For a long time, organizations have been trusting a cookie-cutter approach to learning and employee development. While earlier the approach was effective, considering employees had limited exposure to knowledge resources outside of work, the advent of digital knowledge sharing and skills building is pushing towards a change. Organizations can no longer assume that all employees seek similar training. Therefore, a uniform employee learning and development approach is seldom effective.
Personalizing learning and development: Key answers to seek
Learning and development, as a concept, seeks to offer twin benefits, to both the individual as well as his/her organization. Therefore, it is only fair that organizations seek suggestions from both the involved parties before customizing the learning journey. The following questions can be a robust starting point.
- What does the training seek to accomplish?
The first question towards personalizing learning and development revolves around its objective which in itself is bi-fold. The first part throws light on what are the objectives that the organization seeks to accomplish with a particular training, i.e. which skill or domain expertise should the training address. At the same time, it is very important to understand if it is in line with what the employee expects and needs. Therefore, the answer to this question must establish a positive relationship between what are the goals of the organization as well as the needs of the employee, with respect to learning and development.
- How does the employee seek to learn?
Once the area of learning and development is agreed upon, the obvious next question is the mode of training dissemination. This is again a dual question. On the one hand, it should answer which form of learning - online, in person, or hybrid does the employee consider most effective. On the other hand, it should also gauge the organizational capacity in terms of technology to conduct training across platforms. Undoubtedly, personalization of learning and development requires offering knowledge resources to employees via the mode they consider most effective, subject to organizational constraints.
- What is the level of learning already achieved?
The next question around the personalization of learning and development is more employee centric. It majorly revolves around the level of knowledge amongst employee groups before the training. Assuming that all come from a level playing field might not be the wisest outlook. Therefore, it is very important to understand the level of learning already achieved through external exposure and resources to gauge a personal record for each employee based on which learning modules can be defined. For instance, during a training on emotional quotient, some employees might be completely green with apathy and require training on the importance of emotional wellbeing, while others may be filled with empathy and require training on how to pay it forward or lead by example. In both cases, the training modules will be distinct, requiring personalization for maximum impact.
- How can the learning be most effective?
While it is very important to personalize the mode of training dissemination, it is also vital that the medium or format of the training suits employee expectations. Learning and development can be only audio, a combination of audio and visual, case study based or experiential. Organizations can start by personalizing the learning format on the basis of topic of the training. Also, as learning is a personal experience, it is very important that the format which is most effective for the employee be selected.
- What is the best learning environment?
Finally, not all times and places can ensure effective learning and development. Therefore, personalization of learning and development should take into account that the environment matches employee needs. For instance, some employees might be completely averse to an in office training on Monday morning. Again, the time and place should also be customized based on the type of training. Technical training requires more concentration and thus, must be held during productive hours. It is not only about time and place but also about group setting. For instance, some employees might prefer group learning to facilitate inter-employee competition that boosts performance. While others might prefer to train in solace and at their own pace.
Will it really help?
It is true that on the face of it, personalization of learning and development seems to be a little tricky. However, if you look closely at what it can achieve, there will be no looking back. For starters, personalization of learning and development can enable an organization to play on the strengths and core competencies of employees, instead of bombarding them with every training in the world.
On the organizational level, personalization in such augments employee interest, ownership and initiative for the training. Greater employee interests ensures more effectiveness of the training bringing training objectives closer to achievement. It has a direct impact on the engagement quotient. Greater engagement translates to greater productivity and better performance. Finally, personalization of learning and development is a great tool for employer branding as it illustrates that you genuinely care about the personal and professional development of your team. Thus, it is a great way for quality talent acquisition and retention.
Where to start
Once your business leadership is convinced about the potential of personalization of learning and development as a means to unlock great value, start by partnering with some top HR tech tools in the market. Such partners can help you gauge the employee pulse effectively by striking the right questions in the right manner with analytics based solutions. Finally, organizations need to see personalization of learning and development as the first step towards personalizing the entire employee lifecycle.