Offering learning and development (L&D) solutions has never been more important or complex. This importance comes from a growing acceptance that today’s dynamic and disruptive environment demands an ever-refreshing flow of information and skills throughout the organization. This complexity comes from many different sources.

Viva la Difference

Today’s workforce spans four generations toiling side by side. And, as people work longer, that population will continue to become older over time. Age isn’t the only diversity factor at play, either. Now, more women are part of the workforce than any other time in U.S. history. But gender is just one part of the picture. Today, we enjoy greater diversity in terms of sexual preference and identification as well.

The workplace also represents the richness of various ethnicities and religions that help characterize the melting pot that is our nation. This diversity contributes directly to the bottom-line. According to McKinsey & Company, “ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to outperform their respective national industry medians.”

Legislation and greater workplace accommodations allow those with a range of abilities to contribute in ways they might not have in the past.  According to research from Deloitte Insights, “the U.S. labor force has become more educated in each progressive generation.” Yet, many organizations find themselves with a population ranging from marginally literate individuals to those with multiple advanced degrees.

Beyond the Demographics of Diversity

But the differences don’t end there. Beyond who comes to work, where and how they work differs dramatically. Some still show up to a shop or store. Others are co-located with colleagues in offices. A growing number travel to shared work spaces or work from home.

Once employees arrive wherever they might find themselves working, additional layers of differences emerge. How information and learning is consumed varies widely based on age, education, experience and evolving available technologies. And expectations of learning can be dramatically different from individual to individual.

Meeting the Needs of Today’s Learners

As a result of the diversity that’s at the core of today’s workplace, L&D practitioners cannot view training audiences as the monolithic populations we once did. Even segmenting an audience into sub-groups may not be sufficient in understanding and appealing to the broad and varied learning needs that exist within it.

Instead, it’s time for L&D to reframe its thinking and update its fundamental mission to include “offering necessary and tailored learning to audiences of one.” We must advance our thinking and build on evolving practices that enable us to meet the needs of each individual. And, many of the pieces of this philosophy are already in the works, such as:

  • Microlearning: Being able to chunk content down into discrete and digestible elements is the first step. But accommodating audiences of one doesn’t mean pushing all of the same assets to everyone. Flexible systems will allow for customized sorting, configuration and deployment of individualized solutions.
  • On-demand learning: Pull (versus push)- based systems put the learner in the driver’s seat. This helps to accommodate the variability in terms of when, where and how learning is accessed. However, this only works when the right assets are curated or created, with an eye toward the wide-range of needs that exist from person to person.
  • Knowledge management systems: These internal repositories of information are naturally self-tailoring tools that meet individual needs, but only when they operate at close to the typical learner’s gold standard of Google searches. All of this demands an improved user experience that enables learning assets and resources to satisfy knowledge and skill acquisition requirements at critical points of need.
  • Coaching: Whether in real life or virtually, with advancing technology-enabled tools, coaching is a natural way to address the needs of individuals and support their success.

Today’s learners are unique. And L&D is well-poised to offer solutions that will help individuals grow, optimize their talents and contribute to powerful organizational results.