Turn Your Smartphone Into a Professional Development Powerhouse

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Professional development opportunities are important to today’s workforce, especially the millennials who comprise a significant portion of the contemporary talent market. When it comes to such development, more and more employers and employees are pushing for self-directed, informal learning opportunities instead of the more rigid formal programs that used to be the standard. Indeed, informal learning may account for up to 80 percent of all workplace learning, and it comes with plenty of benefits for employees and employers alike.

The need for informal professional development opportunities was a key driver behind the creation of LeadingEdge, a new mobile-first professional learning and development solution from Harvard Business Publishing.

The LeadingEdge platform strives to give users at all levels — from senior executives to entry-level employees — access to a pool of content from Harvard Business Publishing, including articles from Harvard Business Review, videos from Harvard faculty and expert practitioners, and resources from Harvard ManageMentor.

So far, it seems the platform has been quite a success for Harvard Business Publishing: In early December, Brandon Hall Group gave LeadingEdge a Gold Award for “Best Advance in Unique Learning Technology.”

This is all well and good, but I wanted to know what really sets LeadingEdge apart from other learning and development platforms and how it can benefit companies. So, I spoke to Rob McKinney, product director at Harvard Business Publishing, and Dennis Gullotti, associate director of solutions marketing, about the platform.

According to McKinney, there are two main reasons why LeadingEdge was honored by Brandon Hall Group: the platform’s mobile-first design and the variety of content formats available through the platform.

The Importance of Mobile-First Learning

Mobile Internet usage officially overtook PC Internet usage for the first time last year, and current data suggests this trend will not slow down or reverse itself anytime soon. Knowing this, the team behind LeadingEdge decided it made the most sense to build a mobile-first learning and development solution to solve a common problem that organizations face – namely, how to most quickly access the most relevant and useful content anywhere at any time.

“[We were] anticipating where the puck was going to go,” McKinney explains. “It’s not hard to look at the trends and see that people are using their phones for much more than just casual browsing. They are actually using them as work devices.”

windmillAt first, however, LeadingEdge’s clients weren’t totally on board with this mobile-first tactic.

“We were somewhat ahead of where our clients were, to be quite honest,” McKinney says. “When we first showed this to clients, they were like, ‘That’s great, but I will never use this on a phone.'”

That could have been the end of LeadingEdge, but the team stuck to its guns. They knew the research wouldn’t lead them astray – and they were right. After the clients had some time to sit with the idea, they really took to it.

“By the time we got to the second calls with these clients, they were like, ‘I’m so glad you’re going down this path, because in between the last call and now, I’ve thought of 12 different times I could have used this on my phone!'” McKinney says.

It’s All About the (Relevant) Content

Of course, a nice mobile-first platform would be meaningless if it didn’t have the content to back it up. Drawing on a variety of sources, LeadingEdge gives users access to content from all across the Harvard Business Publishing world.

“We wanted to make sure that people could get the right content,” McKinney explains.

“The content is really key and very valued by our clients,” Gullotti adds. “It is in a really useable format, and it’s very flexible. People can use it for different cases, whether that’s formal learning, sustaining learning, self-directed learning, or even driving strategic initiatives.”

Gullotti believes it is the flexibility of the content that really resonates with most users. LeadingEdge aims to provide content that is useful for employees at all levels and in a variety of learning situations. Because of this, Gullotti says, LeadingEdge can be used to drive professional development in numerous environments.

McKinney says that InterContinental Hotels Group, one of LeadingEdge’s clients, offers an interesting example of how the content can be adapted to suit the specific needs of an organization: “They have mapped the content to levels in their organization, but they also make it available as a self-service tool. So, it was adopted across the board, all over the organization.”

CityThere’s also a collaborative aspect to the platform that McKinney and Gullotti believe is partially responsible for LeadingEdge’s success.

“There are really cool capabilities that allow learning and development teams, leaders, and individuals to save and organize content,” Gullotti says. “It’s pretty easy if you want to drive something out to your team. You can just share the list.”

McKinney adds that it isn’t only leaders who can share content this way: “Even as colleagues, you can share content with one another. That social element really helps to drive performance at the individual and team levels, I think.”

LeadingEdge offers an example of the kind of learning and development solutions we may see more of in the future: mobile-first, collaborative, flexible, and relevant across industries and throughout organizations.

Is it right for your organization? The only person who can answer that question is you, but I do think you may want to explore LeadingEdge, if only to help prepare yourself for what the future of L&D programs may hold – and it’s never a bad thing to be prepared, is it?

Matthew Kosinski is the former managing editor of Recruiter.com.