One of my favorite story for kids is “The Wizard of Oz”. Each time I saw the movie along my childhood and young adulthood the story somehow got a different meaning. I started by being afraid of the Wicked Witch, then moved on to understanding more about the courage, ambition and persistence you need to follow your goal and your dreams.
The other day I was reading about learning paths and all of a sudden Follow the yellow brick road song pops into my head. As I begin to remember the story of Dorothy and run it through my slightly more mature brain, the old childhood story shows up in a bright new light. I think we all feel a bit like Dorothy when we start our working careers (or any other new big challenge in life, for that matter). Taken away by a tornado of new information, people, environments, most of us end up in the Land of Oz. A wonderful land of endless possibilities. With so many career choices — and learning — ahead, we just have to find the yellow brick road that is the right one for us.
If Dorothy was living in the present day, she would leave Kansas on her own to join the labor force, fresh out of college, to enter the Land of Corporate. Then she would have to design her own Yellow brick road that could teach her something new and useful for her career every step of the way.
We’re not in Kansas anymore
A lot of organizations used to go by the belief that professional learning is done exclusively on academic grounds. You could get promoted only if you had the right piece of paper stating that you took the “X” class, for the “Y” amount of time. Sometimes you were sent to take extra-courses just so you could get promoted.
Nowadays, fortunately, companies have a better understanding of the learning process. The school is just the starting point of a lifelong learning endeavor. When you get great results and show tremendous potential, you get promoted. Then you are embarked on a new learning path meant to help you achieve a higher version of yourself and discover new abilities to help you get promoted again, and so on.
This learning path method is like a training program for the entire job or career, made up by little pieces of learning, that are changed and adapted along the way. Dorothy’s road was never straight.
What is an employee learning path?
If you want a formal definition, you could say that a profesional learning path is an approach that emphasizes learning-specific goals and objectives, as well as preferences. In other words: a yellow brick road with different stops and challenges for every employee, according to their career plan.
So what do you do when you are a company with hundreds of employees that show potential? Because you wouldn’t have hired them if they had no potential, right? Well, you get a good instructional designer to create a collection of courses for each department, create a few learning paths for employees, and off they go to the Emerald City! Wait a minute, your company’s learning and development strategy is not a movie and not every employee is named Dorothy.
It’s true that an LMS will make it a breeze but still, for a learning path to be effective you must take into consideration a few rather important aspects:
- The color yellow has about 30 different shades in the Pantone — this means that although some courses might be suitable for more employees, each path is unique and must fit like a ruby slipper to each learner.
- Milestones — it’s easier to keep a learner engaged if he/she has small stops along their path, to catch a breath, and look behind to see how far he/she got, instead of walking the whole road in one trip.
- Ruby slippers don’t fit everyone — some people prefer red sneakers. Employees learn and process information in a very different way. That’s why I think that it is vital for them to be fully involved in designing their learning path. They can better assess what pieces of content should be presented in a written, audio or video manner, for their better understanding.
- Progress tracking — there’s no better way to keep confidence on track than by knowing where you stand every step of the way. The new online learning technologies allow you to watch the progress a learner makes and offer assistance and guidance in need.
- Immediate feedback — this is something that everybody needs: proper and constructive feedback. Every employee needs reassurance that the road is still going in the right direction, and steering when the bricks no longer seem yellow.
Do we really need the Wizard of Oz?
The working force nowadays is in the middle of an ever-expanding, information-rich environment. Regardless of their career level, every employee needs a learning path that helps maximize their potential. That’s not only good for them but it’s beneficial for the for the employer as well.
I know it sounds big — and 30 years ago this would have been down right impossible — but thanks to the ever improving features of LMSs this is no longer an utopic trip to Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz. Nowadays everybody can go back to Kansas on their own.
Does your company use personalized learning paths? Do you think they are beneficial?