Personalized learning pathways have emerged as a game-changing approach to training that can meet the unique needs of each individual learner — making one-size-fits-all education a thing of the past. No longer do learners have to struggle with the frustration of being forced into a rigid curriculum that does not match their preferences. With personalized learning pathways, learners can chart their own course, tailor their own goals and take control of their learning.
But implementing learning paths from scratch can be a daunting task. Let’s explore some of the essential considerations for rolling out effective learning pathways for your organization.
Step 1: Identify Your Learning Objectives
The first step in creating effective learning pathways is to identify the learning objectives for your organization. This involves defining the skills and competencies that your employees need to develop in order to support organizational goals. “Businesses need to consider the current skills gaps that their respective industries might be facing,” says Katie Ballantyne, vice president of global learning strategy and innovation at Cornerstone, “as well as the learning ecosystem they have in place and the learning objectives and goals they want their employees to achieve.” By understanding not only your business’s unique skills gaps, but also the skills gaps faced by other organizations, you can solve your own problems while planning for possible challenges.
You may also want to survey your employees to get their input on the skills they need to develop.
Step 2: Create a Skills Matrix
Once you have identified your learning objectives, the next step is to create a skills matrix. A skills matrix is a visual representation of the skills that employees need to develop in order to meet learning objectives.
To create a skills matrix, start by listing your learning objectives. Then, for each learning objective, list the specific skills that employees need to develop (see below). You can also include any relevant training or resources that will help employees develop those skills.
Step 3: Map Learning Pathways
With your learning objectives and skills matrix in place, you can now begin to map out learning pathways for your employees. Your pathway might take the form of a sequence of courses and activities that employees can take to develop specific skills.
To create effective learning pathways, start by grouping the skills in your matrix into clusters. For example, you might group all of the customer service skills or all of the leadership skills together.
Once you have grouped the skill areas, you can then identify the courses and activities that will help employees develop those skills. This might include eLearning courses, instructor-led training, on-the-job training or self-directed learning.
Step 4: Build Learning Resources
With your learning pathways mapped out, the next step is to build the learning resources that employees will need. You might develop or source eLearning courses, custom job aids and reference materials or on-the-job training activities.
When developing learning resources, it’s important to keep in mind different learner preferences. Some employees may prefer to learn through interactive eLearning courses, while others may prefer more hands-on, on-the-job training activities. Make sure to offer a range of resources to accommodate your learners.
Step 5: Implement Learning Pathways
Once your learning pathways and resources are in place, it’s time to get your learners familiar and comfortable with using them.
You can do this in a number of ways. But it’s important to communicate the benefits of training to your employees. “Training should be served up in a way that helps each individual employee grow in their career,” says Sean Winter, vice president of strategy at LumApps. By emphasizing the connection between training and individual career growth, you can ensure learner engagement. Communicate specific ways that the learning pathways will help learners develop new skills, as well as how this will benefit their career and the organization as a whole.
You may also want to consider offering incentives for completing training. For example, you could incentivize employees who successfully complete a leadership development program with bonuses or consideration for promotion.
Step 6: Evaluate Learning Outcomes
The final step in implementing effective learning pathways is to evaluate learning outcomes. This involves measuring the impact of the learning pathways on employee skills, knowledge and performance.
To do this, start by referring to the performance metrics that were used to identify your learning objectives. Then, compare the performance metrics before and after the learning pathways were implemented to determine the pathways’ impact.
The measurement capabilities of LMSs and LXPs have grown significantly over the course of the past several years. “If you haven’t refreshed your LXP or LMS content since all of your employees were working in an office, then it’s definitely time to take a look at the data,” says Winter. Now may be the optimal time to reassess the technology you’re using to facilitate training.
Modern LXPs and LMSs can facilitate the evaluation process by “gathering data on a learner’s individual progress across platforms, including the skills they are interested in growing, learning progress and completion, level of skill proficiency attainment and how their behavior maps to others with similar development interests,” says Ballantyne.
You may also want to conduct surveys or focus groups with employees to gather feedback. This can help you identify areas where the learning pathways could be improved and adjust your resources and pathways as needed.
Learning pathways are a powerful addition to the learning and development toolkit. By following the six steps outlined in this article, you can create effective learning pathways that will help your employees develop the skills they need to support your organizational goals.