21 April 2021

LinkedIn Learning Hub – So Many Questions

Dani Johnson

TL;DR

  • Linkedin Learning will be launching its new LXP – LinkedIn Learning Hub this year.
  • The Learning Hub will be free to customers of LinkedIn Learning Pro for the first year, helping them build market share and refine the product before they start charging for it.
  • Learning Hub may be a good option for orgs looking to dip their toes in the LXP space, or for small and medium-sized orgs that are not ready for a larger LXP.
  • Learning Hub appears that it will play firmly in the learning tech space at the same time other LXP providers are increasing their footprint and involving other functions in the skills development discussion.
  • Learning Hub will utilize their data in fairly traditional ways – to provide content recommendations and connections for learning.
  • Learning Hub was announced less than 3 months after its parent company, Microsoft, introduced Viva – which has several of the same functionalities.

It really comes as no surprise that LinkedIn Learning is jumping on the LXP bandwagon. As organizations have begun the trek from “you’ll learn what I darn-well tell you to learn” to “Look! It’s Netflix for learning!” to, finally, “Let’s help you build skills – it’s good for you and it’s good for the company”, it makes logical sense that LinkedIn would eventually go here. Read their announcement.

Here’s what we know:

It’s free (for some, and for now).

LinkedIn Learning is offering LinkedIn Learning Hub for free to existing LinkedIn Learning Pro product customers for 1 year. We’re assuming this is a way to quickly build market share and allow those orgs that are thinking about dipping their toes in the LXP market to experiment.

This is particularly savvy as organizations are thinking more broadly about learning – no matter how good LinkedIn Learning content is, it’s likely not enough on its own for any organization. LinkedIn Learning Hub gives LinkedIn Learning the chance to offer more value to existing customers by creating a new product in a hot category.

This move may cost LinkedIn a bit of money upfront in customer service and integration unless they have an incredibly easy interface to connect both content, data, and employee information and expect it to be turnkey. But it also provides them with further opportunities to connect with and build relationships with existing customers.

What we’d like to know:

  • What will be the cost after the first year?
  • What services will LinkedIn Learning add to accommodate their new LXP customers? Even the simplest LXP is significantly more complicated than a content portal.
  • Will they leverage customers using the product to further develop the product to better compete with existing platforms?

It’s for learning.

LinkedIn is offering LinkedIn Learning Hub as an addition in LinkedIn Learning. That fact, and the name, “Learning Hub”, lead us to believe that LinkedIn is thinking about this product as firmly planted in the learning space. As such, it can easily find a line item on the L&D budget and also has the opportunity to be a fairly big disrupter to the LXP market.

While this is seems like a logical move, it could also be shortsighted given that other big LXP players (like Degreed or Edcast) are endeavoring to increase their footprint outside of L&D as they realize that “skills” isn’t just a learning problem; it’s a strategic problem that affects almost every people aspect of an organization.

Other players are increasingly emphasizing that learning happens everywhere, and not just as a result of consuming content, to build skills. Other ways of developing skills, most notably through experiences, are being developed and tested. (Incidentally, if you’re interested in the skills discussion, check out our podcast, Workplace Stories: The Skills Obsession.)

What we’d like to know:

  • How does the product accommodate (and connect with) other technologies that are increasingly involved in developing/tracking/reporting skills and experiences?

It touts its data.

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn Learning Hub is touting data and insights from their Skills Graph, “the world’s most comprehensive skills taxonomy, with 36K+ skills, 24M+ job postings, and the largest professional network of 740M+ members.” LinkedIn has got some fantastic data – one of the very big advantages it has over others playing in this space.

However, how LinkedIn indicates it’ll used use that data is underwhelming. According to their introductory post by their Sr. Director of Product, James Raybould, all that lovely data will be used to “empower customers with richer skills data insights, personalized content, and community-based learning.”

These things are important – but at this point, we don’t see the ability to provide incrementally better recommendations for content as a game changer in the LXP space.

What we’d like to know:

  • What do the richer skills data insights look like, and what can LinkedIn Learning Hub do with those insights beyond these basics in the near future?
  • How will those insights be leveraged for some of LinkedIn’s other offerings? (e.g., we see how skills information could be really valuable to LinkedIn proper and their support of recruiting).

So far its data appears to be for the adults.

Data and insights about skills are touted as available to L&D functions through the admin portal so they can “identify skills gaps, pin key skills and track trends over time, benchmark themselves against similar companies, get insights on skills interest and learning activity, and track skill trends across content sources.”

One of the really powerful advantages we think LinkedIn has is their history of providing data to the employees themselves – those most empowered and most motivated to do something with it. We’d love to understand what kind of skills data LinkedIn Learning Hub will provide individual employees and how it can enable employees in their careers. With the strong focus many organizations have on employee experience these days, this seems like a no brainer and a pretty big selling point.

What we’d like to know:

  • What information will be pushed down to individuals?
  • How is this tool designed to help guide employees to new opportunities for growth and career?

It (like everyone else) has a skills taxonomy.

One of the biggest arguments about skills is what to call them and how they relate to each other. Many organizations lack a common language about skills, and one of the biggest frustrations is the lack of consistently between departments, businesses, and even technology. We don't know how to talk about skills. To solve this problem, many organizations either create skills taxonomies or adopt ones and tailor them to their needs so – at least internally – everyone is using the same language.

The LinkedIn Learning Hub's skills taxonomy may help some organizations create the consistency they crave. It also provides a way to more accurately benchmark against industry and/or regional norms for skills and skills development. Many providers of skills frameworks are moving towards ontologies (structures that show concepts and their relationships relationships and adapt to new information) rather than taxonomies (structured, formalized, hierarchical organizations). Although we haven't seen it, we're assuming LinkedIn may lean more toward ontology than pure taxonomy – important to their ability to do more cool stuff later.

What we’d like to know:

  • How does the taxonomy stay current and valid given rapid changes most orgs are facing,
  • How can it align with taxonomies that have already been adopted by organizations?

It appears to duplicate some of Viva’s offerings.

Less than 3 months ago, Microsoft, LinkedIn Learning’s parent company unveiled its new Employee Experience Platform, Viva. This tool “brings employee engagement, learning, wellbeing, and knowledge discovery directly into the flow of people’s work.” See our take on Viva here.

As a part of that offering, there is a native player for LinkedIn Learning content. Other things it does?

  • Identify content that may work for individuals.
  • Provide insights to individuals, managers, and leaders
  • Connect information and experts across the organization

Clearly, there is overlap. It is unclear how these 2 systems play with each other, if at all. Given the overlap, it appears that there could be some cannibalization. Further, Viva will integrate with other LXPs – rendering LinkedIn Learning Hub even more redundant.

What we’d like to know:

  • How does LinkedIn Learning Hub interface with Microsoft’s Viva?
  • If orgs have implemented one, is the other necessary?
  • Are there plans to create a massive experience platform that uses all data that Microsoft and LinkedIn have? Cuz that would be cool.

To sum up:

LinkedIn Learning Hub is an interesting move by LinkedIn Learning – one that allows it to increase its offering to existing content customers – likely necessary because while content has value, it is increasingly becoming only a small piece of the overall L&D picture. It’s also not a move completely without precedent. Skillsoft purchased SumTotal for the same reason years ago.

Offering it to existing Pro customers for free may increase market share quickly, allowing those experimenting with LXPs for the first time to see if it’s for them, and get them used to a product that will likely increase in functionality and polish in future. It may be a very good move for small and midsize organizations or larger organizations with constrained L&D budgets.

Two final observations: 1) LinkedIn Learning Hub is pretty basic. Nothing about this LXP is extraordinary – yet. That could change. 2) While Viva made one heck of a bang when it hit the market, LinkedIn Learning Hub entered with more of a whisper. Some of our friends at other LXP providers say there isn't yet much disruption to deals in their pipelines. LinkedIn Learning Hub may not yet have the heft of existing options.

We’re very interested in your opinion – what are your thoughts?

 

Written by

Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.

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