3 Keys to Developing Actionable, Pragmatic Learning Technologies

By leveraging learning technologies, organizations can improve learning outcomes, boost productivity, and drive effectiveness.

Today’s workforce is pressured to get the job done better and faster than ever. Productivity demands have heightened while the pace of work is accelerating. Adding further to the challenge, employees receive less hands-on support today than in the past.

Managers are now responsible for larger teams and are under immense pressure themselves, leaving little time to support, coach, and advise their team members. Also, with more employees working remotely, there’s inherently less opportunity for the spontaneous, hands-on guidance that more naturally occurs in an office setting. The result is that employees are not getting the support they need when they need it.

Companies lose billions of dollars every year due to miscommunication, unproductive conflict, and ineffective approaches to problem-solving. Diving deeper into unproductive conflict, for example, employees engage in conflict on average 2.8 hours per week, and managers spend more than 20 percent of their time on conflict resolution. That translates to over $300 billion of paid hours that are filled with conflict instead of positive productivity. There’s a huge hidden cost to not providing employees with the everyday support they need to tackle workplace problems.

Providing employees with the right advice at the right time and in the right format can yield a significant return on investment for organizations. Whether it’s learning how to tactfully bring a mistake to the boss’s attention, resolve a conflict with a peer, or gain the confidence to speak up in an important meeting, pragmatic, proven advice that can be immediately applied not only helps an employee proactively address their challenge with confidence and competence but also supports the bottom line. Research shows that companies that use coaching experience 10 percent increased sales, 14 percent increased profit, 3 percent improved customer experience, and 9 percent employee engagement.

While human coaching is effective, it doesn’t scale due to cost, availability, and convenience barriers. On-demand courses on a company’s LMS can address the scaling issue, but traditional e-learning delivered via long-form course content is inconvenient, difficult to access, too long, and not interactive enough to engage today’s employees.

To truly bridge the gap between traditional coaching and more automated, on-demand tech solutions, we must embrace innovative educational tools that offer tailored, dynamic learning experiences and foster a more engaging, mentor-like interaction with the learner. Learning programs must be grounded in learning science and go beyond pushing content to people through legacy e-learning platforms.

The following three pillars are critical for companies seeking to develop personalized, actionable, and pragmatic learning, which is purpose-built to provide employees with the performance support they need to succeed at work.

Lean into the ingrained digital behaviors and preferences of modern employees

Employees who face an immediate challenge prefer to turn to a manager or a peer. However, as mentioned earlier, today’s managers are stretched beyond their limits, and coworkers are increasingly remote and less accessible. SageX research shows that when an employee cannot turn to a manager or coworker, they rarely take the time to search through course topics on a destination platform like an LMS to get the help they need. Instead, they increasingly lean into their ingrained pathways of using apps on mobile devices to get answers in the flow of their work. 80% of the workforce is deskless, and 95 percent use smartphones daily, so they rely on Google, YouTube, and other mobile applications in the palm of their hands. The problem with this approach? It can take time and effort to curate among all those blue links and unvetted videos to find the best approach, and despite their efforts, employees might still be uncertain about the right course of action to take. To meet employees where they are and lean into their ingrained digital behaviors and preferences, we should provide practical, proven advice accessible via a user-friendly, single-solution app on their mobile devices.

Provide relevant, actionable insights delivered via short-duration, high-impact videos.

The preference of employees for video-based training content is a well-documented trend. Video-based training leads to higher retention rates and provides a more enjoyable, engaging learning experience. Younger generations watch an average of 68 videos daily and spend 19 hours per week watching videos on smartphones. In fact, it’s three times more likely that an individual will watch a video on a mobile device than any other device.

However, it would be a fallacy to say that all video-based content is alike in terms of effectiveness. Attention spans now average just 8 seconds, and engagement with any video content plummets after only a couple of minutes. Microlearning videos (under six minutes) delivered at the moment of need allow employees to put learning into practice rapidly, increasing retention. To keep learners engaged, training videos need to move more quickly than in the past, with faster transitions. That requirement is a consequence of the fast-moving video content employees consume in their spare time on apps like TikTok, Instagram, and others. It’s also essential to craft video training content that is brief and engaging, and strategically designed to deliver the most relevant, actionable insights. When done right, concise video-based content results in a fundamentally superior user experience compared to traditional training approaches.

Infuse interactivity into learning to make the learning stick.

Formal learning has the smallest impact on behavior change, and a passive learning experience, where learners are merely observing rather than actively participating, hinders the absorption and application of knowledge. Learning is an iterative process of putting theory into practice. To improve learning outcomes and ensure behavioral change, a higher degree of interactivity and personalization is needed in training experiences. Ideally, the learner should participate in a guided experience or challenge. Engaging with the material in a way that encourages learners to contemplate and then practice what they’ve learned is crucial for deeper understanding and skill development. In this respect, traditional e-learning has fallen short, particularly in social skills training. It often lacks mechanisms for learners to interact with the content meaningfully, practice new skills in a simulated, safe environment, and receive personalized feedback that guides learning. Without these interactive elements, learners are less likely to translate theory into practice in real-world scenarios. Learning experiences have the potential to become more interactive as platforms introduce generative AI (GenAI) features. AI-augmented learning can radically change how learners consume content and the level of interactivity that can be unlocked in a learning experience.

Well-designed technology puts the learner at the center, leans into grained behaviors and preferences, incorporates succinct, impactful video-based guidance, and includes dynamic, interactive opportunities for practice. By leveraging these training technologies, organizations can provide on-demand, scaled employee performance support designed to improve learning outcomes, boost productivity, and drive effectiveness.

Heide Abelli
Heide Abelli is the co-founder of SageX Inc., an AI-enabled e-Coaching and performance support application for the modern workforce. She is an accomplished executive who prior to SageX has held senior leadership positions at leading educational technology and training providers such as Skillsoft and Harvard Business Publishing where she developed award-winning, ground-breaking corporate training solutions.