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How personalisation enhances the learning experience

  • 6 Min Read

With employee engagement declining and a growing skills gap crisis, never has the need to keep our own audiences engaged and connected been more pertinent

Personalisation. You’re familiar with it, right? Used by your favourite streaming services, eCommerce and much more, it’s primarily centred around creating unique, relevant and appropriate experiences on an individual level. Its popularity has grown exponentially in the past five years because it’s incredibly effective at keeping audiences connected and engaged. 

With employee engagement declining and a growing skills gap crisis, never has the need to keep our own audiences engaged and connected been more pertinent. The efficacy of personalisation outside of the workplace is undeniable. So would we be safe in assuming some of its primary principles could be adopted and applied by the world of learning to increase the impact of learning experiences and programmes?

In the first of our series of six blogs exploring the role of programmatic learning in a modern learning function, we explore the potential utility and applicability of personalisation and how businesses could benefit.

Skills gaps are growing; are we equipped to tackle them?

Providing your people with futureproofed, relevant job skills is no joke. It’s a huge challenge for any HR or Learning & Development (L&D) department. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s recent ‘Future of Jobs’ report estimates that 50% of employees will need reskilling in just four short years. Suddenly businesses require skills in analytical and critical thinking, creativity and complex problem solving and in many casesaren’t able to keep pace with this constantly changing demand for new skills.  

Organisations know their business needs these capabilities in-house to continue to be successful in the future, but often they don’t have clear visibility over whether they exist in their current employee base. And why would they? Skills mapping and internal marketplaces are relatively new ideas, but are gaining traction due to surfacing unknown talent within a business.

Employee expectations are changing too 

Let’s face it – our employees don’t come to work (or these days, switch on their laptop at home) and become entirely different people. They’re the same both in and out of work, and whether you like it or not they’re being shaped by the experiences they are having outside of work. This has become even more obvious recently due to Covid-19 and remote working, where the lines between the professional and personal life have become incredibly blurred.  

That means that those highly personalised, digital interactions your people are having with brands outside of work are influencing their expectations within the workplace, and L&D is struggling to keep up. Plainly speaking, the old ways of delivering learning are losing credibility with our learners and disengaging them from the whole learning function.  

Something has to change.

Employee engagement is absolutely critical for future business success 

Happier, more connected employees are good for business. A Gallup study found that organisations with high employee engagement were 22% more profitable and see significantly lower staff turnover when compared to their counterparts with disengaged employees (25% vs 65%).  

So, if our people are engaged, they’re less likely to leave. That’s great, but with 46% of global CEOs believing that retraining and upskilling were their best options for closing the skills gap in their organisation, L&D and HR functions have a huge mandate towards not only upskilling their people, but connecting with them better to keep them connected and engaged with the business.  

Using personalisation for better connections  

Learning and development can play a critical and focal role in fostering deeper connections with employees over time. But many L&D departments are faced with the same challenges: they don’t always understand user needs clearly and equally and don’t always have the tech or expertise in-house to effectively meet the changing demands and expectations of modern employees.  

Whilst some new learning content may well help you fill new and growing skills gaps, the more complex issues arise when it comes to surfacing this content to appropriate audiences. This is why we need to better understand who our people are, the skills they currently have vs what they need now and in the future as well as making our learning interventions much more relevant and aligned to each individual’s requirements.  

But how do we do that?  

Introduce personalised learning for future success 

It’s true. Us L&D professionals could probably be doing better to create more appropriate, segmented experiences for our audiences. Brands outside of our learning world have proven time and time again that this approach works, so why’s it so hard for L&D to adopt these practices?  

Primarily, we often don’t have the right technology or data to actually do personalisation well. As we said above, it’s staggering how little we know about our employees at times and robust personalised experiences rely heavily on good data to be effective. But just because you don’t have data now, doesn’t mean that you can’t get it.  

Gather data to contextualise skills

If you’re serious about introducing a more personalised approach to your learning experiences, you have to start with data. We recommend not only leveraging the data you already have in your learning platform, but exploring other ways that you can capture data to give you more insights into your people.  

Consider how you could develop learning assessments which allow you to map individuals’ comprehension and understanding of specific subjects (especially in areas you know you have skills gaps in). You could even develop assessments which allow you to understand a person’s overall skills map, which would allow you to visually see where the skills gaps lie specifically in your business.  

From there, you can start to make decisions about whether to reskill or hire to fill those gaps, as well as then targeting specific individuals with appropriate, engaging learning to enhance their knowledge in business-relevant areas whilst also satisfying their desire for more personalised experiences.   

Programmatic, structured learning for reskilling

In many cases, it might prove more effective (in more ways than one) to upskill your teams, rather than recruit new individuals to the business. If reskilling is likely to be an agenda item for you in 2021, we’d recommend exploring programmatic learning. We believe one of the most effective manners in which to target the acquisition and retention of new, complex skills is through programmatic learning. Why? 

Well, they work, especially when it comes to the emerging skills we mentioned earlier. We know that complex skills aren’t suddenly acquired through a new piece of learning content. Our people need time to apply what they’ve learned, and may well need nudging across a period of time to continue to apply that learning.  

Of course, developing and launching learning programmes is unlikely to be a new concept for you. However, these are a highly credible approach when it comes to reskilling our people and building new behaviours because it creates a more consistent, continuous learning experience. 

If you’re serious about getting value out of the learning experiences you’re developing, sophisticated learning programmes may well be a viable option for you. 

Is your tech able to deliver what your people and business needs? 

Fundamentally, sophisticated learning experiences require smart technology and intelligent learning design to support them. Many companies, such as  streaming services and ecommerce, use technology to enable their personalisation (even if it is invisible most of the time). So too must L&D examine the capabilities of their technology and assess whether it stacks up against the looming business challenges and evolving learner expectations.   

And we need to focus on the efficacy of our learning, because a skills gap is accelerating worldwide and never has the need for scalable, engaging learning been higher. Combine the growing reskilling challenge with employee engagement challenges, and the war for talent is on. Evolve or die; we have no choice but to pivot and change tact.  

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