A few weeks ago, I decided to treat myself to a new outfit from one of my favorite retailers. After selecting the item, I was prompted to choose my size. Thanks to some indulgence over the summer, I knew that the standard sizes available would not fit me right. I was delighted to see that the site had added a personalization feature where I could enter my measurements and the outfit would be tailored to my size. My outfit arrived last week and fits like a glove!
At the end of this very happy experience, I realized that personalization is not an expensive luxury anymore. In fact, it is now something that we expect from most of the services we use, be it recommendations on what to watch on OTT platforms, suggestions on things to buy when we shop online, or personalizing the food we order to our taste.
So why should we not expect personalization in something as important as the trainings that our organizations develop for us? Although the concept of personalized learning has been around for a while, its adoption has been painfully slow.
In a nutshell, personalized learning refers to customizing learning based on what learners already know, what they need to know to perform their jobs efficiently, their interests, and their learning preferences. For training managers and creators, this means listening to what learners want and offering them a choice in how they wish to learn. Yes, every organization has certain mandatory training requirements and hence everyone within the organization needs to learn the same thing; however, HOW people in the audience learn this information can vary. It’s important to move away from the “one-size-fits-all” approach if we want the training to be engaging and impactful for everyone. Personalized learning puts the learner in control and allows them to carve out their own learning path.
Offering personalized learning to employees has a multitude of advantages. With the options available to decide how they want to learn and what they want to learn, learners will be more engaged with the content. Higher engagement can lead to faster learning and better retention of concepts. This in turn translates into more effective learning and better on-the-job application of the learning. Personalization can help improve the motivation to learn, boost productivity, and thus lead to better business outcomes. Employees feel like their preferences matter and gain the confidence that they will walk away with additional knowledge from every training that they complete.
According to the 2022 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, training that is personalized to an employee’s interests and career goals ranks among the top 3 motivators for learning. In addition, “Opportunities to learn and grow” is now the most important factor that employees consider as an indication of an exceptional work environment.1 These findings indicate that it is now more crucial than ever to ensure that personalized learning is nonnegotiable for organizations who care about how their employees learn and train.
So, what’s stopping learning and development (L&D) specialists from going all out to adopt personalized learning? Let’s discuss a few challenges and some solutions to overcome them.
There are various reasons for cutting down the budget available to L&D teams. Making any major changes to the existing trainings without the available finances can seem like an impossible task.
It is possible to create personalized learning content without blowing the bank! Work with your training team to repurpose existing training materials and adjust them based on your learner's needs and preferences. Spend some time researching available personalized learning platforms that suit your needs and budget. Even if you need to make some small investments, remember that personalized learning can result in more engaged and motivated employees which can in turn translate to better employee retention. The cost you will save with hiring and training new employees can instead be channeled into creating effective trainings for existing employees.
If you are a large organization, catering to each individual’s needs is a real challenge. Rather than satisfying a few and running the risk of marginalizing others, it’s easier to just leave things the way they are.
It's true that you may not be able to satisfy the needs of every individual, and that’s ok. Start small by reviewing the kind of trainings that you are already offering. Is there an opportunity to add some choices for your learners? For example, you can add a short video that provides a quick summary of a lengthy eLearning course for learners who are already proficient on the topic OR you can schedule an instructor-led session for learners who prefer this learning style. For learners who prefer to learn on-the-go, you can create podcasts or downloadable reading materials. Over time you can gradually build a comprehensive repository of trainings that cater to the majority of your employees. And remember, you can also make use of available third-party content that aligns with your learner’s requirements.
If your employees need to be trained on complex scientific/technical topics or your organization has numerous compliance-related mandatory trainings, it may feel like these topics do not lend themselves to personalization.
Personalized learning is not dependent on the topic. With some creative thinking, it is possible to provide learners with a choice on almost any topic. For example, you can create microlearning content of basic, intermediate, and advanced levels for complex topics such as a disease training or influencing skills. Learners can thus choose to access the level of learning based on their existing knowledge. For a soft skills course, you offer your learners the choice of demonstrating proficiency by either sending in a short video or answering a situation-based questionnaire. Once you start viewing your content with the intent of personalizing it, you will always be able to come up with a few options.
You may have no complaints about your exiting LMS. It acts as a catalog for all your trainings and you are able to track completion. Why fix something that isn’t broken?
The field of learning is constantly changing and it’s important to upgrade your training and move with the times. While an LMS can function efficiently as a repository for your trainings, it cannot track learning that happens via third-party sites or social networking. A learning experience platform (LXP) on the other hand can act as a one-stop-shop, providing learners with a range of options. Multiple AI-enabled LXPs are now available which can integrate seamlessly with your existing LMS and can provide enhanced features such as personalized learning plans, gamification elements, advanced insights into the effectiveness of your trainings, and much more. Imagine your learners’ delight when they log into a visually engaging, easy-to-navigate LXP that provides them the opportunity to take control of their learning, collaborate with their peers, and share their thoughts about what they are learning.
In conclusion, personalized learning can transform the way employees learn and help create a culture of learning. With rapid digitalization, we now have a huge opportunity to embrace the diverse learning requirements of our learners and tailor trainings to boost learner engagement and motivation. It is imperative that L&D teams invest the time and resources needed to support learners in their learning journey during these challenging times. The rewards of a truly engaged workforce, enthusiastic to upskill, will be worth it!
1. The transformation of L&D. 2022 Workplace Learning Report. LinkedIn Learning. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report.