Is Google your biggest competitor?

Stephanie Morgan looks at why Google is L&D’s biggest competitor, and what we can do about it.

Google can be a big challenge for L&D. In fact, with Google becoming many learners’ default method of quickly accessing information, Google could be your biggest competitor. This means you don’t have control over the messages they are consuming.

But, by understanding why people turn to Google, you can start to adapt your learning solutions to make learners more likely to use them in future.

Google has its place

With learners increasingly discussing and collaborating to solve their problems, the ubiquity of Google makes it an important part of informal social learning. Your resources will appeal more if you try to replicate this level of accessibility and ‘shareability’.

Given the recent research [1] suggesting that some of us are addicted to our phones, it’s also important to think about which devices people use to access learning. The majority of Google searches [2] happen on mobile devices, and your learners are likely to want similarly wide device compatibility and accessibility from your learning resources.

Do you want to be exactly like Google?

In his book, ‘The Social Leadership Handbook’, Julian Stodd highlights that “finding stuff out is easy. Making sense of it is what counts”. This means that although an online search can pour almost infinite information into your learners’ laps, they may be no closer to understanding how to use it, or understanding how it applies to their role within the organisation.

When delivering learning to a global audience, using information like location, job role and previous learning behaviour, can help your solutions do the same.

This is where L&D has an advantage over Google: your knowledge of the specific roles and challenges within your industry and organisation means you can provide specific, bespoke solutions that are relevant and personalised.

How can you ‘Google-ify’ your learning?

We’ve seen that most people prefer to pull learning which is accessible and shareable, but Google also offers a range of ways to personalise the user experience. Google adapts results based on a vast range of factors to deliver the most relevant results.

When delivering learning to a global audience, using information like location, job role and previous learning behaviour, can help your solutions do the same.

If you Google any business, you can:

  • Telephone the company (via Google Hangouts)
  • View location (via Google Maps)
  • Read reviews (via Google Review)
  • View the company’s social media profile (via Google +)
  • Access a wide range of third party resources

In other words, when someone pulls content on one topic, they are given a range of in-house delivery methods to choose from to access the right type of information for them, as well as the best available external resources. Your learning solutions could therefore also offer a range of ways to approach topics to help learners find the right ‘angle’ for them.

Google gathers huge amounts of data to improve and personalise user experience. Of course, the most successful L&D departments will already monitor the ways learners use their resources to understand what learning is working and where people may need more support.

That said, it’s also important to think about each individual’s experience and not just rely on general trends. Simple surveys and feedback forms could be vital tools in understanding the changes that could improve learners’ experience and make them less likely to turn to a search engine before they check your in-house resources.

Final thoughts

Google is probably your biggest competitor in your people’s problem-solving moment of need, and it’s possible that L&D might never overcome the search engine’s powerful appeal. That said, making your learning similarly accessible, adaptable and personalised will increase the chances of learners using your resources instead.

In fact, learning professionals should also celebrate the bespoke and applicable nature of their resources. After all, if your people understand how you facilitate the use of knowledge in the workplace, rather than just ‘dumping information’ like a search engine, they may learn to rely on internal resources when Google fails them in the future.

For me, learning should share useful similarities with Google and celebrate the empowering differences.






About the author

Stephanie Morgan is an experienced L&D professional and director of learning at Bray Leino Learning and can be found on Twitter as @StephanieLandD 


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