Personalized Learning as an Employee Engagement Strategy

It is quite challenging to keep leaders, and their team members prepared to succeed when change is a constant in the modern business environment. Your managers and supervisors need adaptable leadership skills suitable for managing the impacts of changing demographics in the workforce and continuous disruption. Your employees need skills that enable them to do their best work and pursue career goals. Each person has different needs, which include strengthening existing job skills, reskilling, upskilling, and cross-skilling. Whether you want to develop a better leader or help an employee become more productive, personalized learning is the answer. It is customized or self-directed learning that can meet organizational training and development needs efficiently and economically. The human-centered approach to learning is best suited for today’s organizations because it requires considering individual needs and interests.   

Personalized Learning as a Human Development Strategy 

“Tell me, and I will forget; show me, and I may remember; involve me, and I will understand,” said the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Personalized learning is about the involvement of your leaders and employees in their workplace learning process. The organization offers customized program content to meet the individual’s preference for delivery method and information presentation.  

Personalized learning encourages learners to take responsibility for identifying their goals and enables learning at their own pace. Most programs today utilize technology tools like eLearning programs and a learning management system (LMS), but there is always some level of involvement of instructors and managers or supervisors who ensure employees are succeeding in moving towards goal achievement.  

Workforce needs may include the following. 

  • Upskill to stay ahead of technology advances 
  • Reskill because a job is redesigned or new technologies are implemented 
  • Upskill because a job is being eliminated and replaced with one requiring a different set of skills 
  • Cross-skill to manage workloads more efficiently 
  • Develop a career-advancing skill set  
  • Become a better leader as the workplace and workforce transforms 
  • Strengthen a leader’s employee engagement skills  
  • Develop a leader’s labor relations skills within the context of workforce responsibilities 
  • Develop high-potential employees 

Utilizing a personalized learning strategy humanizes learning. There are two basic types of personalized learning.  

Direct personalized learning – Technology can play a significant role, but a direct learning personalized training or development program will include active engagement with a trainer or supervisor or manager, and perhaps other students if group learning is included. Programs like IRI’s LEAD Academy leadership program can be delivered virtually or in person, but there are always interactions with the instructor. It uses tools and experiential learning to empower newly-hired leaders or existing leaders needing skills strengthening.   

Self-directed personalized learning – In this type of learning, the learner formulates learning goals and takes the initiative to manage the learning activities. Employees can collaborate with their supervisors or managers to determine the best training approach to reach desired outcomes. IRI’s A Better Leader is a self-directed personalized learning experience for leadership training. The leader can identify learning needs, a specific leadership development topic can be selected, and learners can complete lessons on their schedule. Another example is an IRI eLearning program for employees. The custom interactive eLearning programs for employees can also be completed at any time, and customization includes videos, interactive role-playing, downloadables, and other tools.   

There are so many ways to structure personalized learning programs. Still, the human-centeredness of customized learning is found in all the programs, no matter how they are structured, because they are designed to meet the learner’s goals. Humanizing the learning process may include adding collaboration and interactive elements to online learning and recognizing that information transfer alone is sometimes insufficient.   

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Benefits of Personalized Learning 

Gartner survey found that only 25 percent of employees are confident about their career paths in their current positions. “Vitoria Bretas, Direction in the Gartner HR Practice, said, “Employees are leaving their current employers for better professional development opportunities (45%) at similar rates as they leave for higher compensation (48%). Thirty-five percent of employees surveyed said they left their employer for better career trajectories.” 

Career planning and development are crucial to employee retention. The obvious benefits of personalized learning are that each person gets access to information that meets their unique needs. However, this approach to training and development for your managers and employees has a long list of benefits.  

  1. Most organizations now have a workforce that is primarily composed of employees who are digital natives. Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z are used to accessing information quickly, as needed, and in a way that suits their learning style. They aren’t interested in tedious learning sessions where most information is forgotten, or they must sit through training segments irrelevant to their jobs. 
  2. The investment in personalized learning will produce a better ROI compared to non-personalized training because it meets unique trainee needs.
  3. Providing personalized training demonstrates the organization’s commitment to helping employees thrive in the workplace, which contributes to higher employee engagement.
  4. Data can deliver numerous benefits, including identifying learning gaps, discovering what the learner is most interested in, updating skills, reskilling, reinforcing policies, teaching new procedures, educating on the impacts of unionizing, and providing development opportunities to support career goals.
  5. You can accommodate preferred individual learning styles and learning delivery methods, improving knowledge retention.
  6. Promotes and supports a culture of continuous learning.
  7. It’s cost-effective, especially when the training is primarily tech-driven and there is a large workforce.
  8. Increases organizational competitiveness by matching leader and employee training and development goals to organizational goals by function, team, department, or the business as a whole. For example, you want to increase the number of positive customer service ratings, so you develop a customer engagement learning program for employees. If you want to diversify the leadership pipeline or improve team productivity, personalized leadership development can target these specific goals.
  9. Learning can be structured in various ways, including microlearning units, longer lessons, and a mixture of online, experiential, and virtual learning. The ability to personalize the training or development program with a mixture of eLearning, on-the-job, trainer-led, and group training enables sharing of learning content in an interesting manner.  

Employees who are unionizing frequently have a list of grievances. Two common items on the list are a need for adequate job training and a lack of career planning and development opportunities. This is true for all types of positions, from high-paid white-collar jobs to frontline workers in restaurants and retail. Personalized learning can reduce the risk of your employees deciding to start union organizing 

Accountability is Critical to Successful Personalized Learning Programs 

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) collaborated with Accenture to examine learning and development practices. One of the findings was that programs that have no clear plan and lack accountability are not productive. Seventy-two percent (72%) of the organizations had employees who didn’t understand why they were involved in learning and development. The training and development must be meaningful to the leader or employee, or little is learned and retained.  

Your investment in employee learning can bring enormous returns, verified by measuring the ROI of the training delivered when there is purposeful program development. There are many ways to develop the ROI formula with factors like increases in productivity, sales, and customer satisfaction over total training cost. The Kirkpatrick Model of Training Evaluation measures the reaction of learning participants, learning, knowledge and skills acquired, behavior changes, and impacts on business goals. Metrics are essential to verifying that personalized learning is effective. If not, the training can be revised to make it more relevant to the employee’s needs.  

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Organizational Culture Matters for Successful Personalized Learning 

You will discover that a successful personalized training program has a high return rate, especially in these tumultuous times. One of the top reasons leaders and employees leave their companies or start union organizing is that they don’t get the training needed to do their jobs or the professional development opportunities to advance their careers. Offering personalized learning opportunities improves employee engagement, but it also supports being an employer of choice and attracting the right talent.   

The organizational culture matters, and it should encourage and value continuous learning. One of the ways to prove continuous learning is valued is by investing in learning opportunities that are interesting and engage employees rather than generic programs that employees avoid or don’t take seriously. Personalizing the learning programs so that employee needs are met turns learning into an engagement tool. Some additional strategies to make learning more personal and interesting include gamification, integration of social learning through collaboration platforms, and language options.  

If your organization needs to up its training and development efforts to reduce turnover and better meet workforce needs at all levels, contact IRI Consultants. Our experts in leadership development, employee training, organizational communication and development, and skilling, reskilling, cross-skilling, and upskilling strategies can help your organization develop and implement an engaging, personalized learning program at scale. 

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