Perspectives 2019: The 20th Anniversary of Skillsoft and Todd’s Top Takeaways!

On April 15 – 17, 2019, I attended Skillsoft’s Perspectives 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Last year was spectacular, and I was not sure if Skillsoft could outdo last year, but they did!

The conference opened with a keynote from the Executive Chairman, Ron Hovsepian, who reminded the audience that this was Skillsoft’s 20th Anniversary as a company. He also discussed the significant progress made in the last year including expansion of Skillsoft’s Aspire Learning Journeys in the Technology, Developer and Certification Solutions, mobile experiences for Skillsoft Compliance, expanded localization,  Business Skills development, and much more. Ron also defined an aggressive roadmap for the coming year. This was followed by two interesting panel discussions with customers and was topped off by a fascinating presentation by Daniel Pink on the influence of time and mood on judgment, decision-making and performance. I am writing this in the morning, while my “analytic” mind is at its best!

I attended a number of presentations, client panels and had several one-off conversations with customers. One-off conversations with customers are always my favorite. Customers don’t pull any punches! I had a number of one-on-one meetings with Skillsoft executives. I really enjoy the one-on-one meetings because I enjoy seeing the genuine passion and excitement that Skillsoft’s executives display. To me this is one of the major strengths of Skillsoft. Their leadership is “down to earth”, they are passionate about their mission, and they are eager to meet, and exceed, their goals. Thanks to Heide Abelli, Mike Hendrickson, Tara O’Sullivan, Norm Ford, and Mark Onisk for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with me, and thanks to the ever diligent, Tom Francoeur for keeping the trains running on time.

There were many announcements at Perspectives, and I could provide a list in the blog, but instead, I would like to highlight the topics that I found most interesting. Acknowledging up front that these topics reflect my personal biases, here goes.

The Importance of People (aka Soft) Skills Continues to Grow and is Reflected in Skillsoft’s Offering

People (aka soft) skills are behavioral skills. They are about what we do, how we do it and our intent. It is one thing to know “what” to do, but something completely different (and mediated by distinct learning systems in the brain) to know “how” to do it. People skills include showing empathy, effective communication, listening, collaboration, embracing diversity, and being inclusive.

Simply put, Skillsoft “gets it”. Skillsoft has been following the workplace research showing the importance of people skills and are listening to their clients about the importance of people skills in their workplace. Skillsoft emphasizes people skills training in all of their content areas. Sure, people skills are critical in leadership development, and Skillsoft’s Leadership Development Program emphasizes people skills, but people skills are also central in Skillsoft’s Technology and Development offerings, in Compliance, and in Digital Skills to name a few. [As an aside, if you have not met Ken who is featured in Skillsoft’s harassment awareness training content, get a demo! The subtleties of harassment and the relevant people skills that you will learn from Ken and the rest are memorable.]

The modern workplace needs to develop the “T-shaped” employee. This employee has depth of knowledge (the vertical segment of the T), but also has breadth of knowledge (the horizontal piece). It is one thing to receive effective training and depth of knowledge in data science or DevOps. It is another to simultaneously receive people skills training on effective communication, collaboration or team building. This is a critically important combination that can make the difference between an organization with a positive workplace environment and an efficient software development lifecycle, and an organization that is dysfunctional. Skillsoft is committed to emphasizing people skills in all of their offerings.

A Partnership with IBM Watson and the Promise of Personalized Learning

Ron Hovsepian announced a partnership between Skillsoft and IBM Watson Talent. This is an exciting development and one that will be groundbreaking for a number of reasons. First, talent assessment, which has generally been restricted to employee recruitment, can add significant value in Learning and Development. In fact, I make this case in a recent report entitled “Assessment in Talent and Human Capital Management: A Psychological Science Evaluation” (available upon request). Talent assessment can facilitate the identification of strengths and weaknesses in a candidate and can be used to curate personalize learning paths.

Second, by leveraging the power of IBM Watson Talent, career paths can be recommended to employees in an objective manner. As those of you who have read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, or know Brene Brown, and others work, you know that (on average) women are much less likely to pursue careers or apply for jobs if they believe that they fulfill 60% of the qualifications, whereas men are likely to pursue the career or job with the same qualifications. IBM Watson Talent can neutralize these biases by applying a fixed recommendation criterion regardless of gender. Women and men with equivalent skill sets will be “tapped on the shoulder” to pursue promotions or to pursue new career paths. This will level the playing field and democratize learning.

Finally, the “big data” that will be generated from the partnership between Skillsoft and IBM Watson Talent can be analyzed and explored in a number of ways. More than likely these data will suggest new and emerging career and learning paths that have not been considered. It will uncover overlap and relationships between career aspirations that were previously thought of as non-overlapping, but that may in actuality overlap in interesting ways. The Talent, Career and Learning landscapes that will emerge from analysis of these large data sets will be exciting to explore.

Skillsoft’s Aspire: Meeting Employee’s Desire for Continuous Learning and Employer’s Desire to Retain Talent

Skillsoft has been developing Aspire Learning Journeys at a rapid pace. Organizations desperately need to retain talent. Too often talented employees leave a job because they see no avenue for enhancing their capabilities. When talent leaves, employers must find new high-quality talent and start from scratch. Skillsoft’s Aspire Learning Paths address these needs by offering a sequenced path of instruction, training and credentials that allow employees to aspire to new heights and allow employers to keep talent.

If you are a data analyst with expertise in spreadsheets and typically work with siloed data sources, but want to aspire to become a data scientist, then Skillsoft’s Aspire is for you. If you are an employer with a talented data analyst in your organization and you want to make sure to keep them by suggesting that they “aspire” toward being a data scientist, then Skillsoft’s Aspire is for you. Aspire offers a combination of course, multimodal content, hands-on practice labs, and certification preparation and assessment that can take a learner along the journey from data analyst to data wrangler, to data ops and finally to data science. Aspire learning journeys in cybersecurity, cloud computing, software development, and many other areas have been developed, with many more in the works. With the cost of a University education skyrocketing, and employers finding value in upskilling their current employees, I fully expect Aspire to continue its grow in its reach.

Closing Remarks

Skillsoft is a leader in developing and delivering engaging learning content that drives business impact for businesses and organizations across the globe and in nearly every industry. Check it out yourself by requesting a demo of the Leadership Development program or the Harassment Training content. It is high-quality, well-designed, engaging and compelling. Content delivery is solid. Percipio’s multi-modal “watch”, “read”, “listen” delivery offers learners choice, and the 24/7 access on any platform approach is a must. The new “practice” offering in Percipio is an exciting addition as well. As with any offering more work could be done and optimized delivery that effectively engages the task appropriate learning systems in the brain is a work in progress. The ultimate goal of any L&D platform is to speed initial learning, enhance long-term retention, and prime the learner for behavior change. Although no platform meets all of these goals, Skillsoft is working hard and has their eye on the prize.

Skillsoft’s progress in the last year is impressive, and the roadmap for the coming year is ambitious. I look forward to following Skillsoft on its journey toward excellence, and to talking with the Skillsoft team over the coming months. Most importantly, I look forward to Perspective 2020. Perspectives 2019 will be hard to beat–then again, that is what I said last year.

Leveraging Learning Science: Why Skillsoft’s Technology and Developer Learning Content Drives Continuous Adaptability in the Digital Age: A Market Milestone

In a recently published Market Milestone, Todd Maddox, Ph.D., Learning Scientist and Research Fellow for Amalgam Insights, evaluated Skillsoft’s Technology and Developer Learning Content from a learning science perspective—the marriage of psychology and brain science.
This involves evaluating the training content and delivery to determine whether it engages psychological processes and learning systems in the brain effectively.

Amalgam’s overall evaluation is that Skillsoft’s Technology and Developer Learning Content is highly effective. Skillsoft’s Technology and Developer Content portfolio meets the need for continuous adaptability and effective engagement of the task appropriate learning system in the brain with their “watch”, “read”, “listen” and “practice” content and delivery methodology. Delivering the Technology and Developer Content portfolio with Percipio’s ELSA ensures that the portfolio is efficiently organized, is easily accessible on any device, is searchable and is seamlessly integrated into the employee’s flow of work. Finally, Skillsoft’s newly developed “Aspire” offering helps the employee realize their aspirations and desires by building an “Aspirational Persona” and developing a digital learning journey to support career advancement.

For more information, read the full Market Milestone licensed for distribution by Skillsoft at http://learn.skillsoft.com/Website-AR-Amalgam-Leveraging-Learning-Science-Why-Skillsofts-Tech-Dev-Learn_LandingPage.html.

Why Skillsoft’s Digital Transformation Portfolio Effectively Drives Digital Readiness: A Market Milestone

 In a recently published Market Milestone, Todd Maddox, Ph.D., Learning Scientist and Research Fellow for Amalgam Insights, evaluated Skillsoft’s industry-first Digital Transformation Portfolio from a learning science perspective—the marriage of psychology and brain science. This involves evaluating the portfolio’s content and delivery to determine whether it engages psychological processes and learning systems in the brain effectively. It does. Amalgam’s overall evaluation is that Skillsoft’s Digital Transformation Portfolio is highly effective.

The digital transformation is fundamentally altering the modern workplace and is requiring companies to modify organizational structures, create new roles and develop new skill sets. This transformation affects every aspect of skill learning from “what” we need to know, “how” we need to behave, and the “feel” or awareness that we need to be effective in ever-changing digitally-driven corporate settings. Skills associated with the “what”, “how”, and “feel” are each mediated by a distinct learning system in the brain. Thus, digital readiness requires content construction and delivery that effectively engages each of these systems. Skillsoft’s Digital Transformation Portfolio meets this challenge and is poised to continue to meet this challenge as new and exciting digital technologies transform the workplace.

For more information, read the full Market Milestone.

Why Percipio Excels as a Learning Experience Platform: A Market Milestone

In a recently published Market Milestone, Todd Maddox, Ph.D., Learning Scientist and Research Fellow for Amalgam Insights, evaluated Percipio, Skillsoft’s Learning Experience Platform from a learning science perspective—the marriage of psychology and brain science. This involves evaluating the training content and delivery to determine whether it engages psychological processes and learning systems in the brain effectively.

Amalgam’s overall evaluation is that Percipio is highly effective.
Pecipio’s ELSA (Embedded Learning Synchronized Assistant) addresses the need for organized and easily accessible content as well or better than most competitor’s platforms. ELSA provides just-in-time, searchable and suggested content, all seamlessly integrated into the employee’s flow of work.

Percipio also engages the task appropriate system in the brain. The “watch”, “read”, “listen” framework allows learners to utilize the medium that is most effective in the current context and facilitates microlearning for a targeted and concise understanding of some concept or macrolearning for a deeper dive and understanding. The emphasis on storytelling and scenario-based content, when appropriate, engages emotional systems that upregulate processing in both the cognitive and behavioral skills systems in the brain. The addition of “practice” (to be released in 2019) will facilitate the development of behavioral skills directly in the workplace.

For more information, read the full Market Milestone at http://learn.skillsoft.com/Website-AR-Amalgam-Insights-The-Learning-Science-Perspective-View-Full-Report.html.

Todd Maddox Ph.D.’s Top Four Scientific Observations on HR Tech 2018

HR Tech gets bigger and bigger every year. HR Tech 2018 was no exception. It broke all of the previous records. More importantly, the quality of the offerings, presentations and savvy of the clients continues to grow. I had a great time at HR Tech 2018, and I am already looking forward to 2019. It…

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Amalgam Insights Issues Vendor SmartList™ of Software Solutions That Help Build Better Leadership Brains

BOSTON, September 11, 2018 — A new report from industry analyst firm Amalgam Insights cites nine leaders in software solutions designed to effectively train the hard skills, people skills, and situational awareness of leadership.

The Vendor SmartList™, authored by Amalgam Insights Research Fellow Todd Maddox, Ph.D., takes on added significance given the increasing number of news reports about inappropriate conduct by corporate leaders or the lack of trained behavioral skills among a company’s employees.
“Companies must continuously educate their workers, top to bottom, about the ‘what,’ ‘how,’ and ‘feel’ of effective leadership by leveraging brain science to ensure that their behavior doesn’t land them in trouble,” Maddox says. “The companies in our report have succeeded in mapping these systems to the leadership processes needed in today’s business environment.”

Maddox lists nine companies as leaders, with comments about each company’s strength:
• CrossKnowledge: “Path to Performance uses digital solutions that can combine with facilitator training and a dedicated dashboard to provide effective leadership training paths.”
• Development Dimensions International: “DDI uses a broad range of online and offline solutions, tools for practice and simulation, and ‘what if’ scenarios to train leadership skills that meet tomorrow’s business challenges.”
• Fuse Universal: “(Its) use of science and analytics help clients build content that reflects their company DNA, vision and brand.”
• Grovo: “Its use of microlearning content and training programs that power modern learning and improve business outcomes.”
• Learning Technologies Group: “Its broad portfolio of providers, combined with its emphasis on rich scenario-based training and the importance of business outcomes.”
• Rehearsal: “The use of video role-play training that helps leaders improve their people skills through practice, coaching and collaboration.”
• Skillsoft: “Its combination of content and delivery tools that effectively train hard skills, people skills and situational awareness in leadership.”
• TalentQuest: “The use of personality and behavioral science to empower leaders to better manage, coach and develop their people.”
• Valamis: “Its use of technology and data science to build a system for each client that delivers learning aligned with the client’s business goals.”

Maddox cautions, however, that companies deploying any of the systems listed above, or others, must be prepared to do so on an ongoing basis. “One-off training does not work,” he notes.

The report is available for download at https://amalgaminsights.com/product/vendor-smartlist-2018s-best-leadership-training.

“Walking a Mile in My Shoes” With Skillsoft’s Leadership Development Program: A Market Milestone

In a recently published Market Milestone, Todd Maddox, Ph.D., Learning Scientist and Research Fellow for Amalgam Insights, evaluated Skillsoft’s Leadership Development Program (SLDP) from a learning science perspective. This involves evaluating the content, and the learning design and delivery. Amalgam’s overall evaluation is that SLDP content is highly effective. The content is engaging and well-constructed with a nice mix of high-level commentary from subject matter experts, dramatic and pragmatic storytelling from a consistent cast of characters faced with real-world problems, and a mentor to guide the leader-in-training through the process. Each course is approximately one hour in length and is comprised of short 5 – 10 minute video segments built with single concept micro-learning in mind.

From a learning design and delivery standpoint, the offering is also highly effective. Brief, targeted, 5 to 10 minute content is well-suited to the working memory and attentional resources available to the learner. Each course begins with a brief reflective question that primes the cognitive system in preparation for the subsequent learning and activates existing knowledge, thus providing a rich context for learning. The Program is grounded in a storytelling, scenario-based training approach with a common set of characters and a “mentor” who guides the training. This effectively recruits the cognitive skills learning system in the brain while simultaneously activating emotion and motivation centers in the brain. This draws the learner into the situation and they begin to see themselves as part of the story. This “walk a mile in my shoes” experience increases information retention and primes the learner for experiential behavior change.

For more information, read the full Market Milestone on the Skillsoft website.

Revealing the Learning Science for Improving IT Onboarding

Key Stakeholders: IT Managers, IT Directors, Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Chief Digital Officers, IT Governance Managers, and IT Project and Portfolio Managers. Top Takeaways: Information technology is innovating at an amazing pace. These technologies hold the promise of increased effectiveness, efficiency and profits. Unfortunately, the training tools developed to onboard users are often…

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The Adoption Gap in Learning & Development: How Learning Science Can Bridge the Divide


Key Stakeholders: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, Learning and Development Directors and Managers, Corporate Trainers, Content and Learning Product Managers

Key Takeaways: L&D vendors offer a vast array of innovative functionality and technology for their clients. Unfortunately, clients are overwhelmed by the breadth of offerings and desire guidance on what technology to use when, all in the interest of increasing adoption and the effectiveness of learning. An extensive body of learning science research exists that should be leveraged to provide clients with the much-needed guidance. This approach will reduce the existing adoption gap and improve the performance.

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Skillsoft Perspectives 2018 – A Vision For The Future of Corporate Learning

Key Stakeholders: CHRO, Chief Learning Officers, Talent Acquisition Directors and Managers, Learning & Development Directors, Training Managers, Corporate Education Managers, LMS Managers

On April 11th – 13th, Amalgam Insights attended

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