technologies at Cleveland Clinic) shared a case study about how Cleveland Clinic self-diagnosed their need for better "learning health" (engagement & retention) based on specific symptoms (soft and hard skill KPIs), and how they applied a fast-acting remedy (microlearning) to realize improvement on the metrics that mattered most.

The workshop concluded with a panel discussion about how to overcome the challenges that inevitably arise when attempting to put a disruptive strategy into practice.

“The Executive Forum was an outstanding session and resource,” said Jodi Wabiszewski, manager curricula at GE Healthcare. “Collaborating and brainstorming with other learning professionals who have similar challenges resulted in a very insightful and inspirational day.”