This article was originally published in eLearning Industry on August 2, 2022.
Today’s workforce is as diverse and dispersed as ever. Employees of four generations work in offices, from home, or on the way. Plus, they are more demanding than ever, as everyone expects every life aspect to cater to individual preferences. Creating personalized training based on skill-building goals is paramount for companies wanting to attract and retain the best talent.
L&D professionals strive to design training programs that meet employee learning needs, allow for flexibility in attendance, and achieve the desired changes that lead to better organizational outcomes. But personalizing the learning experience for each employee is no easy feat.
Luckily, learning technologies such as learning management systems or other business learning platforms can do the heavy lifting, mainly through personalized learning paths.
Why each employee needs a personalized learning path
Learning paths are a great way for employees to acquire new skills and improve their performance. A learning path outlines a sequence towards mastering new skills and bridging knowledge gaps. For example, all employees who want to learn the basics of graphic design could follow this learning path:
- Introduction to graphic design
- Design principles and process
- Typography and Color
- Photo editing
- Video editing
A learning path is usually made of goals, so in the above example, there are five goals (each representing a course) that a learner must master to achieve their objective of learning graphic design fundamentals. Learning paths can also have gradual difficulty levels, guiding employees through their learning journey and leading them toward their goals.
Since employees have different skill sets, interests, and even expectations from a training program, it’s important to design learning journeys that meet these individual demands as well as possible every step of the way. When employees receive the information they need at the right time and in the right way, they are much more likely to have increased retention rates and be more successful when transferring the newly learned skills to real-life situations.
Aligning learning paths with skill-building goals
The first step when designing personalized learning paths for employees is to identify any skills gaps that need to be addressed. You can do this by enrolling people in some courses on topics they should master already. If some assessments are sub-par (for example, less than 70%) or if certain topics raise problems for more employees, you identified some possible interventions.
Another way to do this is through employee surveys: ask them about their interests and professional development objectives. Perhaps your Marketing employees want to learn more about graphic design or how to create better rapport with customers. Or maybe your Junior Graphic Designer intends to become a Senior Graphic Designer in the near future. This information is gold if you want to create relevant training.
Once you have determined which skills an employee needs to acquire or cultivate, you need to associate workplace competencies with each of those skills and tie them together in a learning path.
A tool such as an intelligent learning platform (ILP) can help a lot at this step. With it, you can define job titles and assign them to users, associate job titles with the competencies required for that job, and allow learners to have job titles as goals and then track and manage those goals. Designing a learning path becomes a matter of identifying the proper sequence of training interventions for each employee.
Here are some other aspects of an ILP that supports personalized learning paths:
Automation is great at replacing manual processes, and it's the only way to stay on top of various learning needs. In its simplest form, automation is based on if-then sentences: if a new employee joins the company, then they are automatically enrolled in an onboarding path and also added to their department's online group. Likewise, when the employee finishes the onboarding path, they are automatically awarded a certificate of completion. This ability to define automatic rules that are triggered when certain conditions are met is useful at every step of the way when building learning paths.
Learner engagement is a hot topic among training professionals, and for a good reason: engaged learners pay more attention and are more likely to achieve the desired training objectives. One thing that has proven time and time again to encourage engagement is gamification. And that too can be included in learning paths through awarding points and badges when learners complete a goal in the path, advancing from one goal to another. You can also add a bit of competition by splitting learners into groups and creating team games.
You can take a learning path up a notch if you diversify its goals and create dynamic flows. Having online courses as goals is good, but you can also add videos, quizzes, or certificates to the mix. For instance, a learner can start a path with a video, then move on to an online course, listen to a podcast, fill up a quiz, finish another course, watch another video, take another assessment, and finally get the certificate of completion. As long a learner goes through all the goals of the path, regardless of the order they choose to, they earn that certificate.
AI is a game-changer when designing personalized learning paths for employees. Even not-that-sophisticated AI can take things to the next level. And if your learning platform comes with a few AI-infused features, things get a lot easier. For instance, if an employee wants to learn the basics of graphic design, the platform can run a skills gap analysis and then provide automatic recommendations on what learning path (made up of specific goals) that employee should follow. The trick here is to use the platform as much as possible and set all the job titles, and define the needed competencies as well as goals.
Designing learning paths based on skill-building goals
Personalized learning paths give each employee the opportunity to reach a learning goal in a way that fits their learning needs, and a learning platform can do the heavy lifting during their design process. Organizations need to create learning paths based on skill development goals if they want any training program to impact employee performance.