Buzzwords, Jargon, and The Intelligence Tax in L&D

November 11th, 2021

Finally I feel that the community is starting to bring to a head the problem that has been brewing in L&D software platforms for a while now. That problem?

Transparency. Or lack thereof.


There's a belief held by many in economics that the complexity of the tax code is a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. I believe much the same is true in professional development.

The complexity of L&D is a restriction of knowledge placed on the less-educated by the educated.

By less-educated I am largely referring to the knowledge of the individual or business regarding the L&D sector, but you don't have to go too far to view examples which provide clarity.

The Jargon

Let's start with jargon. The industry is full of buzzwords and acronym's. Is your LXP better than your LMS at using AI to provide CPD through an LTI whilst connecting to your HRIS, integrating with your ERP and recording it to your LRS?

Er... I'm.... I'm not sure.

If you're in the market for a learning platform you're likely to encounter the above, which is confusing enough, even before circumlocution.

circumlocution

noun

the use of many words where fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive.

I'm not going to go as far as calling out individual vendors, but phrases on certain learning platform marketing sites that exist today include:

  • Our platform will make... "your learning tech stack easier to maintain with one centralised core"

  • Our platform... "connects learning and career growth to business opportunities through one single, fluid skill-development experience"

  • Our platform will... "promote a learning culture, growth mindset, effective and insatiable curiosity in your organization"

But.... What does it do?

Its basically marketing waffle, often used deliberately to be the smoke and the mirrors around a clunky legacy platform, long drawn out implementations times, poor user experience and inflated costs.

I've been in this sector for two decades; so of course I understand the phrases, the intentions, the acronym's, the learning styles, the integrations and the purpose. In fact - in most cases - I know how it's built and how it operates under the hood, and how to demystify the misty; but even I still don't like the way L&D is marketed and sold.

The complexity of L&D is a restriction of knowledge placed on the less-educated by the educated.

And... What does it cost?

Even in a post-pandemic roaring-20s world, the majority of L&D software providers will not be transparent with price on their website. In many cases you're required to pass across your contact details, sit through a sales demo, and then you may be lucky enough to discover how much bitcoin will be transferred out of your digital wallet... if the hackers haven't gotten to it first, that is. (What, don't we all pay in bitcoin now?)

  • then there are tiers (and💧's) "You've 1025 users? Sorry you're in our 2000 user tier and will have to pay more."

  • and a minimum commitment (🧾) "a 3 year minimum contract term, I am afraid."

  • oh, and a setup fee (💰) "and there is a mandatory training and implementation day which comes in at circa £2k"

and when you think you know the cost...

...you don't.

In odd instances EVEN when the price is published on the website, it still isn't the price you pay. Don't believe me? Go and get the advertised £4 per user per month subscription from HowNow and let me know how you get on.


So where do we go from here?

There are some glimmers of hope that encourage me and give me hope that our platform vendors (myself included) are starting to sit up and take note. To head in the right direction, we need to double down on the following:

Analyst Assistance

As a some-what cult figure in the LMS analyst space, Craig Weiss likely has as many detractors as he does supporters, but whether you agree with the execution or not, his Customer Excellence Pledge is a great idea and a big step forward. Navigate the list of the partners who has signed up to the pledge, and whilst not be to considered as a shortlist of vendors, this does provide insight to those that uphold high standards.

Review Sites

In the customer review space is HR, Talent and Learning platform specialists Venndorly. In a similar vein to TrustPilot or Capterra, but with an exclusive and precise remit around platforms in the sector, Venndorly is a highly trusted review site where customers are encouraged to provide their honest opinion to help others. Don't go anywhere without checking here first.

Transformation from within

Finally though, and perhaps the most important, we need to change together as a sector. We - customers, analysts and vendors alike - need to call out bad or nefarious behaviour, deliberately jargon led sales tactics, and opaque pricing schedules.

The faster we do that, the faster we can achieve what we set out to, which is to provide transformative professional development to the workplace to improve people and businesses worldwide.