ISSUE 4 - Anniversary

Stop wasting time making content – curate it

curation

In recent years, content curation has become central to an L&D strategy. A great content curator can educate employees at a fraction of the cost and time compared to a content creator. And yes, at the same or better level of quality. How is that possible? It’s simple. Great content on virtually every topic already […]

In recent years, content curation has become central to an L&D strategy.

A great content curator can educate employees at a fraction of the cost and time compared to a content creator. And yes, at the same or better level of quality. How is that possible? It’s simple.

Great content on virtually every topic already exists. You just have to find it and match it to the needs of your employee, team, or audience. 

Imagine you’re managing the education of a design team at your company, and they want to learn how to be agile so they can be more productive. 

You could try to make a video series on the topic, but it’s going to take at least 100+ hours of research, recording, and editing.

Or (after finishing this article) you could spend a few hours curating content on agile. You find an article introducing agile online, a series of video lectures from a UX superstar on YouTube, and an online course from a famous design school.

While it sounds easy, curating content well can be difficult.

With hundreds of places to get content from, where do you start? How do you cut through the ocean of low quality noise to find the gems that make your audience say “This is exactly what I was looking for!”? 

The task is daunting, but with the six step process I reveal in this article, it’s simple and fun.

Why listen to me?

I helped build one of Europe’s leading education platforms, Innential. Content curation is the core of its experience. Employees that use Innential develop career-defining skills an average of 1 hour a week, every week. 

If you’ve ever learned or managed education at work, you might think that this number seems nearly impossible. But I promise you, it’s not!

This article is a breakdown of some of our top curation secrets that you can use at your own company. 

At the end of the article, I list our favorite tools (we’ve tried them all) that make this process so much easier and faster. We highly recommend trying them.

To help you see the steps in practice, I’ll go through each step as if you were curating content for a design team. 

Let’s start!

STEP 1: Identify learning needs

Effective content curation relies on pinpointing the right learning needs

Depending on the employee, department, or organisation, these needs can be diverse and complex. For example, your IT team wants to learn about cybersecurity, your managers want leadership training, and your UX team wants to learn about design thinking. The options are endless, and you need to make sure you have them right.

So how do you identify a team’s learning needs? 

The first option is to have 1-on-1 conversations with your team leads. These conversations will help you identify what topics you need to focus their education on. You can get creative in your conversations to gather as much information as you need, but make sure to ask these five core questions:

“What skills do you want your team to improve in?”

  • Many teams know what they need to learn. If they do, the conversation is much easier.
  • If they don’t know, focus on question 2.

“What obstacles is your team facing at work?”

  • This question helps you figure out the team’s pain points. For example: low morale, low productivity, or difficulty pitching ideas. Whatever the major pain is, agree with the team leader to focus on a single pain point.

“How does your team like to learn? (videos, articles, e-courses, etc.)”

  • This will help you guide your search.

“How much time do they have to learn a week?”

  • Aim for at least 15 minutes. That’s a strong start you can build off of as you get more comfortable with your curation.

“How quickly do they want to learn this skill?”

  • Aim for at least a month and a maximum of 3 months. 

While 1-on-1 conversations are great, there are a few other ways to help you identify learning needs:

  • Learning surveys
    • Great to send out before your 1-on-1’s to focus the conversation.
  • Skills gap analysis
    • A company-wide in-depth survey that reveals skill gaps. You’ll need a tool to do it. They take a lot of time for a company to complete.  The quality of the analysis depends on the quality of the survey. The results can be used as a guide for your 1-on-1 conversations.

If you have to choose one, go with 1-on-1 conversations. Our experience shows that nothing beats it when you want to understand your team.

“What if a team needs to learn more than one skill? How do I prioritize what to focus on?”

We’ve seen the best results when one skill is the main focus of your content. On average, the employees you’re curating content for will actively learn between 2-4 hours a month. To make real progress that translates to on-the-job improvement, you need all the time and focus you can get. 

Expand to two or three topics if you get feedback from your teams that indicates they have more time to learn and are motivated.

Your design team

After doing a 1-on-1 with the design team leader, you know they want to learn Agile to be more productive at work. They opted to learn for 1 hour a week for 4 weeks.

STEP 2: Decide how your employees will engage with your curated content

Why are your employees improving their skills? Is their education mandatory or voluntary? Is it employee driven or formal?

If their education is voluntary, then it’s competing for your employees’ time and energy, so it must be appealing. You’ll want to look for content that’s easy to consume, like YouTube videos, podcasts from exciting speakers, social learning, or project-based learning. Once they’re hooked on a topic, you can recommend more complex content, such as an online course.

If their education is mandatory, you don’t need to compete for their attention, so your content curation doesn’t need to have the same amount of “hook” as voluntary education. For example, a 6-hour online course might have great content, but it’s much harder to convince someone to start because it’s a big ask. Think about yourself. If you were learning a new topic, would you be more likely to watch a 5-minute intro video on youtube or complete a 6-hour online course?

Next, decide what channel you’ll use to curate content.

There are three options:

  • Newsletter. The first is to curate content through an email newsletter like Offbeat. Instead of sending it to an external audience, you’ll send a once-a-month email to your teams with the content you’ve selected to teach them a skill. All you have to do is link them to the content in your email. The downside is that it can take a lot of effort to set up (write, design), it’s difficult to track if your team clicked on your content (need UTM codes), and it’s easy for your team to forget about it after it lands in their inbox. 
  • Online Document. Next is an online document. We like Google Docs (free, many companies already use it), Dropbox Paper (free, pretty), and Notion.so (paid, powerful). The beauty of using an online document is it lets you write descriptions, add pictures, and get feedback from teams in a single place. Send your online documents monthly via email.

Here’s a real example of a Dropbox Paper curated learning path we made for a senior business development manager who wanted to be more productive by automating their daily tasks.

  • Ed-tech. The right ed-tech can be a huge time saver. It can help identify team and employee skill needs, search for content, purchase content, track progress, manage credentials, re-engagement reminders, and more.

You can experience what an ed-tech curated learning experience is like by checking out this “Agile for Design Teams” learning path on Innential (it’s free).

Your design team

Your design team’s education is employee-driven and voluntary, so you need to make sure they’re engaged from the start. You find a perfect 7-minute Agile introduction video that hooks the team in and gets them excited to learn more.

STEP 3: Locate, evaluate and select content

Effective content curation is targeted and relevant.

The IDC has estimated that employees spend 9–10 hours per week trying to source relevant information. By finding the right content, not only do you ensure that your employees are learning from high-quality, relevant content, but you’re saving them tons of valuable time.

Thanks to Steps 1 and 2, you know what the team wants to learn, how they like to learn, how much time they have to learn, and how you need to structure the content to ensure they’re engaged.

So how do you choose the right content for your team?

There are a few ways: manually, and through a tool that curates content for you.

The first and most time-intensive is a manual search. A great place to start your search is Google. Search for “Learn {topic}”, “Introduction to {topic}, or “How to {topic}. You’ll get millions of results, but Google does an okay job of prioritizing some content that could be a fit for your curation. Ultimately, Google’s effectiveness is limited because it’s partially an advertising platform that shows content from companies that paid a lot of money to get in front of you. You’ll have to wade through a lot of this before getting to the good stuff.

How do you know content is good? Here are a indicators to look out for:

  • Preview the content 
    • Is the content compelling? Does it feel like something you would want to use? If it’s a no, pass on it. Trust your gut.
  • Who is the creator? Do they have a good reputation for quality educational content?
    • Harvard Business Review vs Buzzfeed
  • Are there reviews or comments on the content? What do they say? 
    • Warning: learning providers are incentivized to sell their courses to you, so course ratings on their platforms (ie: 5/5 stars!) can easily be manipulated to persuade you to purchase. Even low-scoring courses are there to make that high-scoring (and high cost) course seem more appealing.

Here’s a list of websites to help start your search:

Introductions

IT

General

You’re probably wondering, How often should I send content to my teams?”

There are two times you should send content. The first is when you start them on their curated content learning path that you’ve defined together already. All of the content you’ve chosen to teach them in the time span you agreed on (ie: once a month), should be delivered up front.

Why not send them content once a week? Because it’s distracting for them and difficult to manage for you. Sending all your content up front, it gives them time to focus on it and makes the admin for you much easier.

The 2nd time you should send content is when your team tells you your content isn’t working for them. Maybe it’s not relevant or they find it hard to start. You’ll figure out why it doesn’t work by asking the team for an explanation, and then you’ll search and send new content that better fits their needs.

Want inspiration as you search?

Here are some of our picks for great content curators. Remember, they’re curating content to engage an audience on industry trends, not to teach a specific skill to a team.

Your design team

The team is hooked on your intro video on youtube, so you follow it up with a video series on youtube, an article, and a podcast.

STEP 4: Make content easy to access

You can curate the best content ever, but none of it will matter if it’s painful for your employees or teams to access it. And as most people know, there are few things more painful than going through a reimbursement process. It’s slow and tedious. Yuck.

This obstacle not only keeps your employees from learning but makes them link the frustrating process to the learning experience. You don’t want that.

Our data shows that employees are 4.6x less likely to learn if they have to pay for content through a tedious reimbursement process. You need to make it easier. Here’s how.

Buy the content, set up the account credentials (email & password), and hand over the credentials to the learner when they’re ready to access it.

Imagine that. No reimbursement process. No account setup. Just the right content ready to be accessed. It’s like handing them the keys to a new car without them having to do any of the work. 

The downside to this process is that it can take time, but there are many tools that can help you with this process (at the end of the article).

Your design team

Because you used a tool to make accessing content super easy, your design time is breezing through your curated learning path and averaging over an hour a week of active learning. A new company record. Banners drop from the ceiling and trumpets blare to celebrate your success (in my head at least).

STEP 5: Track results 

Effective content curation requires measurement and optimization.

In an ideal scenario, your curated content would be a perfect fit for the teams you’re helping from the start. But in most cases, this doesn’t happen, and your content will need to be improved based on results.

There are two ways to track results: ask for feedback and track how your content is being used. 

Asking for feedback needs to be easy. Don’t ask more than a few questions. Your goal is to find out if the content you curated is helping them grow. If it’s not, what can you do to change it? 

Send an email to your learners every two weeks with the following three questions (make sure to personalize it to the people you’re sending it to):

  1. Do they feel more confident using {skill being learned} at work?
  2. Did they learn something new?
  3. Is there anything they’d change about the curated content?

They can simply reply back via email. You can also make an online questionnaire (use Typeform or Google Forms) to gather responses for you. 

Pros

  • Gives insights directly from employees
  • Only needs email to work

Cons

  • Lower response rates
  • Takes time to set up, manage, and track responses

Tracking how your content is being used gives you an objective view of how your employees are engaging with your content. It’s much more difficult to collect on your own, but there are tools that you can use to do it for you automatically (at the end of this step). 

There are 3 statistics we recommend tracking and many online courses have skill checks that measure this for you:

  1. Did they start the content?
  2. Did they complete the content?
  3. Did the content improve their skills?

Pros

  • Scalable to the whole company without additional work
  • Has a 100% response rate
  • Can give you as many insights as data you’re willing to collect

Cons

  • Difficult to do without a learning platform that tracks it for you

Based on the results, you can assess where your content curation strategy is successful and where it needs to be changed. 

If you want the best results, collect both. If you have to choose one, collect feedback.

Your design team

You decide to gather results by asking for feedback and tracking content usage data through a learning platform that handles all of it for you. For your design team learning Agile, you ask them these questions:

  1. “Do you feel more confident using Agile at work?”
  2. “Did you learn something new about Agile?”
  3. “Is there anything you would change about the Agile content?”

STEP 6: Iterate and recalibrate

Learning and development isn’t a once-off process – and neither is content curation. As an employee progresses along their career path, they’ll need to learn new skills to stay at the top of their field. 

For example, a sales team could learn about prospecting for a month, then how to negotiate the next. Fresh topics keep them engaged, excited and growing.

As a content curator, how do we do that? By repeating the six steps outlined here at least once a quarter. The more you repeat it, the better the content you can curate. 

Your design team

The team loves your curated content and is learning quickly, so you decide to recalibrate the team’s learning content every month. The design team has never been more confident and engaged at their job, and they want to keep improving with you at the lead.

You report to your stakeholders the results from your content creation:

  • 100% have learned something new about Agile
  • 92% felt more confident about using Agile at work
    • We can find out why 8% were not more confident and address it with new content
  • Team performance has improved by 12% this month

The team’s great experience is spreading around the office. You’re getting asked to do the same for other teams. You smile to yourself, open the questionnaire you made in step one, and start the process over again. 

That’s all there is to it

Let’s summarize the six step process:

Step 1: Identify learning needs

Step 2: Decide how your employees will engage with your learning plan

Step 3: Locate, evaluate and select content

Step 4: Make the content easy to access

Step 5: Track results 

Step 6: Iterate and recalibrate

My challenge to you

I challenge you to take 5 minutes right now to think about a team or employee that could use your help. Set up a 20-minute learning conversation with them and follow step 1. When I teach this process to L&D and HR professionals, I’m told that the first conversation feels like a jolt of learning inspiration.

In fact, I bet you’ll want to set up interviews with the rest of the teams in your company!

After seeing the results of the process you just learned, content curation will be your new education standard.

All you have to do is start.

Tools I recommend to help you with this process 

Step 1 to 6: Innential

Step 2: Google Docs, Dropbox Paper, Notion.so 

Step 3: Class Central

Step 4: Stripe

Step 5: Pluralsight

Want me to make you your own curated learning path?

Send me an email (daniel@innential.com) saying you’re from Offbeat.

I’ll personally go through each of the steps with you and make you a personal learning path with curated content.

Have questions? Want help curating content for your company?

Write me (daniel@innential.com). I’ll answer all your questions or we can come up with a content plan together.