Diversification of services in a business is essential for ensuring sustainable and continuous revenue in the long run. When companies diversify, they look into spaces that would ensure that they keep growing and remain relevant to their core consumers, and in case of digital media products: the core audience.
IT and media integration leading to one-stop-shop business model
With digitization, the integration of IT and media became possible. Social networks like Orkut, MySpace, Facebook and most recently, messengers like WhatsApp, have not just provided platforms to network, but also build long-term relationships, whether personal or commercial. The counterpart for professionals in the same area: like LinkedIn, Slack, or Workplace by Facebook are focused on delivering the same experience to professionals.
All of this makes a lot of business sense because the technology giants want to be the preferred platforms for an audience that is only going to grow but is also going to increase the time spent on these platforms further. And not just this, the audience over these platforms want their professional needs met on the single platform that they are most present on.
The counterpart to Facebook for professionals
Originally, LinkedIn was popularly known as the professional counterpart of Facebook, a social networking platform where people could create relationships with the intention of furthering their professional lives. One of the biggest upgrades that LinkedIn did was the addition of the feature ‘looking for opportunities’ that now enables HR professionals over the platform to find talent easily. Apart from this, they have been offering a slew of recruitment solutions, especially to the business clients. But most recently, LinkedIn has also now started to venture into the Learning & Development space more actively. Apparently, they do not want to just help the HR who is looking for talent, but they also want to develop the talent that is present on the platform as to enable her to find the job that she feels the most suited for.
Acquisition of Lynda.com and launch of LinkedIn Learning
In September 2016, before Microsoft completed its acquisition of LinkedIn, it had launched LinkedIn Learning. It has curated content from Lynda.com, a learning, and development platform, that it had acquired for $1.5 billion and which reportedly is among the largest deals in the social media history. It had acquired the education platform in 2015. And after months of experimentation and testing, it integrated the content on the main site.
When People Matters contacted LinkedIn about what drove it to acquire Lynda.com, Irfan Abdulla, Director Talent Solutions & Learning Solutions at LinkedIn India and South Asia, said, “By making Lynda’s extensive library of video content accessible to our vast network of professionals and companies, we aim to empower professionals to develop the skills needed to accelerate their careers.”
Though LinkedIn might have forayed into the L&D space in the year 2015, it is only recently, and after the launch of LinkedIn Learning that its change in strategy is more visible to users.
On the same, Leena Wakankar, Head HR, ASK Group tells People Matters, “LinkedIn’s strategy is to not just connect people with job opportunities but also help people prepare for that job.”
Capturing the L&D and mentoring space
With the news about Facebook creating digital and startup training hubs in the country, the social media giant is also eyeing the L&D space as well. Through its digital training and startup training hub, Facebook would be targeting small and medium businesses. The focus would be on imparting skills with regards to creating business and brand, online reputation and basics of digital marketing. Though, Google is the one who is the pioneer in the space through its certifications that it offers, especially on using its own digital marketing tools.
It is obvious that any online technology giant which has a critical audience mass is eying the L&D space in a big way, and further monetizing the platform, and earning big bucks.
Is this the way forward?
However, the question that probably bugs anyone interested in this space is, ‘If this is the way forward then what advantage does a platform like LinkedIn have over players which are purely learning solutions providers minus the networking space?’
A lot of this depends on the consumers and what they are looking for. Most big organizations have L&D experts and professionals who collaborate with the internal teams who require the solution, and which is dependent factors like the user interface, relevant and updated content, control and creation of learning paths through the solution, and many more.
According to Papiya Banerjee, Head L&D, Bharti Airtel, who talks about the involvement with learning platforms like LinkedIn, “We are involved in the election of courses, mapping the courses with TNI, and rolling out role specific programs.” And also are using such programs for functional skills across domain and digital skills.
An example of a company which took a different route than simply logging into the platform was to create a learning program in collaboration with it. Jatin Tyagi, Head of Talent Management, Vedanta Group told People Matters that they launched ‘Vedanta Leadership Learning Program’ which was powered by LinkedIn Learning.
The evolution of learning
Leena Wakankar told People Matters on the evolution of online learning, “Online learning is an evolving area. There are various method of learning, and today most websites are offering courses which are holistic in nature, often combining online and offline modules with interactions with other students and faculty members. Program directors are experienced individuals adding value and making the learning experience much more enriching. Learning is available today anytime and also in any form – be it reading material, Q&A or a video. This way an individual can choose to learn as per her own preference.”
Here, one can see two ways: one, either the traditional learning platform opens itself to individual users over the internet, and starts to build a networking space. Or, a platform which already has the critical audience, creates opportunities for learning for both organizations and individual users.
LinkedIn obviously falls into the latter category. But what is really interesting is that whether it is LinkedIn, or Facebook or any other mainstream social media network, learning and development of both individuals and employees within the organization is gaining prominence. And the competition between the emerging and the traditional players is only going to grow.
And as Irfan Abdulla told People Matters, “As jobs landscape becomes more dynamic, the skills that are important today may not help the professionals land the jobs in the future. There is a constant need to upskill and companies too are upskilling their current workforce with more in-demand skills.”
Definitely a space to watch out for in the future.