HR Tech Interview with Steve Dineen, Founder & President at Fuse Universal

Enterprise learning trends have to shift not only in the light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic but also to accommodate different corporate learning styles and initiatives, Steve Dineen, Founder & President, Fuse weighs in with his thoughts in this chat with TecHRseries:



Tell us a little about yourself Steve…we’d love to hear more about Fuse. What was 2020 like for the team, amid the global pandemic?

I’m the Founder & President of Fuse – the enterprise learning platform that ignites people and business performance through actively engaged learning. I’m also a long-time learning tech geek, driven to democratise education for all through continuous innovation.

In my past life, I also successfully scaled and sold UK elearning venture, Fuel – a company that became Europe’s second largest bespoke elearning company. My biggest career achievement to date however has been creating FuseSchool – an educational platform that delivers GCSE-grade education to anyone in the world, for free. This was founded in 2010 and +10 years on, I’m incredibly proud to see it helping 10 million learners around the world every year.

Looking back on 2020, like most businesses, we encountered new challenges. We did however reap some benefits that, had the pandemic not have happened, we might not have realised.

When Covid first hit, I’d say we adapted very well as a business. Of course, the Fuse platform itself played a key role in enabling our teams to keep sharing knowledge and expertise, and we supplemented this with other means of virtual communication. Thinking retrospectively though, I can now see that our comms and culture were probably too HQ centric (we’re headquartered in London, UK), so the move to digital comms has actually served to equalise the balance in these terms and that’s definitely a positive.

On top of this, we’re now able to truly hire for talent and, given we plan to remain fully remote even after the pandemic is over, we no longer need to consider candidate location. That widens our talent pool massively and will only benefit Fuse as we continue to scale into new markets.

Can you share a few thoughts on the importance of active engagement in corporate learning and specifically, how tech is enabling this in the remote working environment?

The majority of our enterprise customers choose Fuse because of our ability to support learning in the flow of work at scale. Typically, we support customers in their transition away from course-centric, formal learning design – or at least blend that with informal learning to ensure employees can source the right knowledge and answers, when they need them.

In fact, our own data tells us that as much as 95% of all work-related learning is informal in nature. That very much affirms the need for learning tech that facilitates active engagement and ongoing value.

To think of it another way, if you take technology out of the equation, it’s nigh on impossible to keep learners actively engaged in continuous learning – and this is something we hear time and time again from Fuse customers who see quick – and very positive – changes in learning behaviors once the right learning technology is in place.

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Where do you see the market for enterprise learning platforms (ELP) headed? What features and innovations will drive this segment?

I think we’ll continue to see a clearer division between niche providers and enterprise learning platforms, and we’ll also be able to see more clearly where an ELP’s best-in-class lies. For Fuse, that’s learning performance, but for others it might be safety compliance or something else. Those core differences are going to become increasingly evident to both customers and the wider learning tech industry.

Looking to the features and innovations side of things, we can also expect to see even more Artificial Intelligence (AI) and personalisation being integrated into learning tech solutions. I see this happening in two ways:

Increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) along with the expansion of AI across many more components. AI in the context of corporate learning is no longer just about recommendations. Going forwards, we can expect to see it being widely used for learning transcription, language translation, AI powered search, Natural Language Processing (NLP), in search, and in chatbots.

More personalisation – but in a way that incorporates a higher degree of understanding around what to personalize. We’re at a point now where the technology has to understand human behaviour – how people’s values differ, the fact that we like to learn in different ways. That’s the next step for personalization in L&D and it’s really exciting.

How is tech helping to engage people in continuous, everyday learning?

The fact that it’s becoming evermore consumer-like and frictionless is key – and these are fundamental elements that underpin the design of the Fuse platform. We purposefully created Fuse to be very social media-like because we want learners to view it in the same way as Google or YouTube – a trusted place where they can go to both consume and contribute to continuous, everyday learning in the flow of work.

For me, this social media-like design is also how we replace the human element that was removed when digital learning first came out. Back then, the move to tech somewhat dehumanised learning, so in creating Fuse, we very much wanted to rehumanise digital learning experiences by pushing user generated content (UGC) and enabling conversations within the platform itself. That’s really the ‘secret sauce’ because it allows access to knowledge whilst satisfying people’s curiosity in a very social and collaborative – even enjoyable – way.

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Can you talk about some of the ways in which you feel technology can address the current challenges relating to training, upskilling and reskilling remote workers in light of Covid-19?

As someone who is genuinely very passionate about this stuff, it’s been really pleasing to know that technology has been key to the continuation of training and reskilling during the pandemic. Physical distance has obviously taken face-to-face training off the agenda, but businesses have adapted and, in many cases, thrived as a result.

I could talk about lots of examples here, but to name just one:

Our customer Avon – the beauty cosmetics giant known for its face-to-face selling – found itself having to shift to a 100% remote selling model almost overnight – a monumental task that involved rapidly re-skilling 100k beauty reps located across 53 different countries and speaking 30 different languages.

Of course, that was no small feat, but with the support of the Fuse platform, Avon pulled off the incredible. Team leaders were also quick to report changes in beauty entrepreneurs’ learning behaviours, and engagement with the platform skyrocketed because reps were consuming much higher volumes of content than usual. This all contributed to Avon being able to successfully reskill a large and extended enterprise workforce in a remote working environment.

What are some of your biggest takeaways and tips on how to adjust to the new normal and work from home effectively?

Overall, I think what works for one person isn’t necessarily what works for another and that in itself is important to recognise. For me personally, I like to work in bitesize chunks, blending that around homeschooling my children and collaborating with my colleagues online.

I also think it’s more important than ever to set boundaries in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance – no emailing outside of hours, for example. That’s really essential to creating a sustainable working environment in which people can perform well. At Fuse, we’ve been working remotely since the pandemic began and we have no plans to go back to the office even once the Covid crisis is over. Because of that, we know that it’s even more critical that we lay the right groundwork in order to set ourselves up for successful and sustainable remote work.

Can you tell us anything about your upcoming plans for Fuse over the next year? 

The biggest focus and investment for us this year will be ‘learning in the flow’ – not simply replicating courses and putting those into Fuse, but enabling users to truly learn in the flow – and in the most optimised way.

We see this as simple but powerful technology that can achieve the following:
  1. Extend people’s knowledge capacity by making tacit knowledge easily accessible on demand – something that, for example, especially key in fast-moving retail environments where change is frequent and product portfolios are large.
  2. Using personalisation to place the best and most relevant content as near to the learner as possible. The goal here is to get the content to the learner before they even realise they need it.
  3. Increase the value of corporate learning content by making it highly search-friendly, and then layering that with Google-like functionality that enables learners to connect with subject matter experts and tap into tacit knowledge. That’s how technology will increase the value of content – both now and in the future.

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Fuse sparks active engagement for deeper learning experiences that ignite your people’s performance.

Steve Dineen is the Founder & President of Fuse – the enterprise learning platform that ignites people’s performance through actively engaged learning. He has long been driven by a mission to democratise education for all through continuous innovation in learning tech.

Steve is also the founder of FuseSchool – an educational platform that was founded in 2010 to deliver GCSE-grade education to anyone in the world, for free. Ten years on, Steve is incredibly proud to see this initiative helping 10 million learners around the world every year.