Is LinkedIn’s latest acquisition another nail in the coffin for L&D?

by | Apr 10, 2015 | Articles

Yesterday, LinkedIn announced that they had entered into an agreement to acquire online learning company for $1.5bn. The BBC reports that this is the professional networking service’s largest acquisition to date.

It’s good news for shareholders in and Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn is clearly pleased. He said, “The mission of LinkedIn and the mission of are highly aligned. Both companies seek to help professionals be better at what they do.”
Helping professionals be better at what they do
But hang on a minute, isn’t that the job of the L&D team?
Yes, of course it is, but much has been published in the last year* about the demise of the traditional L&D team, the fact that they are out of touch and out of step with both organisation’s needs and the way that individuals learn. So is LinkedIn’s latest acquisition another nail in the coffin of L&D?
Yes and no.
Yes, in the fact that it provides staff with access to more choice than ever before. First MOOCs hit the scene and now individuals have the potential to access any learning that they want via their favourite professional network service, potentially turning away from the L&D professionals may dismiss this choosing to believe that staff are not interested. In fact, during our study with over 600 of them last year (Modernising Learning Delivering Results), 68% believed that their staff lacked the skills to manage their own learning!
Staff welcome new opportunities to access learning for themselves
However, I believe that staff will welcome new opportunities to access learning for themselves. We have run a Learning Landscape Audit with a number of companies, bringing real insight into the way staff actually learn what they need to do their job. We recently analysed a sample of 5,000 knowledge workers across a wide range of job roles and ages from the 17,000+ staff who have been through the Learning Landscape – the findings are telling!
Across the sample:
  • 81% of staff are responsible for managing their own personal development
  • 82% like to learn at their own pace
  • 55% agree that they are motivated by using technologies that allow them to network and learn with others
Staff are finding things out for themselves all the time. 70% turn to google and other web search engines to learn what they need for work, 48% use networks inside the business and 26% utilise external networks and communities. Specifically, 11% of the under 40’s in our study are already using LinkedIn for job specific learning, with 21% currently using YouTube (not just for work or personal interest, but for actually learning what they need to do their current job). LinkedIn’s acquisition of has the potential to deliver tailored video learning, at the point of need, backed by a community of over 300 million members – potentially powerful stuff to increasingly tech-savvy learners. And potentially another nail in the coffin of L&D.
A wake up call for L&D
When staff are busy learning in the heart of the workflow, our benchmark study shows that 47% of L&D leaders are still looking at the course as the main option for building skills and performance. Staff are clearly willing to learn online, but they face problems accessing learning content inside of their own organisations, with 30% reporting that they are not able to find what they need and the same number reporting that current online learning content is not relevant to their needs. If they can start to access relevant learning and performance support in a familiar platform, will they still want to turn to their L&D team for help? Personally, I think that this acquisition is a clear wake up call for L&D professionals. We can’t afford to rest on our laurels that we are providing company-specific training not accessed elsewhere. Our learners are smart and are already showing the ability to find out themselves!
Whilst the acquisition might be seen as a threat to the survival of the traditional L&D team, it also opens up massive opportunities for L&D teams who want to evolve and are truly looking beyond the ‘course’. Those that identify their key responsibility as helping staff be better at what they do rather than course deliverers are already embracing change.
The acquisition provides a great deal to celebrate for L&D leaders already on the journey of modernising learning.
It is clear that LinkedIn has putting learning at the heart of the business agenda and it is already paying off; Jeff Weiner must have been pretty pleased that shares rose more than 1.5% on the New York Stock Exchange after news of the acquisition was released!
In 11 years of providing a benchmark for evolving learning practices, we’ve seen that the top performing learning organisations are also placing learning at the heart of business need. They are already aligning to the core business requirements and are proving that their services are improving revenue, increasing customer retention and reducing cost. They also are gaining the attention and support of their boards.
They are active in listening to learners and understanding their needs, basing their decisions on data about how staff actually learn rather than assumptions. They see their role as curators of external content and facilitators of collaboration between staff as much as learning course providers. They also provide choice, community and access to learning.  These top performing L&D organisations will no doubt welcome the acquisition as it has the potential to model what they are already doing well.
An opportunity for change
So is the LinkedIn acquisition another nail in the coffin of L&D?
Not if we take the opportunity to rethink our own role in helping staff to become better at what they do. Many L&D teams are already doing this: we’ve been capturing their journey and the results they are achieving through our benchmark process, as they seek to modernise their learning strategy. If you are looking to embrace change, get involved and benchmark your L&D strategy.

What do you think? Are today’s L&D professionals equipped to help staff become better at what they do?

Leave us a comment on Laura’s LinkedIn article.

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