As Executive Vice President of Engagement and Learning Innovation at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants —the world’s largest accounting and finance professional organization—return guest Clar Rosso has perhaps one of the biggest continuing education and professional education audiences that exist. She has tremendous insight regarding the future of learning and as a passionate, global leader, Clar is on a never-ending quest to find new and better ways to serve their members.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Jeff talks with Clar once again about future of learning. They discuss the tremendous impact of technology, how employers are starting to look differently at the kind of learning they deliver, and what learning businesses can do in order to effectively meet the evolving needs of their learners.
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Read the Show Notes
[00:18] – A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Jeff interviews Clar Rosso, Executive Vice President of Engagement and Learning Innovation at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA).
Note this is Clar’s second appearance on the podcast—check out her first interview, The Future of Learning with Clar Rosso of AICPA.
[02:23] – Introduction to Clar.
[03:44] – Some background information about AICPA and the focus of Clar’s work there.
The Impact of Technology on Learning
[05:45] – In what ways do you see technology most impacting learning at this point and how are you and AICPA working to take advantage of the opportunities that may come from disruption?
Clar explains that you can think about it in different ways. First, when it comes to how technology is disrupting our business, the kinds of things we need to learn are very different than what they used to be. And of course, technology is the great accelerator of creating new ways to deliver learning to our customers.
She talks about the great demand that it’s creating in the marketplace and shares an example called, IBM, Walmart, and the Bad Mango to show the amazing power of blockchain. This is important for their members because since Walmart realized the importance of blockchain, they are now requiring all food suppliers to be on theirs within the next year. So anyone who is an advisor to small or large businesses suddenly has the need to know what a blockchain is and how to get on one.
[09:16] – Clar shares another example to illustrate that we need to be thinking differently about how we learn. In it, she highlights how a large multinational organization implemented a new machine learning artificial intelligence system, which reduced the time it took to complete their monthly forecast process from 16,000 days to 4 days. But this created a wonderful problem for the organization because they now had lots of employees with time to do lots of new things—and maybe not every organization is ready for this. Clar says that this became very game changing to them because things that were fundamental to what a financial professional did were now being done by machines.
She explains how as a professional association, they needed to understand what the financial professional would be doing instead and what that would look like in terms of how to produce learning. Knowing that machines would be replacing many of the technical skills resulted in an evolution of how they think about their competency framework and how they deliver learning. She says they are doing this in a much more integrated way that looks at things through a digital lens and takes the context of which accounting standards will be applied into consideration.
Sponsor: Authentic Learning Labs
[12:57] – The examples Clar highlights hinge on accessing and leveraging data successfully. If getting more value out of data is one of your goals, be sure to check out our sponsor for this quarter.
Authentic Learning Labs is an education company seeking to bring complementary tech and services to empower publishers and L&D organizations to help elevate their programs. The company leverages technology like AI, Data Analytics, and advanced embeddable, API-based services to complement existing initiatives, offering capabilities that are typically out of reach for resource-stretched groups or growing programs needing to scale.
[13:53] – When we were e-mailing before this interview you mentioned the 2018 World Economic Forum Jobs report as a potential topic of discussion. I think it is a document all learning leaders need to be familiar with. Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the Forum sees the potential for great progress in what he characterizes as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but also warns that progress is not a foregone conclusion. He writes that,
To prevent an undesirable lose-lose scenario— technological change accompanied by talent shortages, mass unemployment and growing inequality—it is critical that businesses take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning and that governments create an enabling environment, rapidly and creatively, to assist in these efforts.
So are the businesses that are represented within your profession taking that active role and are they prepared? Are the individual financial and accounting professionals stepping up and taking responsibility for their own lifelong learning?
Clar begins with employers and says that if you asked her a year ago, she would’ve said that every employer she talked to said they were 100% committed to upskilling their team members with new competencies so they can help work with them in this new world. But the 2018 World Economic Forum Jobs report shows that’s not true and says what employers are generally doing is going out in the marketplace and looking for people who already have the skills they want. Another thing this report tells us is that employers are looking at all the processes in their businesses to automate wherever they can.
The report also shows that employers are looking at retraining their existing employees but they are first going to focus on doing this for people who add high value to the organization. Then they will look at supporting those people that will be using new technologies within the business. And only third would they will look at upskilling the employees whose roles are being replaced by technology. In fact, the report shows that those who have the most need for reskilling are the least likely to receive it.
Clar’s main takeaways from all of this are that employers are starting to look differently at the kind of learning they deliver to their employees—and it’s not as one-size-fits-all as it maybe used to be. So they’re becoming much more intentional and selective about where they’re investing in formal learning and what the opportunities are for informal learning that may support the growth of their people.
[18:40] – Clar discusses the individual side to this and how there is really an imperative that all of us as professionals become much more intentional about our learning. The Jobs report actually says that 101 days of learning are required between now and 2022 if you want to remain relevant, something she points out is kind of scary if you think about it. But what she likes to remind people is that there are lots of ways to learn, we just need to be much more conscious and intentional about it—and think about when we have the opportunity to learn. She adds that podcasts like this one are a great way to learn and that 70% of learning is informal.
Clar also talks about how they’ve been using Facebook Live with a human intelligence series (each video being 10-minutes long) and in the first year, they had more than three million views, something they never experienced before—and it was at a relatively low cost. Jeff notes that even though it’s not directly marketing, this is implicitly showing their value and attracting people to the whole array of offerings they have. Clar says this shows that learning businesses need to start to think a little differently about their business model.
There’s a degree to which helping people learn the fundamentals isn’t something you’re necessarily selling anymore. And as people see and experience that, they can make the decision to see where they want to dive deeper and focus on more of the formal learning experiences. They’ve also seen a rise in people engaging in certificate programs and that AICPA issues digital badges. And the beauty of these, Clar says, is that when the body of knowledge changes, the provider of the learning can expire it if somebody doesn’t stay current. So employers are looking to these as well to see the currency of your learning.
[23:16] – As an outside provider of learning, are you finding that part of your role now is to educate employers about what needs to be done and possibly to be even more consultative in how you’re working with them?
Clar shares they are 100% consultative and that it’s a very different experience talking to firms and employers to find out what it is that they need, what’s keeping them up at night, and how they might be able to solve those problems. So not one-size-fits-all in terms of giving the same training to everyone because employers want to make sure that they’re giving the right training to the right employee at the right time. And they are often asked by employers how they will know what these needs are so they help them in assessing the competencies of their staff and what that all means.
[25:15] – What about on the other end—after you assess them and figure out what they need and they go through whatever learning initiative seems to be the right path—are you helping employees understand whether they have learned and if there’s been an impact and if they’ve moved the dial?
Clar explains this is a more long-term proposition but that they do a pre and post assessment to understand what people have learned and then look at the long-term benefit of it. She also talks about how they use informal assessments and she shares an example of this related to looking at qualitative data around the blockchain certificate they offer.
Impact on AICPA’s Business Model
[26:37] – Besides certificates, which you’ve mentioned a few times, are there any other ways in which your product approach or business model, in general, has changed over the past few years? I know the whole CPE business can be really cutthroat—how do you think about your business model, your pricing, and what products are you going to offer at this point?
Clar talks about how the competition has made them a lot more reflective when they think about their product strategy and says that some of it is more research based. They know there are fundamentals they need to do to support their profession and they will keep doing those—and deliver those in the ways their members prefer. She shares how they’ve done a lot of qualitative and quantitative research on the future of finance (they’ll be releasing a big report at the end of January). This involved going out to the marketplace and talking to stakeholders to find out their needs to look at how to best serve them—and in a way that’s different than what their competition is going to do.
She notes that professional associations have an opportunity because they are so very close to the needs of the profession and they’re working to benefit it, which gives them a bit of a step up. Regarding pricing, Clar says they are always looking at how to be competitively priced and, at the same time, be able to generate revenue to do new things. Over the past few years, she admits they have taken a page or two out of the technology company’s playbooks and have been using agile methodologies for developing that for their learning products, which allows them to test something in the marketplace. They also have team members that run lean teams constantly looking for efficiency and trying to understand what the customer wants and how they can deliver that to them more effectively and efficiently than their competition.
Sponsor: Blue Sky eLearn
[31:10] – If you are looking to deliver the learning experience your customer wants and do it better, faster, and more effectively, you’ll want to find out more about our sponsor for this quarter.
Blue Sky eLearn is the creator of the Path Learning Management System, an award-winning cloud-based learning solution that allows organizations to easily deliver, track, and monetize valuable education and event content online. Blue Sky also provides webinar and webcast services, helping you maximize your content and create deeper engagement with your audience across the world.
[32:01] – Have you changed anything about your messaging/communication to your prospective learners? I’m thinking about people who have to get CPE and want to just check a box and get those over with—have you done anything to try and make people realize the importance of true learning and that you’re offering something that’s not just the “check the box” CPE?
Clar says they do have a “check the box” product but association-wide, they have been spending a lot of time talking about the importance of learning to remain relevant. This isn’t just marketing—they are truly here to serve and sustain a profession as well. They’ve been working with teams to be much more specific about who the product is designed for and instead of creating something bigger and more generic, create smaller things that are more specific to the work that’s on somebody’s desk. So much more targeted and application based—and making sure people understand that.
Tips for Learning Leaders
[34:06] – Thinking about the learning business, in general, Clar shares 3 tips/lessons for other learning leaders based on her experience:
- Really think about how you’re targeting and customizing your learning – that’s a combination of both how you build it as well as making sure you’re delivering the right marketing message out to the customer base so they truly understand the value. One of the best ways you can do this is to talk to your customer.
- Be willing to experiment—and know that you’re going to fail sometimes—and that’s ok.
- Think about the experience you’re delivering. A lot of learning now is based on when somebody has the opportunity to learn. We need to make sure they have a good experience when they have an opportunity to learn but we also should be creating those opportunities for people to learn.
[38:27] – What learning innovations have you most excited right now?
Clar shares that over the past year, her team has been experimenting with virtual reality and that they created a virtual reality experience for a large accounting firm for their annual conference. The focus was on complex problem solving and critical thinking and she says it was incredible to have that experience in a conference environment. Clar admits she’s also excited that they’re looking at learning differently—through podcasts and Facebook Live, particularly.
[40:45] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education?
Clar talks about how some of her most powerful learning experiences are informal. So the simplistic opportunities to learn from others that allow her to put something small, immediately into practice.
[42:15] – How to connect with Clar and/or learn more:
LinkedIn: Clar Rosso
[43:11] – Wrap-Up
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[45:12] – Sign off