Workplace Learning Pioneer Paul Sparta on Creating Agile Companies

Paul Sparta, founder and former CEO of Plateau Systems—a longtime market leader of learning management systems—sat down with us a year ago to discuss the future of workplace learning. Now, after incorporating the insights of design partners, customers, and leading thinkers in the space, we revisited our earlier conversation in light of the recent launch of Workday Learning.

When we walked you through Workday Learning, you said that the ability of learning and development professionals to launch learning “campaigns” to specific employee segments is powerful. Why?

Sparta headshot
Paul Sparta

Campaigns are really powerful with Workday Learning because there is so much data to leverage already in the Workday system. When Workday already knows who you are, where you work, and what you do, that equates to powerful personalization. You can use campaigns to push content that is highly and directly relevant to each individual user at the right and most useful time. For example, when an employee relocates to China and is a first-time manager, a campaign is triggered without ad-hoc HR intervention.

These campaigns will allow you to target content any way you want—whether it’s required learning, desired learning, and so on. That targeting ability is really critical in the enterprise because there’s so much content out there that you need some way to break through the noise. While some may think of campaigns as simply assigning content, it’s a lot more than that. It’s really about getting the right content in front of the right people at the right time on an automated basis. Whether the use is for required training, customer outreach, or professional development, campaigns are a powerful tool.

“If workplace learning isn’t important to you, then you’re not able to steer your organization as accurately as you should be able to.”

If you had 30 seconds with an executive who doesn’t take workplace learning very seriously, what would you say to them?

If workplace learning isn’t important to you, then you’re not able to steer your organization as accurately as you should be able to. You’ll have a harder time getting people to respond to new corporate initiatives, new product lines, new markets. To manage and to steer an organization, you need to get information to people, and you need to get that information consumed and understood in an efficient way. Helping your people learn helps your organization be agile and responsive.

And if you don’t have a modern learning system, you have to rely on traditional means; people searching themselves, asking around, etc. And that’s the raison d’etre, so to speak, of a learning system: getting the right information to the right people at the right time. And with Workday’s development model you should be able to add functionality and features at unprecedented speed and value compared to the competitors. And this speed and value are what’s important for the long run.

“To go from zero to this in just a year is pretty huge and it speaks volumes to Workday’s platform architecture advantage.”

What are your first impressions of Workday Learning?

Overall I’m really impressed with how much you are packing into the first release—it’s actually more than I anticipated or what other companies’ first versions have delivered in the past. I see some very smart prioritizing. Tackling some of the harder items and putting them in the foundational release will make Workday Learning so much more effective. To go from zero to this in just a year is pretty huge and it speaks volumes to Workday’s platform architecture advantage.