Modernize Corporate Training: The Enterprise Learning Framework

Over the last year or so we have talked with hundreds of companies about their desire to transform their corporate training programs to take advantage of social networking, knowledge management, communities of practice, and better models of blended learning. As we studied dozens of high performing training programs through our Learning Leaders® program, we realized that today’s corporate training world has fundamentally evolved.


Fig:  Evolution of Modern Corporate Training


How Corporate Training and Learning has Evolved

As this chart shows, over the last 10 years the corporate training world has gone through four major phases.   Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, traditional instructor-led training (which still makes up more than 60% of all training delivery today), was our primary form of training, and it was complimented by various forms of technology (CD ROMs, VideoDisks, VHS tapes, Video Broadcasts) – with a goal of increasing reach and reducing cost.   In those days technology-supported training was called CBT or CAT.

In 1998  the term “e-learning” caught on, and the training world fundamentally changed.  We call this second phase the “e-learning era,”  because it was characterized by a mad rush to put everything online.  Originally, as many of us remember, organizations started repurposing all their programs and developed linear, formal training programs for the web.  Things got a bit crazy:  pundits talked about “shutting down” corporate universities.  In 2001 we had a global recession, which even further accelerated the transition as organizations tried to drastically reduce instructor-led training to save money.   During this second phase the modern LMS was born, as were many of the new rapid e-learning and other web-based development tools we have today.

In the mid 1990s we entered what I call the “blended and informal learning” era.  Organizations realized that “e-learning” was not as all-powerful as we once imagined, and the concepts of blended learning began.   Many companies actually “reopened” and “reinvested” in their classroom programs again.  I wrote The Blended Learning Book in 2004 and it continues to be highly relevant today.   As organizations adopted more and more blended learning concepts and the internet became more widely available, we realized that the many of original concepts of e-learning (replacing instructor led training) were incorrect:  what we really needed to do was create a “new” learning experience on the web, one which included both formal (structured) programs as well as a wide variety of informal (unstructured) forms of content.  

Google, of course, forced this evolution upon us.  Employees and young workers, used to “googling” any problem they wanted to solve, no longer wanted to sit through long, formal online programs unless they were very entertaining.  Today, in fact, according to Basex research published in May of this year, 28% of all employee work is wasted by people multi-tasking between email, google, and various other forms of “informal learning.”  The same research also found that the average employee visits 45 websites every day!

This pattern of behavior (and availability of technology), of course, has been further enhanced by the availability of social networking, which led us to the fourth phase shown above.  Today’s employee has access to formal training, overwhelming amounts of other information, and actual human beings online.  Adding this all together, the corporate learning landscape has undergone a dramatic change.  Now, when someone needs to “learn” something, we must consider the various ways they can gain these skills or information:  they can go to a class, they can take an online course, they can look up support information on the web, they can read a book, or they can find someone who knows what to do and get help.  And we, as L&D professionals, must “formalize” this informal learning environment and make sure we align our investments toward talent management and the needs to build deep levels of skill.

This shift has created tremendous challenges for the corporate training department.  Our research shows that 68% of knowledge workers now feel that their biggest learning problem is an “overwhelming volume of information.”   This information exists in many formats, it is often out of date, and they are not sure how to find what they need.  In some sense the need for “formal” training is greater than ever (you can make sure you get the right information presented in the right way).  Yet in fact, now corporate training professionals must grapple with a whole new set of issues:  how do I create a complete “learning environment” (not a learning program) which supports this new world of formal and informal learning?

And the shift has impacted our profession as well.  Our research members now tell us that the biggest help they need is not in developing new content, but rather building the organizational learning culture and understanding the new skills and disciplines they need to be effective.

Enter our Enterprise Learning Framework®

Well we have been studying and thinking about this problem for a while.  David Mallon, our Enterprise Learning Analyst (you should really read his blog), is in the middle of completing one of our most exciting-ever new research studies, High Impact Learning Practices®, which will be available in June.  Through this research, David and our team has developed an excellent way to think through the modern world of corporate training – and we call it our Enterprise Learning Framework®.  I would like to introduce it to you here.


Bersin & Associates Enterprise Learning Framework

Fig 2:  Bersin & Associates Enterprise Learning Framework®


As you can see, the framework is multi-faceted.   If you would like to walk through it in detail, I encourage you to read our in-depth whitepaper.  Briefly, the framework has six main areas:   Learning Programs (the solution-oriented training solutions you deliver), Audiences and Problems (a clear segmentation of your audiences and their specific needs), Learning Approaches (the four ways in which learning solutions are developed and delivered), Learning Disciplines (the things you as an L&D professional must now know to stay current in this area), Tools & Technology (the vast array of technology you can rely on to build and deliver these solutions),  and Learning Culture (the underlying business processes, management processes, and talent management programs which support enterprise learning).

Framing these six key areas are the topics of Organization, Governance and Management (covered in detail in our High Impact Learning Organization® research) and the topic of your organization’s Learning Architecture (also discussed in HILO in detail).  In today’s corporate training environment, L&D professionals must rethink how the training department is organized, how it operates, and build a complete architecture which helps employees and training managers decide what to use under what business conditions.

Bottom Line:  Change is Here

The bottom line is this:  I believe we are going through one of the most important transitions to corporate training in the last 10 years.  While e-learning certainly forced organizations to invest and learn in many ways, today’s corporate training world is changing even more.   A recession is once-again fueling the fire:  organizations are consolidating their training programs and trying to rationalize all the programs, vendors, and systems they have in place.  

Now is the time to look at our framework and rethink how the “modern” corporate training organization works.  We believe you will find tremendous opportunities to add value to your training programs and your own personal career.

PS:  If you would like to better understand your organization’s level of maturity and build a plan to implement the Enterprise Learning Framework, please contact us.  We have a variety of assessment and strategy tools to help you get rapidly on your way.


17 Responses

  1. David Locke says:

    The framework doesn’t address the time orientations towards training: reactive, predictive, and proactive–tactical vs. strategic–border and borderland.

    Inbound concepts establish a logistics of conceptualizations. Training has a role in these logistics processes.

  2. joshbersin says:

    Interesting concepts, and I agree they are not specifically covered – the Framework is not intended to cover the entire design process itself, but rather the broader context in which these decisions must be made…

  3. Emma Weber says:

    Great work guys – very interesting. I’m keen to find out more about how you distinguish between formal and informal areas though as for me the key to the success of any learning is the transfer into behavioural change and therefore if this piece were also to be ‘delivered’ in a formal way the learning results themselves may be improved.
    Emma – Vivat, Sydney Australia

  4. Dennis Hutchison says:

    Thank you for sharing your very interesting model. I continue to read and study with interest various models depicting the future of corporate learning. The common weaknesses I am finding in most structures (including this thoughtful attempt)are assumptions that the entire workforce is network enabled; and, the Learning & Development function is optimally staffed and funded. In fact, implementation of this and similar frameworks, would quickly overwhelm the typical Learning & Development team struggling in a 500:1 learner to L&D professional ratio. Another real barrier I’m seeing many in my industry (energy production) grappling with is literacy–reading, writing, and computer.

  5. joshbersin says:

    Hi Dennis, in the case of a 1:500 ratio and the need to build literacy and basic workforce skills, I think the model may help in the following way. Clearly you cannot teach these skills since your team is so small – so you have to hire or purchase literacy skills courses which fit your workforce. The key question is “what type of programs or content will be most effective” for such a workforce? Here is where the model comes in – do you only deliver “formal” linear training or do you also ask employees and managers to use these skills in their job assignments or other related tasks? For example, if you were working on literacy skills, would a weekly “writing assignment” for production employees make sense, where they write a page on production activitie each week? This would have to be managed by the line operations – but it would institutionalize the learning culture of thinking, writing, and communicating ideas in a written form. Make sense?

  6. Jizquierdo says:

    Great post…
    We’re trying to develop a way for include collaborative learning in our in our organization (Hospital).
    What’s your opinion about collaborative learning in a Hospital? it’s possible?

  7. joshbersin says:

    There are many ways to implement collaborative learning in a hospital. Consider the model: informal learning includes “on-demand,” “social,” and “embedded” learning. When a new nurse is being trained to learn a new procedure, for example, they are highly likely to be certified by another practitioner. This process is then signed off as a competency.

    Some hospitals take such training and they collaborate among lead practitioners, so that this process becomes a “best-practice” by gaining input from others. At Long Island Jewish Healthcare Network in NY, for example, there are many such teams – these people work together to look at many medical procedures and talk about how they can be improved.

    Just move beyond the thinking of “teaching” or “formal training” and think about how you can facilitate the collaboration between subject matter experts. I think healthcare is an industry that needs this model more than almost any other.

  8. Peter Davis says:

    Really interesting model. Thanks
    for this. My comment is that it
    still frames learning into the
    ‘program only’ model – it still
    looks likes training? I think the
    role of the learning department
    will have far more to do with the
    design of work not just the
    learning space. We want to enable
    work, ie performance – not just

  9. W says:

    I have one comment: you note a Basex report regarding time “wasted” multitasking informal learning. It would be nice to provide a link to the specific report and a description of their methodology that resulted in this label. As a knowledge consumer, I use sites like google regularly during the day, but I would hardly call it wasteful. And the overhead for interacting with google is so small, I can’t imagine it accounting for hardly any of the time wasted, at least, not without more information about the report.

  10. Lars Hyland says:

    Interesting model and one worth further reflection and evolution. Very much in agreement with Peter Davis’ comment. Learning as flow suggests spacing at optimal moments during work activities to support performance. Multitasking comes in good and bad forms I would suggest.

  11. Roman Markin says:

    Dear colleagues,

    Concerning the figure “Evolution of Modern Corporate Training”. Are you sure, that blended learning began its history since the 1995? If it is started before “Elearning Era” why it’s depicted above and after?

    Thank you,

  12. Hello – this is a very good article. especially, my company is about to launch a company wide training on new ERP program in Europe. please send copy of slides to email provided.
    Chakib Loucif

  13. I read this article have very informative and motivate me a lots change life with corporate training.

  14. joshbersin says:

    Thanks all fixed up…

  15. Guy Farmer says:

    Thank you for your perspective. Perhaps a key concept for businesses to think about is connecting with trainers or training programs that make sense to them and feel like a good fit for their particular situation and company values.

  16. C. Simpson says:

    Recent feedback from Banking professionals suggests that they are as intereted in learning through the organizational culture as they are in classroom or on-line training. Your Framework seems to integrate the full range of learning options. I’d like more information. Is there a full whitepaper avaialable?

  17. Hello…i totally agree with the josh for modern corporate training. i think it’s really helpful and informative. Thank you for sharing.