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For executives, selecting an effective learning provider is an important task at the best of times; but it becomes pivotal during times of change.

The right training can provide a direct pathway to business growth. According to our 2023 report, Winning the Race for Digital Skills, 83% of executives agreed with this assertion, that growth depends on the ability to rapidly evolve employees’ skills and capabilities so they can meet the emerging needs of their customers and their business.

“We talk about learning but it’s also about change management,” says Paul Davies, Managing Partner at Econsultancy. “You’re trying to get people to change their mindsets, change their attitudes, and change their behaviours.”

This article offers a roadmap for choosing a learning provider to help you achieve this level of change.

1. Start by assessing your skills

“You cannot start a journey without knowing where you are first,” says Davies.

“It’s critical for organisations to first drill down and get an accurate assessment of where they stand. How confident are their teams, what are their capability levels, and how do they benchmark against the competition?” he adds.

Indeed, this objective style of benchmarking should be done at an industry level to understand relative strengths and weaknesses.

Tools such as Econsultancy’s Digital Skills Index can help evaluate individual and collective skill sets across marketing and ecommerce, highlight gaps in knowledge and help you start the process of creating a focused (and customised) learning path.

2. Balance off-the-peg learning with bespoke

A key consideration is, of course, what topics and formats you’re interested in, and whether a provider can customise learning to your industry and your organisation’s goals. Achieving this relevance is important to make learning applicable, but it’s also crucial in ensuring high engagement amongst individual learners.

3. Seek cultural alignment with your learning provider

As with any business partnership, cultural alignment can be make or break. For a learning provider this involves both account management and project delivery teams taking the time to understand your organisation’s specific challenges. As questions arise throughout learning development or launch, you want a provider that is highly responsive, with communication the key to forging a powerful, long-term working relationship.

Here are some important questions to consider when assessing cultural alignment:

  • Can the provider assess learning needs for you?

    Ask how the provider intends to assess your learning needs. Tools like our aforementioned Digital Skills Index help companies benchmark, but some organisations also need to assess skills through a strategic lens. For example, Econsultancy conducts stakeholder interviews which can overlay more formal benchmarking to understand which skills should be highlighted in a bespoke curriculum.

  • What level of customisation is possible?

    Ask how the actual learning content can be personalised. Will a provider collaborate with your internal stakeholders to incorporate relevant case studies and examples? Will they adapt content and delivery methods based on geographic considerations? Can they provide branded learning materials (featuring your pantones, logos, etc.), something which can help to demonstrate your commitment to investing in your people.

  • Is there a range of learning formats to choose from?

    Multi-modal learning incorporates various formats, including online learning modules and videos, in-person training, events, and self-directed reading. This dynamic style of learning allows you to serve different experience levels (beginner, intermediate, expert), while keeping participants engaged and content fresh in fast-moving areas.

    At Econsultancy, we offer digital learning through our platform (done at scale and self-paced), live learning via interactive workshops and boot camps, and consultancy, for those that require something more bespoke.

  • What kind of certification or accreditation do they offer?

    The demand for professional certifications has been a notable trend in workplace learning, particularly when these certifications can be branded. Customisable and industry-recognised programmes, like the Unilever Ecommerce Accelerator Certificate are a great example of tangible learning achievements that employees will be proud to showcase. Certification offers validation of skills, aligns closely with career goals and industry needs, and enhances the value of professional education.

4. Find out how you will track progress, engagement, and results

You’ll need to track learner activity, manage engagement, and ensure learners are completing their training. Ask how a measures this – it’s integral to the success of your programme (and your organisation)

At Econsultancy, we track learner progress through a mix of peer evaluation, coaching, personalised learning journeys, and by aligning learning activities with strategic goals. Ongoing assessment should measure changes in behaviour and keep learning programmes effective.

5. What’s most important: scale or expertise?

Ask about both qualities so you can fully assess how a given learning provider is able to provide customised, impactful learning for all employees and skill levels.

Providers need to understand your strategic needs so they can map training to different audience levels and company goals. That requires depth – in specialty areas – as well as the ability to scale quality training across your organisation.

6. Weigh up how far your budget will go

Cost effectiveness is relative, value should always be tied to the value you gain from increasing your capabilities versus the total cost. You can start sussing out a budget by assigning a dollar amount to how much you’re willing to invest in training per employee. Learning providers, for their part, should clarify how they plan to measure and communicate skills gains, programme engagement, and learner success. Expert providers should be able to demonstrate how their tools and reports will prove cost effectiveness.

7. Getting learners to engage is hard – how would the learning provider do it?

Providing relevant, personalised content in preferred formats increases engagement. So, too, does bite-size learning (or microlearning), which can help integrate training into workflows. Gamification can also motivate learners, and can be achieved simply through tests, benchmarks and badges. Ultimately, an expert provider should be able to explain in detail how to tackle learner engagement.

8. Understand enterprise learning use cases

We’ve been discussing, broadly, how to assess your digital skills and find the right learning provider for your needs, but it’s also helpful to understand their ability to address your specific use case. At Econsultancy, our clients have two principle mandates:

  • Targeted skills enhancement: We work with practitioners in fields like ecommerce, data and analytics, and content creation to enhance their skills and transition from traditional approaches to modern ones.
  • Improving broader organisational fluency: The second use case involves improving the fluency of entire organisations or multiple teams .

During and after the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen significant growth in demand for training in ecommerce and omnichannel marketing, and have worked with retail clients under pressure to boost the speed and efficiency of their ecommerce operations. This type of project requires understanding the diverse learning needs of various groups, from customer service representatives to data teams, marketing teams, and ecommerce specialists.

“We refer to it as ‘raising the floor’ and ‘raising the ceiling,’” explains Davies. “Raising the floor means we ensure everyone understands ecommerce, can use the right terminology, comprehends the ecosystem, grasps the business model, and has a clear picture of the landscape and platforms. They need to be able to converse effectively about these topics.

“At the same time, a practitioner audience already knows the basics but needs to improve their execution. This requires a different approach. Hence, we devise various strategies to raise both the floor and the ceiling based on the learning audiences.”

9. Ensure your programme can adapt to rapid change

According to our research, 83% of professionals say they need to update their digital skills quarterly (or more frequently) to keep up.

Your learning programme needs to adapt to this kind of rapid change by providing relevant (and timely) learning materials. It should also be able to “think ahead” as interest and need shifts along with emerging trends such as the ability to collaborate and the integration of AI.

Our platform features a management dashboard that tracks the learning activities of individuals, such as the articles they read and the topics they explore. This helps to identify trends in learning interests which can inform curriculum development.

“Unlike traditional organisations that begin as learning and development entities, Econsultancy started with a focus on content and community,” says Davies. “This unique foundation has allowed us to evolve into an effective learning and development tool, while retaining our original emphasis on high-quality content.”

10. Take a strategic approach to your learning and development

Adding news capability requires a strategic blend of training, recruitment, and external support.

The right learning provider can help you get a handle on this by assessing your needs, helping you identify skills gaps, and working with you to create an L&D strategy that’s aligned with your company culture and goals.

“The world is increasingly becoming data-informed,” says Davies, “especially when it comes to building a business case at the executive level. It’s no longer about opinions. Clients need assurance.”

When it comes to selecting the right learning provider, the rationale behind your choices should be crystal clear, and backed by tangible results.

Find out more about the Digital Skills Index

The Digital Skills Index has been a critical first step to upskilling for hundreds of organisations already. Find out more.