Let’s face it — learners’ needs are the most complex they ever have been, and there is nothing to indicate this will let up soon. The expansion of industries and technology alike have created the need for a personalized learning experience that provides learners necessary insights into their role and impact on an individual level, particularly with onboarding.

Organizational learning functions must meet these needs while also supporting the organization itself, meaning they cannot “break the bank” on cutting-edge innovations focused around personalized learning. So what should learning functions do to meet both equally important needs? While this seems like a trick question, it is not — the answer is actually quite simple. Learning functions must modify existing resources to support individual learners’ needs as a means to satisfy both the learner and the organization.

In formal onboarding plans, structured classroom-style presentations no longer fit the bill for engagement in learning. An effective onboarding plan is crucial, as an employee is more likely to leave during their first month than in their first six months. While the content might be important, the learner’s retention and application of the content should be the focus of formal training.

To achieve this result, facilitators must shift focus from concept-based learning to conversation-based learning. For example, instead of teaching a process via a slideshow, a facilitator should briefly discuss the process and allow the learners to draw their own conclusions via conversations and practice with others. This has a multitude of benefits, including increased learner engagement confidence in performing their roles. In addition to these benefits, the learning is structured around an individual’s own application of the information rather than the information itself. This allows learning functions to create a personalized learning experience in even the most traditional models of formal learning.

There is also an opportunity to make current models more personalized using technology. Using augmented reality (AR) and machine learning (ML) tools, for example, to both simulate real-world environments and continuously improve those environments over time can give learners a dedicated space to safely practice new processes or conversations. While these technologies might not be an existing resource, learning functions can maximize their other resources and use existing data to make the business case for the investment. In doing so, the investment is seen as a tool to support organizational goals rather than a hit to the bottom dollar.

In summary, learning functions must work to actively meet both learner and business needs to deliver effective onboarding programs. One immediate change that can be made is using already-set resources, such as time and classroom materials, to shift the focus of onboarding from processes to conversations. In doing so, learning functions can allow creativity and individualized application of content without additional costs to the business. They can also capitalize on these successes with the use of up-and-coming technology that, while ultimately a cost to the business, can prove itself a valuable investment in new employee retention.