The ultimate buyers guide to workplace learning content

Understand your objectives, identify and know your audience, and choose a vendor who will help you achieve your goals.

The Ultimate Buyers Guide to Workplace Learning Content

Understand your business objectives, identify and know your audience, and choose a vendor who will help you achieve your goals.

INTRODUCTION

As an L&D professional, you must navigate the multidimensional challenges found in today’s everchanging workforce to produce a comprehensive, engaging learning experience that feels relatable and easy to digest for each employee. To make things more complex, what has been successful in the past may not be an option today or in the future. 
 
In order to navigate and overcome these challenges, it is important to pick a content vendor you can trust. To help you get started, we’ve compiled 3 quick steps and 10 thoughtful questions designed to achieve clarity on your objectives, identify and know your audience, and choose a vendor who will help you attain your goals. 
 
Let’s jump right in!

3 quick steps to get started

STEP 1: THE "WHY"

Understand your objectives and learning outcomes

 

What you need to know

STEP 2: THE "WHO"

Identify and know your audience

What you need to know

STEP 3: THE "WHAT"

Determine if you'll buy or build

What you need to know

For the learning content you want to buy.

Not all content vendors are the same. How do you know which is right for your organization, now and in the future? Ask these 10 questions next time you’re talking to a content vendor. 

10 questions to ask content vendors

1. What is your overall philosophy for online learning? 

Why you should care
Workplace learning has come a long way from the early days of branched, eLearning content created solely to offset external requirements — taken begrudgingly by employees. These days, you should expect your content vendor to have a philosophy — a point of view — on the power and importance of online learning content. And, demand more from your chosen vendor than the pat answer that goes something like, “Everything is online now, so learning content should be too.” Learning content is the fuel for change in organizations, and picking the right content vendor is the first step in catalyzing positive change in your organization.

 

How we address
At Cornerstone, our North Star has always been the same — to educate the world. We believe people can achieve anything when they have the right development and growth opportunities. And, what good is a learning platform without modern learning content? We also recognize that tomorrow will be nothing like today, and things are forever changing at work. We’re all being forced to replace traditional methods and structures with more agile, flexible, and now even remote work environments. Our goal is to prepare your people and your organization for the future.
 
Cornerstone Content Anytime marks a clear departure from the offerings of most content vendors. It uses a socially-recognizable model (e.g. the subscription), predicates value on a mix and variety of content that is sourced and produced, and sets a high-quality bar for the content it includes. Why? Because at Cornerstone, we view employees as consumers. And, we craft subscriptions that rise to that level of quality, variety, and relevance. Your employees want to be delighted and inspired by content, and so we source the best out there and complement with our own, in-house-produced content to deliver an undeniable package of on-trend, consumer-grade learning that evolves as quickly as your people.

2. What topic areas (or skills) and languages does your content cover? 

Why you should care
It is important to evaluate breadth and depth when it comes to learning content, especially if you are serving multiple different functional teams and learners in varied geographical regions. Make sure that you’re not only checking the box for which skills your organization needs, but you are also thinking about how each topic area maps back to the outcomes you are trying to achieve.

 

How we address
Cornerstone Content Anytime subscriptions are focused on the skills that everyone across an organization needs — teamwork, communication, digital skills, leadership and management, modern compliance, working remotely, stress management, and much more. We cover these skills in five core languages — English, Spanish, German, French, and Italian. Each subscription is a hand-picked assortment of the ‘best hits’ from a host of top content providers, as well as our own in-house-produced Cornerstone Original series.

We also recognize that many teams, such as IT and Sales, require depth in functional skills to do your job effectively, and depending on the industry you are part of, there may be requirements or best practices that you want your employees to be trained on as well. For these specific use cases, we offer stand-alone content libraries from a host of providers that go deep in their topic area of expertise. 

3. Where do you source your content? If an aggregator, who are your partners? 

Why you should care
As you probably have realized, there are two main types of content vendors: content producers and content aggregators. What’s the difference between the two? Content producers are, just as it sounds, developing their own learning content in-house. They typically have their own style and philosophy around learning and tend to specialize and go deep in certain topic areas (or skills). On the other hand, content aggregators aren’t producing their own content but are focused on bringing together content producers into a single marketplace. When working with content aggregators, make sure to ask them which vendors are in their partner network as this is the content your employees will ultimately be receiving.
 
How we address
At Cornerstone, we are a rare species
being both a content producer and aggregator. A substantial amount of resources have gone into our strategy to do these both well. We partner with 50+ vendors who specialize in an assortment of topic areas, languages, and learning formats. When we uncover a gap in strong content or run across a topic we are passionate about, we look to our in-house production team (we call them Cornerstone Studios), located in Los Angeles and New York, to do the fun work — build awesome learning content. 

4. What format does your learning content come in? 

Why you should care
The format of the content is just as important as the topic it is focused on. Specifically, your employees have different preferences when it comes to learning. The most common types of online learning are macro learning (10+ minutes), microlearning (<10 minutes), and nano-learning (<2 minutes). Each of these formats appeals to a different audience, and depending on the topic area, you may focus on just one or multiple of these formats. For example, if trying to learn a topic quickly, like How to Give Feedback, a microlearning course can do the trick. If focused on a more hearty topic, like Having a Difficult Conversation, a longer macro learning format may be more effective. 
 
How we address
Each of our Content Anytime subscriptions brings in all three of these learning formats. Here are sample courses from our content offerings — all focused on the same topic of Coaching, but with differing learning formats to address varying learning preferences.
 

5. Is your content visually-engaging, and does it meet the needs of different learning preferences?

Why you should care
No one wants to buy content that sits on a dusty shelf unused. This may sound obvious, but make sure as you are evaluating a content vendor, you get to see and experience the content first-hand. You want to make sure it keeps your attention, is visually engaging, and that there is variety in the type of content at hand. Your employees have different learning preferences, especially if you employ multiple generations — Psstt…did you know there are now five generations working in today’s workforce. and they all have different preferences for learning and communicating?
 
How we address
Variety is a core pillar of our Content Anytime subscriptions. It is rooted deeply into our curation philosophy and DNA. When it comes to variety, we strive to optimize each piece of content based on the learning goal. The courses available in Content Anytime exist on a spectrum from “micro” to “macro” in scope and from “instructional” to “motivational” in approach. No two learners are alike, and no single learner needs the same kind of content in every scenario. For example, learning to shift your mindset on a topic from a TED Talk is an inherently different process from learning a new skill through a more traditional method. Learners will inevitably need different training options as they navigate their own growth, and we’ve anticipated this need through the varied, heterogeneous set of courses we’ve brought together.

6. How do you determine the quality and effectiveness of your learning content?

Why you should care
Nearly every content vendor promotes their content as “high quality,” Your job is to get beyond the marketing buzzword and uncover what quality really means to the vendor. What does the content look like side by side? Is it interactive and engaging? Does the vendor have a quality assurance team who monitors the content they’re providing in their offerings?

How we address
Just like variety, quality is the second pillar of our curation and content strategy. When it comes to quality, we consider both the contents of the course itself as well as the experience surrounding the course, all with the goal of optimizing the learner’s ability to find, consume, and apply relevant learning in their work. When thinking about the course contents, we review our content from every angle: the audio and video quality; the intuitive UI of the course player; the design and animation that appears in the onscreen video; and the quality of writing, voiceover, acting, and the overall learning experience governing the course object as a whole. What does it mean to say the “experience surrounding the course?” This is where metadata like the course’s title, description, keywords, and thumbnail image comes into play. It’s a hard truth that even the most useful and engaging content needs the right packaging for people to find it and hit “play,” so we aim to ensure the learner’s full journey with our content is positive and straightforward.

7. Can your content be modified and/or customized?

Why you should care
Let’s go back to the 80/20 rule. For most organizations, off-the-shelf content solves 80% of your learning needs. But, there’s that 20% that you may want to create from scratch or tweak or position differently to contextualize it for your organization and brand. Building content from scratch can be time-consuming and overwhelming without the right tools, and worse off, the end product can be mediocre-looking. Some content vendors have content authoring tools that enable you to create custom content and/or customize either their entire library of content or part of it.

How we address

At Cornerstone, we have a content authoring tool called Create that provides you with the ability to build your own content from scratch, leveraging pre-built templates, or to easily modify and customize each Grovo microlearning course produced by our team (there’s over 2,000 of them!). We understand it’s important to reflect your organization's unique brand, culture, and values. Fun Fact: The Create Tool is what our production team uses to build content, all day, everyday, so you can trust that it’s awesome!

8. How regularly is your content library refreshed?

Why you should care
With the pace that organizations are forced to evolve, skills and libraries of content can become static and out-of-date really quickly. It’s important to understand how frequently a content vendor refreshes or updates their content library. And, just because they are adding new content doesn’t necessarily mean that it is getting pushed out to your portal/platform. Make sure to confirm when your library would be seeing updates — Annually? Quarterly? Monthly? Never-Ever?

How we address
Our Content Anytime subscriptions are constantly in “refresh” mode, adding in new partners, courses, and language coverage. We follow a quarterly cadence so that all of our client’s portals get new content pushed out four times a year, and occasionally, if there is something we are really excited about, like a new Cornerstone Original Series or a super-timely topic, we’ll do a special release outside of the normal quarterly release cycle. You can be rest assured that your learners will always have relevant and timely content at their fingertips. 

9. Can your content be distributed in the flow of work? And, can it be easily adapted to build learning playlists and/or experiences? 

Why you should care
First off, we know that work often takes place outside of an office in today’s workplace. More people are working remotely either part-time or full-time, which means learning must be available on-the-go as well. For this reason, make sure the content you are about to invest in is mobile-friendly. This is table stakes. 

Secondly, learning also should take place in the flow of work, making it easy and accessible for employees to discover just-in-time content in order to address a challenge in the moment it matters. Don’t be afraid to dive deep into this area with a content vendor to understand how their content is surfaced in the flow of your employee’s work. Make sure to ask these three questions:

  • Do you offer more than an LMS (i.e. Performance, Recruiting) so that content can weave throughout the full Talent Management lifecycle? 
  • Do you have integrations built with everyday work tools (i.e. Salesforce, Slack) so content can be surfaced in the flow of employee’s work?
  • Do you have tools or best practices to help Administrators and/or Managers build meaningful learning experiences? 

How we address
Cornerstone is the premier Talent Management provider, which enables us to weave learning content throughout our robust talent management suite — Learning, Performance, and Recruiting. This helps you connect the dots between an employee’s onboarding all the way through their performance review and beyond. We also have integrations built with everyday tools, like Slack and Salesforce.com, that enables you to  plug our content into the tools that your employees are using day in and day out.

10. How does your content integrate with an LXP or LMS to enable an engaging and personalized learning experience?

Why you should care
Obviously, learning content has to live somewhere; it can’t float around like a wandering hippie vagabond. Typically, it resides within a Learning Management System (LMS), or more recently, a Learning Experience Platform (LXP). Integrating it into one of these learning platforms can be painful. You may have experienced this first- in which case the word “integration” is giving you PTSD right now. Most content vendors don’t offer a robust LMS, but rather, have formed a light, slimmed-down learning platform that surfaces up the content in a visual way and does some light reporting.

How we address
The beauty of Cornerstone is that we built a world-leading learning platform first and invested in content second, unlike some of our competitors. This means that all of the Content we sell and create, whether a Content Anytime subscription or any stand-alone library, comes pre-integrated into our learning platform and was natively built to be surfaced in that way. No integration headache, fees, or resources needed. This also enables Learning Administrators to take advantage of the platform tools that are built to personalize the content experience, such as Learning Playlists, Curriculum Blueprints, and Administrator Toolkits. 

3 bonus questions

Use these questions to dive into more strategic conversations with a content vendor.

1. Are there reporting tools to help me track the completion, engagement, and success of your content?

Why you should care

Being able to track the success of your learning initiatives is a no-brainer necessity. To do this, your content must sit in a platform that provides reporting and analytics around consumption and engagement. Not all content vendors are equal in this regard. Things to look out for:

Data to track: 

  1. Registrations
  2. Completions
  3. Unique users vs. repeat users
  4. Assigned learning vs. self-directed
  5. Time spent learning
  6. Performance or behavior change
  7. Pass/Fail scores
  8. Most popular subjects/courses/providers consumed


How we address

Each of our Content Anytime subscriptions at Cornerstone lives within the Learning Management System which includes robust reporting and analytics. Since every training initiative is unique, you can build custom reports to help track metrics and illuminate ways to improve learning for your people. Explore how our reporting gives you access to more effective data to prove organizational impact and make important talent decisions.

2. What is your client success strategy?

Why you should care

As you may have experienced first-hand, all too often learning initiatives are not seen as effective by your Managers, employees, and leaders. According to a recent McKinsey study, only 12% of employees apply new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs, and 75% of Managers are dissatisfied with their company’s L&D function. Why? Modern learning extends far beyond the course. Oftentimes, content is purchased or created with good intentions, but beyond having it available in an online library, you may not have the resources, time, or right content partner to help you create a meaningful learning experience.
 

How we address
At Cornerstone, we have an entire team dedicated to making sure you are successful at driving impact with the content you purchase from us. We partner with you providing tips, best practices, and insights for how to drive adoption and engagement across your learners. E
ach Content Anytime subscription includes eLearning content and engagement resources. What are engagement resources? They’re assets our team has built to help Administrators and Managers easily and quickly roll-out Content Anytime courses.

3. How are you using big data, AI, and Machine Learning to inform your content strategy? 

Why you should care

Advances in data analytics and machine learning are already having a profound impact on the HR product landscape, and their impact continues to grow with each passing year. As a talent leader, the way you source, assess, hire, train, develop, pay, and move people is (or should) all being informed by data. And, when it comes to employee development, you have the chance to use machine learning as an integral part of your content strategy. Machine learning will help you provide relevant content to the right employee at the right time.  

 

How we address

At Cornerstone, big data and machine learning is what drives our Learning Experience Platform and curation strategy. It’s how we surface relevant content to your employees based on their job role, skills, interests, and what others at your organization are learning, as well as curate together the best content for your employees. Speaking of big data, when building Content Anytime subscriptions, one of the key data sources we analyze is anonymous consumption trends from the 75M+ professionals learning on our platform to ensure the top courses, subjects, and providers are woven into our content strategy and offerings.  

For the content you want to BUY, Cornerstone can help

Help employees adapt to change, step into leadership, stay compliant, and manage their well-being.
learn more

For the content you want to BUILD,

we have you covered

We understand that you spend a lot of time living and breathing your culture, and you often want your content to reflect that. Inevitably, there may be some learning content that you want to modify or customize to represent your organization’s uniqueness. With Cornerstone’s Create Tool you don’t have to start from scratch to have content that is personalized for your culture and brand. This tool gives you the ability to easily modify and customize all of the microlearning courses we have produced in-house (there’s over 2,000 of them!) so that you can multi-purpose the content. Explore this quick overview of the tool.

Let's connect

Speak to one of our sales representatives about how Cornerstone can help you meet today's needs and tomorrow's evolving requirements.

Methodology: “The skills companies invested in this year" was determined by looking at anonymized data on the top 200 courses consumed by the millions of global learners on Cornerstone’s Learning Platform. All courses are mapped to a specific skill and subject within our Skills Taxonomy and therefore surface the top skills learners spent time consuming (i.e. learning) in 2019.  Included data from January 2019 to November 2019.
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