Personalized learning experiences are trending and that is a good thing. After all, we all have different preferences when it comes to learning. While learning and development (L&D) teams are taking the right steps with personalization, it is often not enough. For improved learning outcomes, the learning experience must become a custom fit for the learner. This is an easy order to fill for an individual learner, but how do you make customization work in the workplace with various departments, teams and diverse thinkers? You may think it is not possible, but customization is achievable with three components: learner preference assessments, role-based learning, and the marriage of learner preference and role-based learning.
At work, today’s learner is keen on individualism and determining “what’s in it for me.” While most L&D departments are careful to include a variety of learner preferences, such as visual, audio and even kinesthetic modalities into their trainings, this is rather a blind approach. Training must meet the needs of its learners with customized learning experiences. As companies develop their work culture, many employees engage in some sort of personality and/or work-fit assessment, such as the Enneagram or Harrison Assessments. This is a great space for L&D to leverage the appropriate learner preference assessment to zoom in on the nuances of their learners.
Send out a learner preference assessment as a relatively brief questionnaire that’s meant to show results in the most common preferences, including sequential, visual, kinesthetic and audial. An assessment can be sent out at the moment of intake for a learning ask, as pre-work for a training or as a company-wide effort. Of course, the results will need to be analyzed for commonalities. An evaluation of the results can be viewed based on learner types in teams, departments and in specific roles. It may be interesting to find that a large percentage of leaders prefer visual, or the majority of entry-level learners prefer kinesthetic modalities.
Comparing learner preferences to roles within a company can give the L&D team an advantage in developing the best custom-fit training for specific learners. With this, the most popular preferences can be addressed in the content and delivery of the training. Let’s look at a possible scenario: Say you are training leaders on successful communication techniques. In this example, data shows 67% of the learner group prefer kinesthetic modalities. In training, it would be optimal to spend less time lecturing about communication and more time with a communication-based activity such as role-playing. Certainly, don’t exclude the other 33%, which may be a mixed lot of learning preferences, but your time and focus should be on the featured learner preference.
If there is an outstanding learner preference in the data, the L&D team can make concise adjustments to customize the learning experience. But when the data shows more of a balance among preferences, accomplishing customization might seem tricky. Simply group your learners within a training based on their preferences. Then, adjust the activities for each group to fit their preferred way of learning. Let’s look at an example: Say you have an instructor-led training (ILT) with 30 individual contributors, and you have four of the most common learner preferences present. Even if the numbers do not equal an even-numbered group, it’s okay to have seven in one group and three in another group because the activities can be very different, while the topic is the same. Now, let’s throw a role-based topic into this scenario. Say you are training in customer service. Think of how to design a customer service-based lesson for visual, audial, sequential and kinesthetic learners. By breaking your design approach down by preference and role or skill, the curriculum practically writes itself.
What is in it for the learner? Why is marrying learner preference and role-based learning a good return on investment (ROI) for training? Because personalized, role-based learning can help learners advance their careers. Employees can create career maps based on the role or skill learned and feel more confident about owning the new role because the learning was absorbed in a preferred way. Using this approach is also a benefit for L&D departments because it provides data on how learners learn best, which brings insight into building out the content for each learning journey in a way that reaches and impacts how information is best absorbed. The measurement results will likely yield continuous, positive training feedback.