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Getting Personal with Learning
Building a Culture of Learning by Putting Learners in the Driver’s Seat
By Diane Belcher, Senior Director, Product Management, Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning

In a world where change is continuous and happens at breakneck speed, organizations are contending with talent gaps. There’s a constant need to “reskill” and “upskill” employees, and the consequences of failing to do so can be dire. A recent PwC report addressed widespread CEO concern that a lack of key skills is hindering their organizations’ ability to innovate, causing their people costs to rise, and impacting their ability to provide an optimal customer experience.1

Providing the type of personalized, learner-driven experience that today’s learners are looking for is the key to building the culture of continuous learning that’s essential in today’s fast-paced and complex world.

Building a Culture of Learning by Putting Learners in the Driver’s Seat

What today’s learners expect—and need

Jobs are more demanding, time is more crunched, and there’s more information competing for atten-tion. And the needs and expectations of today’s learners have intensified. As a result, learning and development needs to take more of its cues from learners. Those learners want to drive both personal and career growth, but they also want to do it on their own terms. They have super-busy schedules and need to fit learning in where and when they have time. And if the learning opportu-nities are high quality, fresh, and relevant, they’ll make that time. A recent survey we conducted with Degreed found that learners are spending an average of 4.7 hours each week in learning mode—and 3.5 of those hours are leveraging learning outside of company-provided resources.

The fundamentals of personalized learning

Making sure that there’s content available for learners to fit into their schedules is critical, but there are a few other aspects of personalized learning that are just as fundamental. To make it personal, learners need the following:

  • CONTENT THAT COVERS A LOT OF AREAS: Whether they’re looking to get better at their day-to-day tasks, want to help their organization out by acquiring a competency that’s just emerging as a need, or keeping their eye on a longer-range career prize, learners want access to content that covers a broad swath of topics, from evergreens like budgeting to newer concepts like design thinking.
  • CONTENT THAT IS HIGH QUALITY, TRUSTED, AND CURRENT: From our recent survey with Degreed, we found that 31% of learners rated credibility and trustworthiness as the most important attribute for their learning resources, while 34% most highly valued resources that are engaging and compelling.
  • LEARNING THAT’S RELEVANT TO THEM: How material relates to what a learner is trying to achieve is extremely important. One way to make sure that it’s relevant is to make sure it’s actionable. Learning that can be put to immediate use isn’t just relevant—it’s also going to go a lot deeper and stick a lot longer than something that’s “learned” but then put aside.
  • ALL TYPES OF CONTENT TO CHOOSE FROM: Sometimes learners need content—like a tip sheet—that they can absorb in a few minutes.Sometimes they have the luxury of leisurely reading a long article. Some learners want the written word. And others may want any and all content, as long as it’s available as a video.Content style and duration are personal choices that learners want to make.
Providing the type of personalized, learner-driven experience that today’s learners are looking for is the key to building the culture of continuous learning that’s essential in today’s fast paced and complex world.
  • HELP KEEP LEARNING TOP OF MIND: Even the best, most relevant of content can get lost in the shuffle of a busy day, even with a Post-it®reminder stuck on a laptop screen. When learning is closely connected to personalized goals, and when it incorporates an occasional reminder, it stays top of mind. Yes, learners are committed to their personal learning paths, but they also still need a nudge now and again.
  • A SOCIAL EXPERIENCE: For today’s learners, learning is not just a personal experience. It’s also a social one. They learn by sharing with their peers, their managers, their mentors, their teams, and their partners in L&D. And they learn by following others and seeing what they share in return. So they need their learning to be supported by social features: likes, comments, recommendations, and shares.
L&D can lead the charge

L&D is the department with the motivators and facilitators who enable employees to more effectively take control of their learning. And employees are looking for that guidance. In our survey, 61% of respondents said help in aligning learning to their goals or skill gaps is their biggest need. There’s areal opportunity here for L&D to lead the charge.

Who’s better positioned to determine which resources are the most credible? To help employees and their managers figure out how to close their skill gaps? To design learning experiences that provide the engaging, compelling, and personalized experience today’s learners crave? To build the culture of continual learning that’s essential for keeping up with constant change?

Employees looking to take more charge of their learning create a tremendous opportunity for L&D to provide the guidance learners are looking for—and to put those CEO concerns to rest.

1 PwC. 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey. 2/2019.
Harvard Business Publishing - Corporate Learning

Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning partners with Global 2000 companies to co-create engaging leadership developmentsolutions that align with strategy. An affiliate of Harvard Business School, the company leverages faculty, Harvard Business Review, industryexperts, technology, and a collaborative mindset to help clients discover something new and deliver dynamic learning experiences. Ournewest product, Harvard ManageMentor® Spark™, provides a highly personalized, learner-driven experience, fueled by the latest and bestleadership and management content. Learn more at harvardbusiness.org.