The foundation of a modern learning ecosystem is a set of resources and tactics that bring the “learning all the time, everywhere” mindset to life. Rather than build new options for each individual project, a modern L&D team leverages a consistent toolset in consistent, familiar, scalable ways to make their support strategy easier to understand for stakeholders and - most importantly - employees.
While tactics vary by organization based on context and need, the Modern Learning Ecosystem (MLE) Framework™ can be applied uniformly regardless of industry or use case.
The components of the MLE Framework should be familiar to most L&D teams. The truly unique consideration is the way in which these concepts are applied in support of one another to create an overarching support strategy.
- Shared Knowledge is the foundation of the framework and reduces the need for more formal tactics by ensuring employees have quick, simple access to critical information in the moment of need.
- Performance Support builds onto the shared knowledge base by providing simple methods for employees to ask for help when they cannot solve a problem on their own.
- Reinforcement helps employees focus on the specific topics within the large shared knowledge base that they must retain long-term for immediate application.
- Coaching ensures knowledge growth transitions into real-world performance improvement through behavior observation and targeted coaching.
- Pull training provides more structured learning experiences for employees who want to enhance their skills but cannot do so without additional guidance.
- Push Training becomes the “last resort” within the framework and is reserved for complex topics, inexperienced employee needs and regulatory requirements.
The components are “stacked” in order of increasingly structured employee experience. This shifts the L&D focus to providing resources that are more accessible to the employee rather than requiring formal learning interventions. In addition, when applied correctly, this sequence makes each corresponding “layer” stronger due to the options and ongoing support afforded to the employee.
The tactics included within each layer will vary based on the organization and available resources. Here's an example of how your existing tools align to the MLE Framework.
- Shared Knowledge: intranet, wiki, social platforms, user-generated content
- Performance Support: social platforms, chat, coaches, question/answer forums, electronic performance support systems
- Reinforcement: questions, practice activities, training bursts, quizzes, subscription learning, email newsletters
- Coaching: actionable reporting, huddles, practice activities
- Pull Training: eLearning, MOOCs, classroom sessions
- Push Training: classroom sessions, eLearning, MOOCs, assessments
To apply the framework, start at the bottom and ask questions to determine the least amount of support necessary to achieve the desired outcome. Once you hit the layer that is deemed sufficient to solve the problem, stop and apply the related tactics for that layer as well as the layers below. Shared Knowledge and Performance Support layers should be applied to address all potential performance challenges.
- Shared Knowledge
- What information is available to employees on this subject?
- Is that information sufficient to address the problem?
- Performance Support
- How do employees get help on this subject in the moment of need?
- Are employees aware of these help options?
- Is this support sufficient to address the problem?
- Are employees able to identify and retain the need-to-know information on this subject?
- Are reinforcement activities readily available?
- Is continued reinforcement of critical knowledge sufficient to address the problem?
- Are managers/trainers enabled to provide targeted, informed coaching on this subject?
- Are managers/trainers expected to observe performance related to this subject?
- Do managers/trainers have the knowledge and resources needed to support improved performance in this area?
- Is improved coaching support sufficient to address the problem?
- Pull Training
- Would enough employees benefit from an available, structured learning experience on this subject?
- Do employees have the time and resources needed to engage in on-demand training?
- Are employees motivated to seek out structured training in this area?
- Would a self-directed learning experience on this subject be sufficient to address the problem?
- Push Training
- Would enough employees benefit from a required, structured learning experience on this subject?
- Is formal training required on this subject for regulatory reasons?
- Is this subject matter commonly required for inexperienced employees?
- Are we unable to solve the problem using any/all of the previous layers?
Several additional factors must be considered when applying the layers and tactics within the MLE Framework.
- Criticality: The potential negative outcome of poor performance should be heavily considered when applying the framework. The more critical the potential failure (ex: injury, lost sale, customer dissatisfaction), the higher within the framework you should consider when trying to address the challenge.
- Complexity: This is a similar consideration to criticality. If the average employee will find the topic to be complex in nature, you should consider moving higher within the framework to apply more structured support.
- Context: When, where and how an employee executes their role and therefore requires support should always be considered. A frontline retail context is very different than that of a traveling professional salesperson. Delivery methods should match not just the message but also the context in which it will be received.
- Timeliness: The speed of required response will also dictate how high within the framework you will go. The faster a solution must be implemented, the less layers you will likely apply. This is why the foundational components (shared knowledge, performance support) are always critical, regardless of the challenge.
A retailer needs to address growing issues with shrink, which is caused by both customer and employee theft. All other considerations have been addressed, so operational stakeholders now turn to L&D for training on the topic. They suggest a full training program for all employees. However, by applying the MLE Framework, L&D determines that such a timely and expensive solution is not required. This is especially important given the timeliness of the problem and impact to the bottom line.
L&D starts at the bottom of the MLE Framework and asks the right questions to address the performance challenge.
- Shared Knowledge: what information is available to store associates on this topic?
- FINDING: the theft policy and related practices are only available in an eLearning completed during an associate's first day on the job.
- SOLUTION: the policy is added to the company intranet in an easy-to-find, searchable location. Related signage is added to back of house areas.
- Performance Support: how can associates get help on this topic in the moment of need?
- FINDING: associates are unaware that an anti-theft hotline is already available
- SOLUTION: associates receive messaging regarding the hotline and manager support options. These points are added to back of house signage.
- Reinforcement: what is the critical, need-to-know information for this topic, and how can we help associates best retain this information long-term?
- FINDING: common indicators of potential theft for both customers and employees are important but only covered during onboarding and not often used on the job
- SOLUTION: reinforcement questions are delivered to associates every few days via the POS as well as manager huddle talking points to keep this information top of mind
Additional layers of the MLE Framework were not applied, as these solutions were deemed sufficient. L&D was able to execute their strategy in a matter of weeks rather than the months a full training program would have required. Within 6 months, the retailer saw a 55% reduction in shrink as well as an increase in calls to the anti-theft hotline.