The rise of cloud technology is consigning dedicated workplace training days to the scrapheap. 

But with loaded schedules and a plethora of potential resources to wade through, are companies – and employees – yet realising the benefits of learning-as-a-service?

Rajeeb Dey MBE, founder and CEO of Learnerbly, does not think they are.

“The problem that most companies face is they subscribe to some generic, large brand name e-learning provider – and they see less than 10% of employees engaging with the content,” he tells BusinessCloud. 

“They then bemoan the fact they’ve spent all this money on something no one really cares about.”

The solution, he feels, is to empower employees to take control of their own learning journey. Learnerbly, an online marketplace for workplace learning and development which featured on our EdTech 50 ranking, guides them through the process of accessing the most relevant resources.

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“Your employer gives you a budget to spend and you can choose what you want to learn based on how you like to learn – whether that be through physical books, listening to podcasts, watching videos, getting a coach, attending an event… we’re multimodal,” he says.

“You might have an Audible subscription which you’ve bought through Learnerbly and can use to listen to books when you’re working out, walking or whatever – learning stuff, but in a different mode.

“Employees are also given the option to make recommendations to the platform for our team to review, so we know what’s trending right now. We know what other people doing similar jobs to you are learning at the moment [and can therefore recommend this to you] – so that really sparks inspiration in the minds of our users and keeps it fresh.”

Scaleup clients

Topic areas can be anything from content for first-time leaders through to engineers, marketers, finance and sales. Learnerbly partners with 250 providers including Blinkist, Masterclass, Pluralsight and General Assembly.

It says this provides its clients – such as WeTransfer, Curve, Busuu, Hellofresh, King and GoCardless – with a platform that upskills, unlocks potential and inspires a culture of growth in tech-focused businesses.

“Managers should encourage people to build that time into their working day. We ourselves have a policy of unlimited learning leave – so if you want to learn something and you need time off, we recognise that,” says Dey. 

“Or if you need an hour a week for dedicated time, that’s something that needs to be more actively encouraged and supported – because if you’re constantly just trying to keep up with the status quo and the day-to-day, you might end up spending your own time on L&D.”

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Enternships & Queen’s Award

Dey founded Learnerbly in London in 2017 after previous success in scaling Enternships – a portal connecting students and graduates with work placements in startups and fast-growth businesses – which led to his recognition as the youngest recipient of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2013. 

Also the co-founder of StartUp Britain, a national entrepreneurship campaign launched by then Prime Minister David Cameron in 2011, he was appointed a Member of the British Empire for Services to Entrepreneurship in 2016.

“I always call myself an accidental entrepreneur. I never really had a proper job!” he laughs. “I studied economics and management at Oxford and ran the entrepreneur society there, which gave me the inspiration for setting up Enternships.

“That was really early on in the explosion of the tech startup scene. It really wasn’t the status quo to go work in a startup back then: typically, it was the graduate milkround in big corporates – you didn’t even know what a startup was.

“As the culture and ecosystem of entrepreneurship changed over the years, where working in a startup was more the thing to do, I began to think about what was next. Having helped thousands of companies hire great people, I thought: how do you then develop them? How do you retain them? Increasingly, how do you attract them, given that there’s such a competitive landscape?”

The transition to an employee-led market means companies must work harder to attract and keep their staff.

“There’s so much more visibility and transparency on what it’s like to work in a company these days. As with salary, it’s just a hygiene factor these days: what else are you going to do? How are you going to invest in me? How am I going to learn and grow? 

“Progressive employers are recognising that they have to have something to say about their approach to learning and development.”

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Beringea & expansion plans

Today, Learnerbly is used by thousands of employees in 100+ organisations across more than 50 countries. A $10m Series A round led by transatlantic VC Beringea late last year will support the international expansion of the business, with a particular focus on the US.

“Pre-Series A, it’s about getting product-market fit, being clear about who you’re going after and what’s the proposition,” says Dey. “We recognised that scaleups and mid-market was where to focus in the short-to-medium term, and that this curated marketplace was our differentiating factor.

“We were then in a position to raise our Series A. Up until this point, you do things that don’t scale – you kind of prove the model. Now it’s about building out the team and particularly investing in product engineering so that we have dedicated teams looking at all the different aspects of our business. 

“It’s quite a complex proposition because you’ve got the employees and their own needs; the buyers and HR, they have their needs; and also the suppliers. So really, we need three separate teams to look at each of those users, and the things that they need. That makes it challenging, but also an exciting problem to address.”