LinkedIn wants to plug the knowledge gap

It is unlikely that – as LinkedIn’s product vice president – Ryan Roslansky is fretting too much about his career development.

On a recent visit to Dubai to launch online learning platform LinkedIn Learning, however, the Californian revealed a desire to enrol in one of his employer’s courses. When it arrives, that is.

“After this trip I think I need to learn Arabic,” he says at the company’s Business Central Towers office.


Although the social networking giant doesn’t currently offer that course, it touts a myriad others – more than 9,000 – designed to equip LinkedIn’s vast membership for future jobs or better their chances of remaining in a current role.

LinkedIn Learning is a logical extension of Lynda.com, the online learning website it acquired 18 months ago. Essentially it plugs into profile details tendered by LinkedIn members – age, qualifications, past jobs etc – and locates gaps, either current or potential.

It then recommends courses from the Lynda.com catalogue based on what is trending for your job title, interests or skills – and suggests expert-led courses to consider buying. You can also search unprompted.

“Our mission is to connect the world’s professionals, to make them more productive and successful,” says Mr Roslansky. “We do that by manifesting the ‘economic graph’; a digital representation of every professional in the world, of which we have about 450 million on LinkedIn.

“We’re able to identify where skills gaps exist in various cities – or based on who you are on LinkedIn, we know what skills you have and what you need for the job you want.”

Mr Roslansky cites a five-year shelf life for skills, notably in the digital market, prompting both individuals and employers to examine how they measure up.

“We believe in the mentality of always learning, that you make yourself a better professional by continuously acquiring skills or knowledge you need to be better at what you do.”

LinkedIn isn’t the only tech goliath to be nudging into the way we work, of course. Its Silicon Valley neighbour Facebook recently introduced Workplace, which is essentially Facebook for work – except it isn’t free. Companies can have a free three-month trial and then pay US$1 to $3 per user, depending on the size of the company.

It’s a dedicated space for companies to connect, communicate and collaborate with employees through familiar Facebook features such as news feed, groups, messages and events.

Workplace includes a dashboard that lets administrators view analytics on activity, groups and users. Companies can add and remove users and gauge employee engagement levels.

Personal and professional Facebook profiles at work are kept completely separate, with dedicated mobile apps for work and work chat.

Jonathan Labin, the head of Facebook Mena, says: “We want to help companies in the region build connections between co-workers and transform how teams work together. Organisations are stronger – and more productive – when everyone comes together.”

Employees also have the option of using the Workplace app in Arabic.

Arabic LinkedIn Learning content is also on the horizon for LinkedIn’s 19 million Mena-region members, says Mr Roslansky.

LinkedIn Learning courses currently focus on three main sectors – technology, business skills such as management and leadership, and creative functions such as graphic design. They are available in English, Spanish, French, German and Japanese. Individuals can subscribe, but Mr Roslansky says the largest market is companies, organisations and universities buying access on behalf of employees or students, saving all time and travel costs.

Members can access the courses for free if you have subscribed to LinkedIn’s premium service for $29.99 monthly – or $299.88 annually.

Courses are broken into five-minute chapters, viewable on any device, online and off and available on desktop, iOS and Android. Phone users tap through to Learning on the LinkedIn app launcher. On a computer there is a Learning tab at the top of your profile page.

While you are not required to complete courses by a certain date, if LinkedIn Learning is provided by an employer, they can set a date for completion and will be told by LinkedIn which employees have finished.

So is there potential for traditional learning situations, where people brainstorm in person, to vanish? Interaction is, after all, part of personal and professional growth.

“Overall, we don’t see physical and online as an either/or option. The secret is in finding the right blend,” says Tony Sheehan, the associate dean of digital learning at London Business School, who recognises the advantages of the LinkedIn and Facebook offering.

While online learning is a valuable tool he says, lending itself readily to skills based training, this is not always the most effective.

“When dealing with softer issues and more critical issues, the learning approach typically needs to be more bespoke, with live interventions and expert insights in response to what may be highly personal, confidential or complex issues,” he adds.

business@thenational.ae

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