The past decade has rapidly increased our access to personalized experiences in every part of our lives. Heading to lunch? An app of your choosing will be there to recommend restaurants based on your past experience. Leaving your house for the day? A prominent map app will make an educated (and most likely correct) guess at where you’re heading based on the day of the week, time of day, etc.

As our use of technology becomes more and more personalized, we should be clear in assessing the potential of personalization in learning. It is important to not overlook the context and overarching end goal of learning personalization, aligning our employees, our initiatives and our technology accordingly.

The Big Why

At our company, we often talk about our “big why,” the motivating and inspirational reason behind our mission and vision. The “big why” allows all of us to passionately take part in driving forward the mission and vision we share. Some of the examples of personalization I mentioned above, and others in areas like music, entertainment and tourism are useful, but are missing a “big why.” Without a “big why,” interest and engagement will be short term and shallow.

Fortunately, in learning, the “big why” is consistent and easy to call out. Every employee is interested in their career and the development of their skills. We need to emphasize the “big why” when we provide personalized learning so that employees are always reminded of their long-term goal. We believe that each employee should have a skill plan that contains personalized learning, giving them direction and bringing them closer to their career goals.

Context Matters

The personalized skill plan is great at guiding and directing employees to progress in their career goals. However, if a skill plan is something I, as an employee, have to explicitly visit on my own, it will have limited traction. In other words, what good is personalization if the user never sees it? Personalized learning should be surfaced to the employee in an efficient and low-energy way.

In addition, our team has seen a higher level of activity on learning items that contain the context as to why the user is seeing it. For example, I am much more likely to watch a video if I know it was also watched or recommended by a coworker. The context makes all of the difference!


Everyone is talking about putting the employee at the center of the learning universe, but how do you put that into practice? Now that we all agree that personalization and adaptive learning are key to putting the learner at the center, how do we make that happen? I would suggest an examination of your current technology is the best place to start.

Technology can have a dramatic effect on your ability to personalize your learning landscape. Machine learning can be leveraged to draw correlations from similar employees across your business and surface the personalized learning to them. Technology capable of analyzing the complexities and variations of employee learning and presenting a personalized, engaging learning experience is transformational in an organization. Do your due diligence on the technology you use; buzz words are not enough!

I am pleasantly surprised at the level of engagement our employees have when you place a personalized skill plan in front of them (reiterating their “big why”) and then create frictionless ways for them to find the context of learning presented to them. Bring personalization to the forefront of your efforts and you will see increased employee satisfaction and employee engagement, which can transform your company culture.