In the talent and L&D communities over the last several years, there has been much discussion about digital transformation. From Brandon Carson’s book, Learning in the Age of Immediacy, to Josh Bersin’s article, Learning in the Flow of Work, conversations have sparked continued interest in exploring how our profession needs to change and adapt to support the overall transformation of the workforce.

Because things in our world change rapidly these days, we wanted to take the pulse of our immediate community regarding what’s on their minds related to digital transformation. And, from the wide-range of responses from our seven contributors, it seems there’s a lot on everyone’s minds. From Patrick Black to Monica Swanson, these leaders in our community provide us with some great insights into what’s coming for our profession.


Patrick Black

Global Education Specialist | Emerson


We’ve seen an increase in demand for basic training as industrial customers hire employees with increasingly varied backgrounds to fill positions in a tight labor market. This basic training precedes most of the hands-on, lab-driven courses we offer, and is ideal content for a virtual offering. But to be effective, virtual training needs to be as engaging and interactive as possible. Anything resembling static, voiced-over slides is quickly ignored; it’s too easy to push virtual training to the background. Internet speeds are catching up to the demands of live instruction. We’ve been able to add a lot of video elements, such as animations, instructor annotations, and live video demonstrations. The resulting experience is interactive and dynamic enough to hold attention and, more importantly, deliver value.


Rich Braden

Global Leader of Training and Development | Honeywell Building Solutions


What technology change is most impacting your organization today, and what changes does that mean for your learning organization?
Having training staff who are IT-savvy represents the greatest change to our learning organization. We have built a core IT capability in our department that must be managed by IT professionals internal to the training organization. All of our training staff must possess skills in IT at some level in order to sufficiently function within our VILT (virtual instructor led training) data environment.

Our strategy is threefold. Provide unprecedented access to training using blended virtual synchronous and asynchronous learning solutions. Provide the right training to the right person at the point of need. Use effectiveness analytics to prove our value proposition to the organization and to optimize our learning systems design.

Our virtual learning platforms are engineered internally and change based on the type of product technology that needs to be taught. The platforms evolve based on the needs of the business.


Taylor Kearns, M.Ed.

Supervisor, Training, Technical Support and Communications | Department of Human Services


Impact of learning technologies on government training operations
First, I want to thank Brian and Molly for asking me to contribute to their blog. My goal for this post is to give you a small snapshot of my view on how learning technologies have impacted government training operations. You may be working for an organization that is going through this as well, so this may sound familiar. My experience comes from working directly with various Minnesota government agencies as either a partner or an employee for the past 10+ years.

Government isn’t necessarily known for being on the bleeding edge of technological transformation—which in some cases is a good thing. Early adoption can be painful and expensive. One example of a current technological transformation occurring within government is moving IT services and resources to “the cloud.” I would suggest that this can also be seen in the use of various learning technologies in training. In the past 10-15 years, there have been incredible advances in how training is designed, developed, and delivered. Multimedia development tools allow training professionals to have limitless options for designing, developing, delivering, and managing training solutions. YouTube has become the largest training/learning content delivery platform in the world. Learning management systems have increased the capacity of organizations and learners to strategically manage their professional development plans. I could go on. All of this technology has opened up the playbook related to meeting the diverse needs of today’s learners. Government agencies have lagged behind their private sector counterparts, but change is happening.

In light of these technological advancements, many government agencies in Minnesota are adapting to how technology impacts their training operations. Increasingly, government training operations are using technology-driven approaches to meet the needs of their audiences rather than using classroom-based approaches. Though there are many similarities between these two approaches, there are also significant differences.

The biggest difference between the two approaches is that learning technologies give government agencies the ability to quickly provide access to training resources to a large population of learners. If a critical training need is identified, agencies can quickly respond and distribute training statewide to address a critical business need. This can be done using webinars, training videos, eLearning modules, online job aides, learning communities, and training documents. In comparison to classroom training solutions, these modalities require a different strategic approach, different processes, and different systems to support the work.

Another impact is in the type of professional needed to design and develop technology-based training solutions. This has proven to be a challenge for government agencies to adapt to. In many cases, government training professionals are not just instructional designers and eLearning developers, but they are expected to be videographers, photographers, coders, graphic designers, user-experience designers, technical writers, IT experts, web developers, project managers, business and data analysts, social media specialists, accessibility advocates, and in some cases, subject matter experts. WHEW! That is quite the professional toolbox. To further the challenge of finding these skilled professionals, government agencies are competing for talent with private sector and consultant firms. However, we are seeing more of these positions across many government agencies as state employees and contractors.

Government agencies are adapting to more technology-driven training approaches and are building the systems and capacities to support this work. But there are many challenges that lie ahead. There are great opportunities for training professionals to push the transformation of government training systems and approaches. For those of you looking to get to be a part of this exciting work, be sure to watch for training opportunities at local, county, or state government agencies.


Greg Mellang

Virtual Learning Lead, Enterprise Talent Development | Minnesota Management and Budget


We may not be a global organization, but we definitely conduct ourselves like one. Our 36,000+ employees are dispersed to all corners of Minnesota, and it’s not always possible to have them in the classroom, or in an office setting. The one technology that is solving our challenges is the mobile device. Advances in smartphone and tablet technology expands our reach through the following:

  1. eLearning – By developing modules in HTML5, outstate learners are able to interact with the content “in the field” at their convenience. Depending on the project, we may select tools such as Articulate Storyline or Rise, or Adobe Captivate or Spark, to rapidly develop responsive, engaging content, and feel confident that we’re delivering a rich learning experience.
  2. Video/Podcasting – Learning channels (i.e. leadership or inclusion) can now be targeted with digital content similar to TedTalks. We will deliver highly-consumable, relevant content that reaches all learners and also makes a connection with our Millennial and Gen Z audience. The challenge is to make it binge-worthy. The development time for producing videos/podcasts is relatively quick, and we’re able to publish content in a very short span.
  3. Virtual Classrooms – We replicate the interactive, engaging, instructor-led classroom utilizing WebEx Training Center. We can now deliver our entire catalog to our remote learners. We not only adapt to their work schedules, we also save travel expenses and lost work time. We utilize WebEx to blend the classroom with both in-person and virtual learners for a unique learning experience. Virtual sessions can be customized as performance support or team-specific learning events.

The mobile device allows us to deliver content to all learners at the speed of business. Having content that can be consumed anywhere, anytime has expanded learning opportunities for all employees, and that’s the biggest benefit to us.


Bjorn Olson

Technical Training Lead | Flint Hills Resources


Is a type of technology speeding up your overall effectiveness?
While the scenarios portrayed through employees’ virtual reality (VR) training glasses are virtual, the results are anything but. For Pine Bend operators (a refinery in Rosemount, MN), the experience felt very real. “It was really easy to picture myself out there in the field,” the operator said of the scenario, which featured a low oxygen reading in a fired heater. “I actually got so sucked into it after a few minutes that once the operator in the scenario started to make a poor decision, I actually tried to reach out and grab him as he walked to the heater. It just kind of tells you how life-like it really feels.”

Has a type of technology saved your organization time or money?
With its goal of zero significant process incidents or serious injuries, Koch has found that virtual reality has enhanced traditional training methods (Koch Industries, Inc. owns Flint Hills Resources). Where facilities like Pine Bend once relied solely upon the wisdom of employees passing down knowledge to their colleagues, they now have added VR to their toolkit. This new standard is already paying off, with employees’ training scores improving by as much as 20 percent. Most of those who took the VR headset for a spin improved their training test scores from their pretest, while a majority of those who went through the traditional training did not.

Is technology disrupting your organization in a positive way, causing innovation?
When employees at Pine Bend don their VR headsets for training, they’re in for a real lesson. “We wanted workers to experience a possible and potentially dangerous situation to get their attention, go back through the learnings, and then test their knowledge at the end of it.”

Has moment-of-need learning (e.g. video) reduced accidents in your organization’s facilities?
Looking ahead, we’re leading an initiative toward the creation and implementation of a virtual hologram image overlay of process equipment—a form of augmented reality—so that employees can avoid getting close to the hazard. Koch is looking at growing the capability not only within its businesses, but also within the energy industry. “Safety is not a competitive advantage; it’s something we all can share to benefit everybody,” “Everybody can be safer.”


Tony Stith

Senior Manager of Human Capital Technology | Life Time – Healthy Way of Life


Life Time University, the educational division within Life Time Fitness, Inc., strives to stay true to one core priority: to maintain a bias for the learner experience.

That priority has played a large role in influencing the direction we’ve taken with learning technology, specifically the selection of a Learning Management System (LMS).

In selecting an LMS, it was important that it meet the following criteria:

  1. Provide a graphic user interface which is learner-centric (rather than admin-centric), intuitive, engaging, and highly customizable.
  2. Is committed to staying current with new trends and technology in the learning space.
  3. Provide a one-stop shop for learning rather than forcing users to figure out where to go between multiple content platforms to get the training they need.

These criteria, in addition to a very detailed list of technical requirements and features, resulted in the selection of Absorb LMS, a cloud-based, SAAS, standalone platform back in 2009.

However, as Life Time continues to grow, a couple of business needs have emerged that are putting pressure on our commitment to those key criteria.

The first business need is to be able to easily leverage learning data with other employee data to inform succession, talent development, performance reviews, etc. without necessitating complex integrations.

This first need is putting pressure on us move away from a standalone LMS, which, in order to share learning data, requires customized, often unstable, integrations to Workday, our company’s talent management suite. Such a move—while certainly enhancing our ability to seamlessly leverage data with other HRIS data, enabling use of that data to drive succession and talent development efforts—we fear would nonetheless result in a step backwards from a learner experience perspective. It’s been our view that learning platforms, which are embedded as part of a talent management suite, typically are less customizable, more admin-centric, and less current with innovation in the learning space than systems whose sole purpose is learning.

A second business need that is putting pressure on our commitment to the learner experience, and specifically to our desire to provide a one-stop shop for all of the learning needs of our team members, is the need to add a growing number of third party content providers to our learning ecosystem.

Life Time is made up of many diverse team member groups requiring access to many different types of learning specific to their role. In meeting those needs, we’ve partnered with a number of third party providers offering content specific to areas such as Personal Training, Leadership Development, CPR and First Aid, to name a few. We anticipate adding more of these providers over the next several years. We would prefer our team members be able to access content from all of these providers from within our LMS, rather than be forced to visit multiple vendor platforms, degrading, we feel, the user experience.

The solution? It’s still a work in progress, but we are strongly considering adoption of a new breed of learning platform, a user experience platform.

Such a platform would enable us to continue to meet our priorities around the user experience, providing a highly customizable, user-centric interface as well as providing a mechanism for integrating an unlimited number of content providers and other learning tools into the learning interface through built-in integration connectors.

A learning experience platform rides on top of the LMS and other third-party content providers. So, Life Time could make the move to a talent management suite and enjoy all of the benefits of seamless connectivity without sacrificing the user experience. And, in the event of a future move to another LMS or the need to replace one content provider with another, we simply plug that system or provider portal into the existing user experience platform while minimizing disruption to our team members.

While Life Time is still in the beginning stages of reviewing the various learning experience platforms emerging in the market, we have a strong sense that this is the direction that will both meet the needs of our users and the business needs of the organization.


Monica Swanson

Corporate Initiatives Learning Consultant | Cargill


What technology change is most impacting your organization today?
Providing “learner centric” solutions is having the largest impact on today’s best learning technology solutions. Historically, learning solutions were HR-centric, meaning HR created them and had terminology, interfaces, and experiences that made sense to the creator (HR/L&D). Employees or learners were typically confused and overwhelmed with separate systems they didn’t understand or potentially even know existed, and, when in the system, they encountered interfaces and experiences that weren’t intuitive.

Example: An employee needs to have a difficult conversation and would like to brush up on how to successfully accomplish this. Historically, the employee had to think:

  1. Where is the learning homepage (if they knew were that was)?
  2. What learning tool should I use (LMS, e-book, vendor learning site, etc.)?
  3. How do I use this learning tool (as each tool has a different interface)?

Then the learner can hopefully find relevant content on “having a difficult conversation.” We often already lost the learner as they are no longer thinking about their learning opportunity or the business challenge of how to have a difficult conversation.

What changes does that mean for your learning organization?
Today’s learning solutions should keep the learner thinking about their business challenge and let them quickly find what they need. This is all easier said than done, but is the direction we should be going. As learning professionals, we now also need to be well versed in usability/design thinking. Example: Creating learning using learner personas and iterating through design -> build -> launch -> feedback (repeat) is a must.

If the learner needs to wonder “How do I access or use this tool/system?” or “What does this HR/learning term mean?” we are wasting the learner’s time. Intuitive learning solutions will allow them to learn what they need (e.g. How do I have a difficult conversation?).


We’d love it if you’d comment below with any thoughts or reactions to this post. And, if you’re interested, let us know if you’d like to join our Learning Technology Network. It’s a face-to-face community here in the Twin Cities. And, who knows, you might just see one of the above contributors there networking and learning with their peers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *