Last week it was announced that social networking service LinkedIn has acquired online training provider Lynda.com in a deal worth about $1.5 Billion. Since then, speculation has been rampant as to what it means. Much of the speculation centers on LinkedIn using the purchase to expand into a new area, professional development, that is closely related to their core area, professional networking.
Let me expand on the speculation by adding my own perspective. I think this merger comes down to one essential word: Data.
Data is a powerful thing in the 21st century. Even more powerful is being able to capture the right data and analyze it in ways that enable businesses to make better decisions. And it’s in that area that I think the LinkedIn / Lynda.com merger has the most value.
Let’s look at each company’s role and the data they bring to the table.
Linkedin is the world’s largest professional network with 300 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the globe. LinkedIn is all about making connections, as evidenced by “connection” being the term used for individual relationships on the site.
LinkedIn’s customers consist of two major groups:
- Individuals, who use the service to connect with other individuals and organizations that could lead to future employment.
- Organizations, who use the service to connect with individuals that might be candidates for a role they are looking to fill.
Those are two very valuable pieces of data that seem like two sides of the same coin. But closer inspection shows some pretty glaring gaps that make the match-making between the job seeker and the hiring company challenging. For example, individual profiles contain a lot of information, including work history, accomplishments, and other pieces of data that form the story of the individual’s capabilities.
That sounds like the type of data that can help a potential employer match a candidate against the needs of a role. It is helpful. In fact, over the last few decades matching a role against the prior experience of an individual has been arguably the best way to match a candidate against a role.
But that’s changing. And it’s changing because of data.
Lynda.com is all about professional development. You can learn about hundreds of topics, many of which involve practice exercises and tests that help individuals put what is being learned into practice. It continues to expand it’s library of courses into new areas.
Lynda.com’s data contains a lot of valuable information that can enhance the story being told by an individual’s LinkedIn profile. If I’m a web developer with a strong work history, that make me attractive to a potential employer. Adding a Lynda.com record that shows that I completed a vetted course related to a tool or skill that is important to a role is a hugely valuable data point to add to the employer/candidate matching equation.
LinkedIn + Lynda.com
The true value of the Linkedin and Lynda.com merger is in the data; more specifically, the potential of future data. LinkedIn exists, at a basic level, to connect individuals with jobs. The better it is able to match individuals to companies and roles, the more valuable the service is to all.
Matching individuals based on interests and history is good; adding the variable of completed courses on topics related to the roles adds another critical data point that makes the match even stronger.
But I don’t think it ends there.
As Lynda.com continues to find ways to integrate practice into their content, having individuals go beyond just answering questions about a topic and to have them actively demonstrate usage of the information in practical ways, the value of the course completion shifts from proof of knowledge to proof on competency.
Proof of competency is huge as a data point for company that is in the business of matching individuals and companies for hiring. All the other data combined gives us a story that leads to “I think this person can do what we need”. Being able to credibly verify that an individual has competency in core areas needed for a role makes LinkedIn that much more valuable to potential employers.
It also makes LinkedIn more valuable to individuals, as it can share the competencies being searched for by employers, and encourage individuals to certify their competency by completing a LinkedIn course. Ultimately the three pieces of data: Individual profiles, company roles, and Lynda.com competency records provide data that is useful on multiple levels.
- A company can use the profiles and competency records to identify ideal candidates for roles they are looking to fill.
- Individuals can use their profiles and competency records to find potential employers and roles.
- Individuals can use their profiles and roles from companies they are interested in to identify skills and competencies that need to be developed to better position themselves as candidates.
If Lynda.com data can be used to credibly demonstrate competency, it could bring about a paradigm shift in how we view hiring. In the future, hiring may no longer be about matching past experience to future roles; it could be about using current competency data to predict success in future roles.
And that would be huge.