4 Ways to Personalize the Employee Learning Experience

  • 4 Min Read

To attract and retain talent, companies need to use personalization to empower employees to lead their own learning.

Learners in today’s workforce have great expectations. Digitally savvy, they’re accustomed to accessing new learning on their terms.

They don’t want to be taught to, but expect to be able to learn. Millennials especially cite learning as the most desirable benefit a job can offer. They expect learning opportunities to be flexible. According to Deloitte University Press’ Global Human Capital Trends 2016 report, employees at all levels expect dynamic, self-directed, continuous learning opportunities from their employers. That’s the heart of modern professional learning.

That’s why, to be able compete in the war for workplace talent, organizations need to personalize the professional learning experience and empower employees to lead their own learning.

“It’s not just about the pay as it is about the whole experience of working for a business,” says Shane Sutherland, Founder and Chief Designer at portfolio and personal learning platform company PebblePad, a D2L partner. “The way in which you empower learning is part of that package of benefits that helps keep people happy and keeps them with the business.”

Here are four ways organizations can personalize professional learning:

Create personalized learning pathways

Enabling employees to create and keep online learning portfolios is a great way for organizations to pave personalized learning pathways. Online portfolios are a space where employees can build up evidence of their learning, reflect on their experiences, and share those reflections if they wish. In that way, they can make employees active actors in their own learning.

They can be transferable from job to job, so employees can tell the story of who they are, what they’ve learned, and the skills they’ve developed—a key consideration in the quickly growing gig economy.

Portfolios can be particularly effective when embedded into well-thought-out learning designs via an online learner engagement platform that presents learning to employees in specific contexts. Modern learning platforms can provide employees with easy access to their portfolios and other learning materials as needed—things like “just-in-time” social, mobile and video learning content, or content that they can access at their own pace after completing certain tasks or reaching different milestones.

Learn why enterprises are doubling down on modern learning platforms

Provide opportunities for social learning

Conversation can be a crucial driver of personalized employee learning. Coaches, mentors, and peers can all help employees to extract insights out of a learning experience, which can be something as simple as a discussion by the office coffee machine.

According to an October 2015 survey by the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, 88% of people believe knowledge sharing within a team is essential for workplace learning. Group research projects are a great tool in that regard—they empower people to seek out new knowledge, make sense of it, and share what they learn with their peers.

Social assessment is another great tool. By allowing employees to gain insights into their performance through regular feedback from peers, coaches, mentors, and managers, social assessment allows for iterative improvement, particularly of soft and leadership skills. Video can be an especially useful vehicle for facilitating social assessment.

Watch our webinar on developing and improving skills for employees with video

Manager-led learning, where managers act more like a coach or mentor and give people opportunities to learn through things like projects, can also drive social learning. Creating custom templates can give managers a framework for facilitating effective conversations around projects and performance: What 10 words would you use to describe your performance? What did you find most challenging? What do you feel you achieved?

Make learning mobile, available anytime, anywhere

Workplace learners expect to be able to access learning experiences anywhere, at any time and on multiple devices.

According to Google, 40% of people search only on a smartphone in an average day, 80% use a smartphone, and 57% use more than one type of device. Gartner says that consumers will own and use three to four devices by 2018. And, according to a study by Global Workplace Analytics, 80% to 90% of the U.S. workforce says they would like to telework at least part time, and Fortune 1000 companies around the globe are entirely revamping their space around the fact that employees are already mobile.

That’s why it’s become increasingly incumbent on organizations to enable mobile learning.

Encourage employees to take ownership of their own learning

Empowering employees to learn outside the office is a great way to get them to take ownership of their own learning. They can learn a lot through online sharing with their own professional and social networks, and independently researching on the Internet—be it through Google, YouTube videos, or LinkedIn—but there are also many learning opportunities available out in the real world too.

Professional events, volunteering, hobbies and personal interests, and community engagement are also great opportunities for professional learning and development. The skills that employees can develop when organizing a foodbank, for example, can be valuable in the workplace when it comes to doing things like managing a team or leading group to complete a project.

At the end of the day, personalizing employee learning is about more than simply modernizing learning and development (though that’s obviously important). It’s also about providing learning that’s beyond the bounds of the work they must do.