Why a Learning Content Strategy Is Essential

4 key areas of focus for CLOs to ensure a learning content strategy will pay dividends by engaging all learners and ensuring that learning is in the flow of work.

Today’s Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) balance many priorities and expectations, including linking training with performance, evaluating a multitude of learning technologies, and demonstrating a return on their organization’s learning investment. Let’s look at key areas of focus for CLOs to ensure a learning content strategy will pay dividends by engaging all learners and ensuring that learning is in the flow of work.

#1 Learner Experience

Modern learning delivery technologies (LMS, LXP) are designed to make content easy to search, explore, navigate, and access. But these platforms cannot make the learning content itself more engaging and impactful. Most companies are stuck with a lot of legacy content that does not fit the modern learning environment. Transitioning from outdated content is not easy. Many companies say they don’t have the time, technology, or people to create more personalized learning.

To ensure learning has an impact on the business, companies are using the modern tools and modalities that are expected from a contemporary learning environment. It is possible to create learning experiences that are learner focused and personalized to learner needs. Companies doing so achieve better results than those that are not. In our research, we identified companies that said their learning efforts had a positive impact on:

  • Time to productivity/effectiveness
  • Voluntary turnover/employee retention rates
  • Employee engagement
  • Individual performance
  • Manager/supervisor observations
  • Team effectiveness

These organizations are delivering “high-impact learning” compared to those whose efforts are not having as much of a positive effect. These high-impact companies are much more likely to employ newer learning experiences.

The term, “content strategy,” often refers to marketing and marketing content. For the Learning and Development (L&D) function, a content strategy is getting the right content to the right user at the right time through strategic planning of content creation, delivery, and governance. Unfortunately, most companies do not take a strategic approach. To be effective, the content strategy needs do address the following:

  • What content is required?
  • When is it required?
  • Who produces the content?
  • Where will it be delivered?
  • Why is it being developed and delivered?

#2 Measurement

Companies struggle to demonstrate learning’s impact on the business. They focus on things such as course completions and smile sheets, which only have meaning to the L&D function itself—if that. High-Performing Organizations (HiPOs) do a far better job using real outcomes to measure learning.

Content includes the content and rich media assets, enrichment within the assets, metadata, and relationships between assets. For content producers, defining a new content architecture is foundational to achieving digital transformation. Technology, process, and people support the creation, enrichment, management, and delivery of content.

Traditional metrics have value, but they must be used with other standards to demonstrate impact. Think of measurement as several different “tracks” that come together to show outcomes.

  • Metrics around course completion, abandon rates, course evaluations; things that are related to the course itself.
  • Outcome-based measurement: How do we engage with learning and affect the business with performance-based outcomes?
  • Business-based metrics; part of outcome-based measures but directly related to moving the needle at a business level.
  • Metrics about the content itself—coverage across topics/standards/regulations, how often is content used/reused; if we think of content as an asset, we want to drive the most value out of that content… we want to derive a “return on the content investment.”

#3 Compliance

Compliance is one of the biggest challenges for companies—and for good reason. Being out of compliance can lead to fines, lawsuits, slowdowns, injuries, and death. Compliance training is vital, yet it is rarely favored with the same strategic vision as leadership development, for example. Compliance training typically touches all employees and it is often one of the first learning experiences an employee has in an organization.

Companies spend a lot of money on compliance, but if you add compliance/regulatory training, ethics and HR/legal training, it accounts for an average of 18 percent of the L&D budget, putting it on par with leadership development. 

How can companies do a better job with compliance training? 

First, consider the multiple tiers of compliance:

  • Rules and regulations
  • Read and acknowledge
  • Safety
  • Point-in-time verification

There are many content-centered items to help organizations get a better handle on compliance. First, identify compliance-related content to be reviewed and associated with the relevant employee groups. Once this content is identified, companies must determine how easily it can be updated. Rules and regulations change frequently, and it can be difficult to keep up when most compliance training content is locked into large, single-format courses.

Other important aspects of content-level compliance are version control and point-in-time verification. In many cases, when an incident occurs or an audit is failed, companies refer to their training records to check if employees completed the requisite material. However, identifying versions of the content and how it looked at a specific point in time may confirm an employee received the training, albeit an older iteration.

By breaking compliance training into smaller reusable and updateable content pieces, companies can keep compliance training current and gain more understanding into how employees interact with content elements, along with actionable insights into their compliance training.

#4 Experimentation

One of the things holding many organizations back is a reluctance to embrace innovation and try new things. Stagnant learning strategies, technology infrastructure, and measurement models make it difficult for CLOs to move in new directions. Brandon Hall Group research found, however, companies that do achieve positive results. Companies that fall into the “high-impact” group referenced earlier are much more likely to give learners things not typically found in traditional environments.

Starting with smaller, reusable content makes learning much more flexible and adaptive. The more granular the content is, the easier it is to assemble in contextual, personalized ways. 


To tackle the big challenges facing CLOs, they must begin at the beginning and think small. This type of change starts at the molecular level or else the learning universe will not shift.

  • Without enriched, engaging content, the learner experience will always fall short.
  • Metrics are multi-layered; content and metadata lay the groundwork to collect and contextualize metrics.
  • Content and metadata enable multiple layers of compliance to meet organizational objectives.
  • An agile organization requires agile content.

To download a free copy of Brandon Hall Group’s research summary, “Rethinking the Learning & Development Budget,” click here.

David Wentworth is principal learning analyst at Brandon Hall Group. The firm’s vision is to inspire a better workplace experience, and its mission is to empower excellence in organizations around the world through its research and tools. Brandon Hall Group has five human capital management (HCM) practices and produces the Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards and the annual HCM Excellence Conference, in West Palm Beach, FL, February 4-6, 2020.