The Importance of Personalized Learning

The evolution of corporate training (and education as a whole) bears a striking resemblance to the evolution of the internet.  Gone are the days of static content, limited formats, and dull presentations.  Instead the development of many technologies has made content vibrant, varied, and ever-changing. There’s something to appeal to everyone, and everyone can thoroughly customize their experience.

Wait, did I say customize training for every employee? How is that possible for an organization? The concept of personalized learning – what an employee needs, when they need it, how they need it and delivered in a way they like – hasn’t been possible until recently.  But tools today enable both unparalleled flexibility in creating and administering training content, as well as effective ways to assess employee knowledge and knowledge gaps with significant granularity.

The best way to understand personalized learning and its advantages is by exploring three key questions:

  • How does the employee learn best?
  • What does the organization need the employee to learn?
  • In what areas has the employee demonstrated knowledge retention or gaps?

How does the employee learn best?

Not everyone learns equally well in the same ways and at the same pace, and there are endless permutations to the ideal learning situation. These include content format, length of training sessions, style of the training, and the training environment. Frequently, more isn’t necessarily better — for content, training times, class sizes, etc. Employees in training are also employees who aren’t working.

Additionally, if training is meant to make employees safer or more competent at their jobs, it doesn’t make sense to completely separate their training from their work, as usually happens. When the training is integrated with the employee’s actual work and work environment, there are a couple of advantages. First, it helps cut down the amount of time spent away from work. And second, it helps employees make critical mental connections between the training content and their day to day activities more quickly and with greater “stickiness”.

Personalizing employees’ learning maximizes their ability to understand and retain knowledge, minimizes the stress of having to Learn It All at one time, and helps limit the amount of time required to complete training and knowledge retention assessments. Greater knowledge retention and shorter training times save organizations a lot of money.

What does the organization need the employee to learn?

Whether it’s initial orientation, a safety refresher, or information about a new product, what companies need employees to learn and be able to use competently and consistently in their roles varies widely. Also, the sheer number of roles to be trained grows with the size of the organization. Companies need the flexibility to specify what each employee needs to learn about, in what format, and by what deadline.

Organizations also need to balance the importance of the content with its context. It’s not uncommon for a company to try and emphasize the importance of training by making the content as official and detailed as possible. Unfortunately, that can also make it intimidating and near-impenetrable to learn.

Employees need to understand that training is key for them to perform their jobs well, but that they don’t have to learn everything all at once, and that the process isn’t going to hurt. If that’s the kind of experience their companies deliver, training can become a welcome part of their jobs.

In what areas has the employee demonstrated retained knowledge or gaps?

Ensuring that each employee receives the most relevant and up-to-date training for their role is important, but even more important is knowing how well they’ve retained that learning. Brand new material has to be presented to and retained by everyone. But over time (and fairly rapidly), that knowledge decays, and employees only retain knowledge without which they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs at all.

Not only must training be ongoing, but so must assessment of employee knowledge retention. This enables training to be targeted to close knowledge gaps and not frustrate the employee or waste time with unnecessary repetition when the employee has already mastered a subject area.

Organizations that can answer these three questions about employee training and knowledge retention experience safer workplaces, greater loss prevention, and better customer service. But there’s an equally positive flip side as well.

While employees appreciate being rewarded for successful training completion, there’s a bigger benefit:  they notice quickly that the training makes them better at their jobs. They’re faster, more efficient,  less prone to injury, and happier to assist customers. The satisfaction of being good at your job is a far more powerful motivator than any prize. It also lasts longer.

Technology has provided us with incredibly powerful tools to improve learning in the enterprise. Training can be customized to the needs of both the employee and the organization in a way that’s consistent, effective, and fun. Corporate training may never become quite as varied and entertaining as the internet, but thanks to personalized learning, gamification, and other strategies Axonify employs, it can come pretty close.

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