L&D Best Practices

Training Industry Podcast – Digital learning adoption challenges and solutions

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Training Industry Podcast

We recently partnered with Training Industry for a special podcast episode featuring Jan Rijken, Learning Director at Wiley-CrossKnowledge. Jan joined Michelle Eggleston Schwartz and Sarah Gallo on The Business of Learning, to discuss the challenges that come with the adoption of digital learning and actionable solutions for L&D.

Organizations have been impacted heavily by the pandemic in terms of their learning approach.

What are the key challenges that L&D face today?

I believe the pandemic has accelerated many of the existing organizational challenges, such as changing business models that require new workforce skills, talent shortages in many industries, and the increased popularity of hybrid working and learning. It’s clear there is a growing skills gap in organizations, one that is affecting business growth and innovation capabilities. This has disrupted the old way of designing and delivering learning. As a result, we are now witnessing various shifts in the corporate learning approach, including classroom to workplace, content to context, courses to resources, and generalized to personalized learning. It’s become more essential than ever to offer learning at the moment of need.

Can organizations advance high impact learning in this turbulent environment?

The good news for L&D is that all of the ingredients for success are there. Every organization has skills gaps that require reskilling and upskilling. Senior business leaders recognize the need to invest in learning, and they have the tools and technology available. The challenge now is to find ways to enable and provide learning in the most effective, efficient, and inclusive way. Our clients reached out to us for support. They need us to provide a framework to identify strengths and weaknesses in their learning approach. We’ve analyzed existing models like Bersin, LPI and Emerald Works, and found them too general and lacking a solid focus on digital learning. We shaped our Digital Learning Maturity model (DLM) around 6 concrete dimensions, aiming to provide organizations with the opportunity to understand and advance learning. So far, our research shows that organizations have an average DML score of 60 on a scale of 0-100. This means that there is much space for improvement, to make learning investments more impactful and far more engaging for learners.

How can organizations leverage CrossKnowledge research to improve their own Digital Learning Maturity & L&D strategies?

The CrossKnowledge DLM model consists of 6 concrete dimensions that organizations can leverage to reveal their digital learning maturity score.

These dimensions are:

Almost 200 companies participated in our research and received personalized DLM maps, which include levers to progress. We have been working closely with clients in different countries to explore and determine their most relevant Digital Learning Maturity areas, with promising results! Once organizations have reviewed their DML score they can decide to progress by themselves or seek support from CrossKnowledge. We have toolkits available for each dimension and can provide expert advice based on our experience and best practices. Some key areas where clients have developed are implementing a learning governance, and enhancing learner marketing to boost learning adaption.

Implications for the L&D function

Embracing the DML approach is not an easy-ride for L&D, as we have noticed teams being impacted in at least three areas. First there are L&D capabilities that need to be adapted. This means that L&D needs to become more tech-savy, develop and use learning analytics, and embrace design thinking. Overall, L&D teams must be stronger in their performance consulting to be able to identify real learning needs.

The second area where L&D could improve is collaboration. More than ever before L&D needs to collaborate effectively with their learners (via user-generated content), line managers (enabling a positive learning climate), leadership (buy-in for culture change initiatives), and organizational peers like Procurement, IT and HR.

The third area of impact for L&D is the question of whether to create or purchase learning resources. To deliver at the speed of business change, L&D will need expert resources and expertise that they do not necessarily have. There could be a need to team up with external performance partners, who understand their challenges and can provide expert support and key resources when needed.

Recommendations for L&D

I believe that this is the most exciting time ever to be in L&D! We have the opportunity to enable change in our organizations, while attracting and retaining talents. This requires L&D to be stronger, braver, and more confident than they were before. Be conscious that we cannot be successful alone, so it is important seek and find support inside and outside of your organization. I’ve always benefited from trusted relationships with two external peers, people I can call anytime if I need quick advice on an urgent issue. In parallel, I’d recommend that L&D professional keep developing themselves through focused learning or strategic programs like the global masterclass on L&D leadership. Lastly, make sure you stay vital and resilient in these turbulent times, and learn to ride the waves of change as they’re a fact of life.

Get the CrossKnowledge 2021 Digital Learning Maturity Report to explore best practices, trends and insights from 198 L&D leaders, HR experts and C-suite executives.


Jan RijkenJan Rijken is a globally recognized thought leader, boardroom advisor, author, and speaker on corporate L&D. His current role at CrossKnowledge focuses on corporate client advisory, strategic L&D research, and building an empowered L&D community. He is the former Chief Learning Officer at KPMG, Daimler, and ABN Amro, and Jan is a visiting professor at IE and Nyenrode Business School, and one of the lead facilitators of the Global Masterclass L&D Leadership.