For many years, the confines of the typical corporate mindset, combined with the constraints of limited resources, resulted in learning and development courses that were often redundant, unfocused, and (to be frank) a complete waste of time.
In recent years, companies have not only become more tech-savvy with regards to L&D - but they've also become smarter. Personalized learning and development, tailored to each individual's unique needs, skills and career aspirations, has become the trending norm.
What is Individualized Learning?
While there is no single corporate definition for the phrase "individualized learning," at its core it refers to this: the process by which the right learning content is delivered to the right person, at the right time. In the corporate world, this means that at least 3 key elements must converge:
- The learning must be relevant to the employee's current job or future goals
- It must be tailored to the individual's learning strengths/preferences
- Realistically, it must be delivered in consumable portions (e.g. 15-minute learning modules instead of 2-hour lectures)
Bill Pelster, a principal at Deloitte Consulting, made the following keen observation about the challenges that traditional learning can pose for HR departments in the corporate world:
"Modern employees are so overwhelmed that the old-school model of a two-hour learning module just doesn't work anymore. In all the conversations I'm having with companies, the bottom line is, 'We've got to get it down to 15 minutes before people get pulled into doing their jobs again.' And if you want to rise above the noise, you have to personalize it. There's nothing more frustrating than sitting through a two-hour learning that wasn't relevant."
It has become a widely recognized fact that individualized learning is vital to the success of both employees and the companies for which they work. For example, one survey found that:
- 90% of companies believe that personalized learning supports continuous development
- 93% of companies agree that personalized learning assists employees to more efficiently reach their goals
Individualized learning can increase employee retention, make team members more productive, and ultimately generate increased revenue; but only a handful of companies are taking advantage of this more advanced methodology.
What are the Essential Components of Individualized Learning?
While the details of an individualized learning strategy can become very complicated, it boils down to 5 essential components that reflect a personalized approach:1. Employee Competency Profile
Management must have a clear picture of each employee's pre-existing knowledge, skill set, career progression, and other factors in order to provide them with their optimal development path.2. Current and Future Growth
Not all employees should be forced into the same developmental mold. Learning modules should be matched to organizational roles, career goals, learning preferences, and ability levels.3. Self-paced
Each individual acquires and retains information in their own way. An effective individualized learning strategy will allow team members to progress at their own pace.4. Ease of access
Many employees will not have the opportunity to set their day-to-day work aside for long hours of L&D. Implementing an adaptive learning experience across multiple delivery mediums makes it easier for employees to stay on target at their convenience.5. High Retention
Research has shown that higher engagement during learning leads to better knowledge retention. L&D courses that allow for employee interaction with the material and feedback from their managers will lead to better results than more "traditional," passive learning techniques.
When these 5 components of individualized learning are properly aligned, employee development accelerates.
Some Tips on How to Prepare an Individualized Learning Strategy
There are a number of steps that you can take to prepare an effective and seamless individualized learning process for your employees. These steps should include:
1. Emphasize the practical benefits of your L&D program. When your employees know what they are going to get out of their learning courses and how they can apply that knowledge to their work, they will be more motivated to focus on the material at hand.
2. Collaborate with your employees to create individual learning paths. Some companies have their operations managers regularly schedule one-on-one meetings with each team member. These meetings can provide an opportunity for the manager to ask the employee about his/her career goals, determine the employee's current development needs, and work with the employee to craft a suitable learning path adapted to his or her specific circumstances.
3. Incorporate your employees' personal growth goals. For example, if your employee is interested in becoming a Senior Product Manager, you can customize their development to building the skills necessary to excel in their future dream job.
4. Integrate rewards & recognition systems in L&D. A rewards and recognition system generally results in increased employee motivation to complete modules at a higher effort level than the bare minimum through incentives and friendly competition.
Leveraging individualized learning paths for each one of your team members will rocket your company forward in terms of talent development, efficiency and ultimately profitability. Don't fall into the old, counterproductive mindset of the past. Invest in your employees' development, and reap the benefits for years to come.