Thought Leader Q&A: Rodney Beach


Evaluating The Benefits Of Custom eLearning Services Vs. One-Size-Fits-All Offerings

Rodney Beach, Liberate Learning’s Group Managing Director, founded the company in 2010. He currently leads a team of over 80 Learning and Development professionals. Based in Australia but with a global footprint, the multi-award-winning company is going from strength to strength. In 2023, Liberate entered into a strategic partnership with MPS Limited to create synergies and enable the expected further rapid growth of the business. Today, Rodney speaks with us about the perks of custom eLearning, evaluating the success of tailored L&D solutions, and cost factors to consider.

There is a huge variety of off-the-shelf learning solutions in the market. In your view, how can opting for custom eLearning services benefit an organization? Can you give us an example?

Yes, it’s hard to keep track sometimes, and I don’t envy decision-makers who have to find and choose vendors to help them where they need to get to. I guess, in the case of Liberate Learning, just to explain where we’ve started, it’s actually in our name; we set out to “liberate” learning, away from cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all offerings. We identified a gap in the market early on, which is based on—and I guess this goes back to our ethos as a profession—providing services that actually dial the performance in the right direction. That might mean that you sometimes purposefully don’t even offer what was asked for by a client out of the need to maintain the integrity around the reputation one’s created over the years.

I remember back in the day, we had a manufacturer come to us; they wanted systems training on their warranty claim IT platform, because the number of warranty claims was way above their target. So, we could have gone in and said, “Yes, here is your systems training,” but after having spoken to a couple of the business stakeholders in our kick-off phase, it was quite clear that there may be another underlying problem causing the high number of claims. So, we investigated (I like to call us “investigative learning translators”) a bit further and found that the problem was caused before system data entry in the decision-making and classification of any incoming repair requests. In the end, instead of delivering systems simulations to train staff on the system, we created communications and workflow training that had the desired down-tick in warranty claims, while still identifying valid claims for their customer service levels. I could tell you many other stories like that, but that’s what it comes down to for us. Which is having the integrity and capability to speak up and offer something else, to not be biased or limited by what you can offer, but by what the client partner actually needs. Short-term and self-serving solutions simply don’t stand the test of time—and our long-term industry reputation is everything to us at Liberate Learning.

What about the cost factor for custom solutions? Isn’t it more expensive?

Well, it goes back to what I said before, and I guess it’s “horses for courses,” as we say. Not all training needs to be custom-built, but if you go in with an open mind, a custom solution can save you a lot of training budget; for example, in the financial services sector, we were working on a mandatory compliance training piece for a relatively large learner cohort. At that time, their staff each averaged eight hours’ worth of mandatory annual compliance training. That’s a lot of hours spent sitting through training that perhaps does not change that much from year to year, but is regarded as required for reaffirming staff knowledge and being able to prove it is still current. So, we’ve wired in a diagnostic recognition of prior learning (RPL) exemption test into the training, where learners could opt to be asked randomised test questions to prove their current competency. That then gets recorded in the system, and as a result, learners only had to complete part of the training they couldn’t prove competency for. All records get recorded in the LMS, and statically, about half of the staff only had to do four instead of the eight hours of training with this RPL approach. In the end, for their large number of staff, it ended up saving them over $15 million (Australian). In this instance, the investment of a sound digital learning solution was negligible, wouldn’t you say—a clear and immediate ROI.

Based on your experience, what would you say is needed to make custom digital learning solutions more effective for organizations?

To be frank, it’s about understanding your clients’ stakeholder language. It’s crucial if you want to arrive at the right solution and achieve the desired results. Each organization has its own unique set of stakeholders, each with their own perspectives, goals, and communication styles. And to be able to do that, you need a high-caliber team of professionals, from end to end. It starts with learning consultants who are able to listen and ask the right questions and sift through the information to come to the right recommendations.

Then, it’s about the skills of your team. You need learning architects and Instructional Designers who are open-minded and creative and can scaffold learning for a diverse variety of learning cohorts. You need the tech people who can wire it all in, so in the end, all the technical and accessibility components are gelled together seamlessly, yet with a keen eye for the user experience focus, too. You don’t want to have the client have to worry about a best practice learning design or tech thing; their job is to focus on the authenticity of the case studies and related learning messaging. It’s about operating in different authoring tools and knowledge of different learning ecosystems, being fluent in that to cater to all needs. It’s also being innovative in delivery to keep it fresh and interesting; I’m speaking VR/AR and 360-degree learning experiences and digital learning spaces now. It really is a huge field of the right skill capabilities combined to get it just right, and there are no shortcuts away from cross-skilled and capable staff to make it happen.

Delivery-wise, your content obviously needs to be just right for the context and for the business needs the solution is supposed to address, taking interactivity and accessibility, inclusiveness, and best practice into consideration all the way through.

How do you evaluate the success of tailored learning solutions?

That’s a really great, and important, question. For us, the measure of success is in the long-standing trusted relationships we have built over the years. People don’t forget when you’ve helped them out of a rut or during a tight time. We all need to be putting our best foot forward as a dedicated learning profession.

For me personally, integrity plays a crucial role in delivering the best possible solutions to clients—self-serving goals can’t play into the equation at all. It goes beyond simply offering what is readily available in our product or service toolkit. True integrity means genuinely wanting to understand the unique learning needs and training objectives of the client and providing tailored solutions that address their specific requirements—we need to honour our profession as educators and honour our role to put the learner at the center of a solution. I also believe we need to be faster in evaluating our impact on the ground, so to speak, and have a paradigm shift about what our job as L&D professionals is. Less pushing out training, more towards offering business solutions and enabling people, if I put it bluntly. Success is when our client partners succeed, and that’s how we’ve built our reputation, by building our client partners’ reputation, one project at a time.

What do you think needs to happen to create that mind shift in L&D towards a more “business outcome” focus?

I think, for us all, we need to shift our mindset about the role of Learning and Development; away from developing learning artefacts upon request and moving towards understanding business needs and creating people-enabled solutions for business success, and I mean both eLearning vendors and L&D teams need to shift their focus from talking about traditional courseware, modules, and classrooms to speaking in more holistic business terms. Talk about the KPIs, talk about the metrics that help you measure them, find out what will dial workplace performance in that direction. Think holistically about what you need to do to change people’s behaviours; that may mean you need to think broader than training artefacts, it may be learning campaigns over time, or even overarching communications and change management. People are complex beings, and they need to be understood and treated that way. That’s what we’ve built our success on, and I encourage anyone who has a passion for honouring training and education to reach out to us and come on board.

Wrapping Up

A big thanks to Rodney Beach for sharing his valuable insights on tailored L&D services, measuring eLearning success, and adopting a more holistic mindset when it comes to learning development. Liberate Learning is an end-to-end custom digital and blended learning solutions provider with a wide range of offerings. If you’d like to learn more, you can explore their website.

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