Tapping into the Power of Personalized Learning

3 key strategies organizations can implement to help employees choose their own learning journeys.

If you’ve ever worked one-on-one with a tutor or instructor, you know the power of personalized learning. Whether you were learning anything from how to play a tricky combination of notes to perform a classic song or master new presentation techniques to nail a high-stakes client pitch, your learning journey is unique to your own abilities, interests, and areas for growth. And since the learning experience is tailor-made to your needs, the lessons resonate more deeply, getting you the results you want faster.

Personalized learner journeys go far beyond the classroom or training session. In fact, organizations have learned just how impactful they can be when employees sit in the driver’s seat of their own learning and development (L&D) experiences. Here are three key strategies organizations can implement to help employees choose their own learning journeys:

1. Create the Learner Experience: Put People in the Driver’s Seat of Their Own Development

Today’s employees have high expectations for their organization’s learning management and development programs. And applying the flexibility of personalized learner journeys helps to cultivate the ideal learner experience, which is unique to each employee and their own specific goals. 

A personalized learning experience puts the onus on employees to seek out what information they need in their time of need. This helps to establish an organizational culture of continuous L&D, empowering employees to become proactive learners.

2. Content and Format: Give Your People the Learning They Need, When They Need It

Offering learning content in the right format can make all the difference in supporting an employee’s personalized learning journey. To do this effectively, organizations must offer a blend of learning opportunities, including formal, informal, and experiential learning, among others.

The rise of microlearning, combined with the power of video and the convenience of mobile, means even the busiest, on-the-go workforce can find a moment of otherwise “dead time” to brush up on a skill, complete compliance training, or find an answer to an urgent question. 

Many employees who are low on free time thrive on in-the-moment learning to help them stay informed and up-to-date, especially if they work in a competitive industry or field. By making learning content easily searchable, it reduces the friction for participation and employees are more likely to take advantage of the available learning content.

3. Development: Making the (Human) Connection Between Learning and Performance

It’s critical to remember that learning in and of itself is not the outcome—success comes from putting the lessons learned into actions that drive performance. There must be a business reason that a learning program exists, driving employees to pursue that particular learning opportunity.

To create a goal-driven learning experience, organizations need to ensure that their people’s goals are aligned to organizational objectives. Starting with business goals and then working backward helps to create a learning environment enabled by content that facilitates goal achievement. According to the 2018 Brandon Hall Group Personalized Learning Survey, a strong majority of high-performing organizations agreed that personalized learning:

  • Supports an employee in reaching goals more efficiently
  • Improved the link between learning and individual performance
  • Improved the link between learning and organizational performance

Managers can help employees stay on track by scheduling regular, ongoing one-on-one meetings to ensure their learning stays connected to performance outcomes as the needs of the business shift over time.

Personalized Learning Journeys: An Employee Development Adventure

As people work and collaborate in new ways, they need learning environments that are engaging, accessible, impactful, scalable, and relevant. That’s why it’s critical that your organization continues to invest in your people with personalized learning to help them upskill in their roles over time. Encouraging employees to pursue learning that is both meaningful and impactful cultivates a development mindset within each member of your workforce. And then there’s no telling how far your learning journey will take your employees and your organization.

Case Study

The USA TODAY NETWORK’s sales organization helps business owners reach customers in more than 100 markets across the United States and its territories. Digital disruption has caused a seismic shift in the way news media is distributed and its organizations generate revenue. For the USA TODAY NETWORK to remain competitive, it not only focused on the impact of external factors, but also those it could control from within: namely, providing personalized learning journeys to its new hires and existing employees.

“Our account executives need to be armed with knowledge of all shapes and sizes in order to deliver in a competitive space. They need product knowledge, yes, but also how to order, how to manage the sales process/cycle, how to show a client the ROI, and how to continue to build the relationship,” said USA TODAY NETWORK Senior Manager of Learning Technology Craig Lutz in his presentation at Saba’s customer conference last year.

The solution? Empower USA TODAY NETWORK’s account executives by making it easy to seek out the learning they need, when they need it. Lutz and his team have achieved this by giving learners autonomy over their own personalized learning journey, empowering them to seek out informal, microlearning opportunities in the moment of need.

Since implementing personalized learning journeys as part of their ongoing learning curriculum, the USA TODAY NETWORK has increased user sessions by 143 percent, total users by 112 percent, and page views by 349 percent—while bounce rates on learning content have decreased by 30 percent. Their people know how to find the learning content they need to move them closer to achieving individual and business goals.

“Senior managers like the fact that we are able to provide them [with] data when it comes to learning,” Lutz says. “There’s all kinds of data that they look at all the time, but often learning might be a little light in what [employees are] doing. And in today’s world, where there’s a lot of making sure we’re running efficiently, we want to be able to prove our value.”

As the Chief People Officer of Saba Software, Debbie Shotwell is responsible for human resources, learning and development, employee communications and community relations. Shotwell brings more than 25 years of passion and experience building high-performance teams and cultures that deliver results. She is a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP), a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), and has been featured on Inc.com, Forbes, and the SHRM blog. She’s the recipient of the National Association of Professional Women’s Humanitarian Award, and has served on the board of directors of Pleasanton Partners in Education and 101 Best and Brightest.