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Should workplace learning be more like Uber?

Uber is one of the fastest growing tech companies in the world, climbing to the top of the most powerful American companies, and rising its business worth well above $60 billion.

Apart from all protests against it, private and governmental lawsuits, and other negative facts, Uber must be doing something really well if their number of users — and the profit that comes along — is going only upwards, don't you think?

Why is Uber so successful?

Taxi companies always seemed to have the upper hand in setting the private transport rules, leaving the paying customer with a take it or leave it offer. With a limited number of cars, the waiting time during rush hours increased. The nights and the weekends came with higher prices. Rude drivers could easily get away with refusing rides or having less than clean cars.

But that was BU. Before Uber, that is.

Uber is not exactly a taxi company, as it doesn't own a single car. The Uber user definitely has a lot of control over the ride in this revolutionary transportation network.

The user knows exactly where the car is and how much time it will take it to get to the pickup location. The surge prices are always clear and are usually lower than a normal taxi's. The payment method happens exclusively through the Uber app, so there's no arguing about that and also no need for tips. At the end of the ride, both the passenger and the driver get reviewed, which contributes to a sense of responsibility and security for both parties.

Uber came with a new element of competition and shook things heavily in the private transportation world. Still wondering about its recipe for success?

Uber directly attacked inefficiencies of taxi companies and put the spotlight over the user and the user's needs. What's more, Uber does a great job in delivering the best user experience by being reliable, punctual, simple and convenient.

Should workplace learning be more like Uber?

Should workplace learning attack last century L&D dogmas and put the learner's needs at the core of each training course?

If you answered this question with a resounding YES, I'm glad we're on the same page. Read on.

The need for learning at work is as big as, if not bigger than, the need for a ride when you simply can't drive. In fact, the need for learning at work is the biggest ever and it’s on an upwards trajectory.

The modern learner is able to identify and acknowledge a skill gap between their current status and an improved professional status thanks to learning. This self diagnosis leads to the demand for learning at the point of need, anytime, anywhere.

L&D departments, faced with the modern learner, seem more like taxi companies and less like Uber. It's no wonder, with so many old and hard to use LMSs, unengaging courses, or poor communication with trainees going on the streets of workplace learning. And even when they try to improve their processes, many e-learning departments find it hard to keep up with all technological advances and the growing number of demands.

But things aren't all that grim, since a lot of e-learning professionals strive for Uber-like learning experiences and work hard to leave the taxi company ruling behind.

How workplace learning can be more like Uber

I said earlier that Uber's success is based on putting the spotlight over the user's needs. There is an equivalent phrase driving on the e-learning roads: learner-centered training.

Learner-centered training puts the spotlight over the learner's needs and addresses them all. Just like Uber does a great job in delivering the best user experience by being reliable, punctual, simple and convenient, business training programs need to be the same in order to provide the best learning experience.

Reliable. A Uber car always gets the user from point A to point B.

Business training objectives need to be aligned with real performance. Each lesson should have a brief description of the learning objectives. This way, the trainee will know the benefits of going through the entire course and how the training will minimize the knowledge gap between point A — where he/she is now — and point B — where could he/she be afterwards, professionally speaking.

Punctual. Once the pickup location and a driver are set, the Uber algorithm calculates the exact location of the car and how much time is needed for the two to meet.

An LMS provides the best way to set a learning calendar, so trainees can better manage their time and meet all deadlines for assignments and tests. Also, gamification techniques like progress bars let learners know how many activities there are in a lesson or how many lessons they have to go through to complete a course.

Simple. The Uber app is intuitive and easy to use. Once you have an account and you express the need for a car, someone aligns with your route, you go in the car and then out of it when you arrive at your destination.

The business learning strategy should be as clear and simple as that. Employees need to know their learning destination and use the LMS as a Uber car. They may not be the drivers — the instructional designer is — but they need the engine, the sparks, the wheels, the car seats and even the radio to arrive to their destination. Also, a nice conversation with the driver makes the ride more enjoyable.

Convenient. Users get a Uber car when they need it, no matter if it's mid-day Tuesday or Saturday night.

Most of the learning at work happens through on-the-job experiences; that's why learning at the point of need is such a big deal today in the L&D world. Being able to access the training courses anytime, anywhere, and on any device, makes the trainee more engaged with the learning materials, which leads to better knowledge retention rates and later better performance.


Uber may not be made of only flowers, rainbows and unicorns (the company has serious ogres to face), and may not be the only one offering car ride services, but it was the first one to rock the boat and offer people around the world more choices on how they travel around their cities. And people love Uber for that.

We like to be in charge, whether we choose how to get to work, or how to learn at work. As long as people have control over their lives, companies like Uber will be successful and learner-centred training will have the best results.


Over to you! Do you think L&D professionals have some things to learn from Uber?

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