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Opinion

Learning tech: what are the latest market moves?

Learning refuses to be left behind as the mergers and acquisition – and funding rounds – continue apace across HR tech.

Kate Graham

learning
Credit: FOTOARTIST via Twenty20.

Unleash Your Potential Kate Graham is Head of Content Labs & Insight here at UNLEASH. Her new column casts an eye across the industry, starting this month with news from the frontline of learning technologies.

Well, where to start? In the few weeks since I left Fosway Group to start my new role at UNLEASH, the learning and development (L&D) market feels like it has sped up significantly.

Paying no mind to the fact it’s the summer season when many of us are typically slowing down or switching off, the learning market is moving on in hot pursuit of the incredible $3.6 billion in investment in the broader HR technology space this year alone.

Just last week, LTG plc, a leader in workplace talent and learning, announced its acquisition of GP Strategies in a deal worth $394 million.

No stranger to acquisition, LTG has strengthened its continuously growing portfolio significantly in the last year – pandemic be damned!

With the likes of PeopleFluent and Bridge already in its stable, the addition of GP Strategies ‘introduces strongly complementary workforce transformation capabilities’.

The move adds to LTG’s international footprint and enterprise client base, as well as marking a diversification of its services arm, rather than a pure play technology addition.

It means LTG will have around 5,500 employees worldwide and reach more than 80 countries.

Impressive growth from a company who I first worked with too many years ago to mention, and was then an e-learning focused provider in Brighton.

The unicorn trend reaches L&D

Meanwhile, the unstoppable unicorn trend taking HR tech by storm (see recently crowned companies including SmartRecruiters, Visier and Eightfold) is spilling into L&D too.

Education platform Go1, based in Australia but with offices worldwide, has been valued at more than $1b billion after it secured a funding raise of $200 million – just six years after it was founded in a Brisbane garage.

With online learning content unsurprisingly seeing a massive uplift post-COVID-19, as classroom training ground to a halt, Go1 has seen real success with its content aggregation solution.

Providing a broad marketplace of learning via a single subscription, it’s easy to see the appeal for enterprise L&D teams who will otherwise need to juggle multiple suppliers, in what is a highly fragmented and often hyper localized e-learning market.

The Big Four focus on learning

In other July activity, EY has acquired Lane4, a leadership development specialist based in the UK for an undisclosed sum.

Founded by Olympic swimmer Adrian Moorhouse, Lane4 has around 130 staff and was founded to support leaders with a particular focus on business transformation and organizational change.

Leadership development typically commands high levels of investment within L&D budgets, so it makes sense that Lane4 represented an attractive acquisition target as EY looks to ‘bring additional competencies to the business that will help deliver greater value’ to its clients.

The Big Four firm has said its goal is grow its People Advisory Services business and ‘increase its reputation in the market for leadership and culture change work’.

Partnering between David and Goliath

Last but by no means least is the news that Capita has signed a strategic partnership – and become a shareholder – of learning technology innovators, Filtered.

I’m a fan of Filtered’s team and its platforms capabilities and again, am not surprised in the slightest that it has been a target for investment (and potential acquisition?)

Billing itself as an LXP (Learning Experience Platform) rather than a traditional LMS (Learning Management System), analyst Fosway categorizes Filtered as a specialist in learning intelligence.

With skills becoming the lead story in L&D as organizations seek to upskill and reskill post-pandemic, Capita’s aim is to help its large-scale enterprise clients, bringing the platform ‘and the right content to the right companies and the right people to help build the skills they need’.

Capita already has a strong digital learning business, which was augmented back in 2016 following the acquisition of another Brighton-based e-learning company, Brightwave, which still maintains its own brand under the voluminous Capita umbrella.

But the ecosystem play for learning and development remains an almost necessary proposition, with specialist solutions routinely integrating with larger LMSs or broader HR systems.

Filtered already plugs and plays with numerous different platforms and I think will make a compelling proposition for Capita’s blue chip clients.

Why do these deals matter?

This market activity isn’t only important for investors or industry nerds like me.

If you’re a buyer of learning technology solutions, just being aware of who owns what and the general direction of travel is useful.

The consolidation in the learning space is not about to slow down and it’s valuable for your organization and your learners to understand and gauge the different trends.

These deals cover a broad spectrum, from consultancy, to leadership development, to content, to platforms.

This just goes to show that there is no single magic bullet for optimizing learning in the future workplace, but a strong blend of inputs and interventions to equip us for whatever comes next.

Kate Graham is Head of Content Labs & Insight at UNLEASH. Read her new column here first every month from now on and catch her across our webinars and roundtable schedule here.

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