Time, energy and capital spent on training is a constant for many companies. Continuous upskilling results in an organization of engaged, high performing staff — something every company wants. For business to grow, employees must follow suit. Companies that prioritize development know they’re maintaining a competitive edge in the marketplace.
For those companies, providing informational deliverables that give employees what they need to succeed is as basic as providing tools to do their job. But to assure training is successful, it’s important to look at deliverables through the lens of the user. Just as employees arrange their workstations in a way that works best for them, training should be personalized.
Making it effective
For training to be absorbed and retained, it must be relevant to the learner. Unboxed CEO Brian Leach tells HR Dive that requiring employees to complete training that doesn’t match their day-to-day is a sure way to keep engagement and completion rates low. When information is provided as needed, for example, engagement is high and learning is significant. The ability to confirm and test knowledge immediately enhances the experience and helps employees retain the information.
In addition, training must be aligned with the skill level of the learner. A “one-size-fits-all” strategy for training loses focus on the critical role the learner plays in training. Learning content based only on what the company needs to teach employees, rather than what employees need to learn, could turn off employees to future opportunities for growth.
Making it personal
Beyond skills and relevancy, we all learn differently. Some look for detailed instructions; others learn best in a hands-on environment. Some absorb knowledge with repetition; others grasp concepts quickly and easily become bored. Aligning learning with the needs, abilities and learning style of each individual is key to successful training.
Individualized learning doesn’t have to be overly cumbersome. It largely involves making sure there are a variety of ways to learn, and giving employees access to the methods that work best for them. Creating learner-centric training can increase engagement and retention, and open the door for continuous learning and growth.
As the needs and behaviors of learners change, there are a few key elements necessary for an optimal, learner-driven experience, according to Diane Belcher, senior director of product management at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning. In a soon-to-be published white paper, the organization notes that optimized learning is:
- Relevant. Content should be relevant to the issues learners face and the matters facing the organization.
- Personalized. Allowing a learner to dictate what they want to learn provides a more meaningful experience.
- Mobile-ready. Learning anywhere, anytime, is key in today’s fast-paced world. The learner-driven experience needs to be flexible and convenient.
Training also should grow with employees; Their needs, skill sets and curiosity are fluid, so training should be fluid as well. Leach says that starts with a curriculum strategy: Determining what kind of training you need for each role and business function and then defining the modalities that work best for each topic. Companies can create their own content, source it online or partner with a content provider, he said. “When training is modular like this, you have the flexibility to assign it to different learning paths as needed.”
Making it learner-centric
Creating a learner-centric approach to training may take a few extra steps, but bridging performance gaps and upskilling is worth the effort.
Understand your audience
First, assess varying levels of competence to determine if learning should be in stages each employee can access based on their competency level. “Each employee moves at their own pace with specific personal strengths and weaknesses," according to Rea Abrahams, culture strategist at CultureIQ. "Ideally, a learner-driven approach allows employees to participate in trainings that are interesting and relevant to their particular role.”
Establish the benefit
Employees need to know what's in it for them. Training that makes their work easier, faster or better is content employees will want to access. If the training isn’t about daily tasks, what long-term benefit will it provide? “According to our research findings, relevancy is the number-one driver behind the learner’s choice of content," Belcher noted. "People will carve out time for building skills if they think that doing so will help enhance their job performance or accelerate their career development.”
Offer access and control
Training is relevant when the employee controls the learning experience. Accessing information as needed gives the ability to apply learning in real-time. “Access to world-class, trustworthy, up-to-date content is essential," Belcher said. "Employees want to know the best and most actionable practices for approaching a problem.”
Self-directed learning is on the rise because it works. We look to online content for help in our personal lives, and it makes sense to do the same with work-related content. Accessibility is the key. According to Belcher, learning must include “rich content sources with excellent search capabilities; ways for learners to easily scan content to determine relevancy — such as a pertinent titles, categorization schemes, or content labeling; mechanisms for mapping content to learners’ stated interests, tasks, responsibilities, and experience level; and recommendations based on employees’ current learning behavior and habits.”
A variety of learning options give employees the format that works best for them. Micro-learning is on the rise: short, relevant content that applies immediately can resolve an issue as well as pique employee interest in additional learning.
With open access to a wealth of options, employees can source the data they need when they need it. Unboxed, for example, boasts collaborative and social learning, integrated communication tools, and real-world gamification to give learners more options. Using these learner-driven technologies, clients are seeing drastic increases in completion rates, Leach reports.
Continuously adjust content
Is the material being accessed? Are performance gaps disappearing? Are learners asking for more, or more detail? Be prepared to ask those questions, adapt and add new options on an ongoing basis. With thousands of online courses and videos available, curating and providing additional learning should be an continuous process.
“Regardless of what method a company chooses, it’s important to keep tabs on the program’s success," Abrahams says. "Encouraging managers to include training as a topic in their one-on-ones with team members and sending regular learning and development pulse surveys can keep HR and executive teams up-to-date on learning and development needs.”
Provide supplementary support
If an employee has questions, whom do they contact? It's important to keep an open line of resources for additional information or a human contact to help the employee jump over any learning hurdles in their path.
Whatever methods you choose to provide training, each learner is an individual. When we personalize training to individual needs and learning styles, information is accessed and retained. But more, personalized training can become a habit: Employees will continue to look for opportunities to grow and develop, if we provide access to the knowledge.