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How to achieve effective learning in the age of personalisation

It’s no secret that organisations are struggling to engage people’s interest when it comes to delivering effective learning and development. Isn’t it about time businesses overhauled their learning to fit the needs of the consumer? 

I come across so many companies still running day-long, generic training sessions or mundane webinars that fail to deliver effective learning because they are all about compliance and not the learner. The reality is technology has changed how everyone – young and old – absorbs information, as well as what they expect the learning experience to be. Many individuals are turning to self-directed learning through their own devices – on YouTube, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), TedTalks and many other channels. They want engaging, easy to digest content that is personalised to their interests and goals.

So how do you break out of the tired, old mould and engage with your employees as though they were customers?

Here are a few ways to ensure your business delivers effective learning in the digital age.

1. Make your content relatable

In an era where everything from online shopping ads to healthcare is increasingly personalised, consumers expect learning content that ‘speaks’ to them. At my organisation, where we have 30 years of experience in the market, we know that retention is always greater when people experience training where they recognise particular characters. For example, we often use actors in our training videos who portray recognisable characters – perhaps someone who is always doing things wrong, or a manager who is calm under pressure. It’s almost like an episode of ‘Friends’ – you know what each of the characters’ strengths and flaws are. It may sound silly, but this form of learning creates empathy and relatability between the character and the learner and, ultimately, makes the message stick.

2. Keep sessions short

In between emails, texts, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and more, it’s hardly surprising that our attention span is shorter than ever. Short snippets of content are going to be much more effective than a learning session lasting hours. Through regular testing and surveys, my organisation has found that around five minutes is the ideal length for a learning module; it’s long enough to convey an important lesson, but short enough to sustain interest so the facts are retained. When developing learning programs or assessing potential vendors, focus on offering bite-sized modules that can be completed when it suits the learner. Keep it short and make it work for them and their conflicting priorities.

3. Allow self-guided learning

We can do virtually anything from a mobile device these days, so it makes sense that self-guided learning is the way of the future. Essentially, companies need to become better at merging personal development with professional development to make the experience more valuable and meaningful for the learner. Indeed, we can expect self-curated learning programs to become increasingly commonplace in the near future. For example, soon you will be able to search ‘Time Management’ and pick and choose from the best books, videos and courses on the topic – whichever is most suited to your needs and how you like to learn.

The next step for learning providers will be allowing access to public material. We’re moving toward learners being able to curate any form of content through a single platform and gain learning credit for it. So every book you read or TedTalk you watch for your own benefit is done through a single platform and can be counted as credit toward your professional learning goals.

4. Invest in consumer-led technology

The future of effective learning isn’t just personalised, it’s also real-time. Let’s say you’re a manager dealing with a difficult situation at work; you should be able to access advice and information that allows you to solve the problem quickly and effectively.

New technology has arguably transformed the learning and development industry more than all other factors combined, but real-time, self-guided learning is the next revolution. It’s important to find the right technology partner who offers a truly consumer-led experience and can provide ongoing technical and even strategic support to help you to stay ahead of the latest trends and game-changing functionality – and make it as easy as possible for you and your learners to use.

We know that effective learning and development is a key driver of staff retention and career advancement, and therefore, good business. So if you’re still just ticking boxes when it comes to L&D, it’s time to consider ways you can offer a more relatable, personalised and user-friendly learning experience – that puts individual outcomes first.

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Max Underhill
Max Underhill

Employee development today involves improving the value of the asset either to perform better in current position or this position in the future or a succession position.
Competency development involves firstly knowledge and secondly application for competency to be demonstrated.
The development of the application component requires mentoring and coaching. It can be difficult sometimes in small organisations to find employees/managers to do this and it is often left to trial and error (or the application is not developed so the “training” is perceived as a failure.

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