We live in a world where everything personalized sells. Just take a look at your social media feeds. Algorithms track every post that you ‘like’ or comment and fill your feed with posts (or ads) that you would most likely engage in. Entertainment has also become on-demand and customized: you, the user, are presented with suggested content based on what you’ve previously watched or listened to.
It seems that almost all facets of human life are getting more and more personalized. From social media to entertainment, to online advertisements and apps, to computers and devices. Even education is being revolutionized through personalized learning!
Personalized learning has been trending quite lately in learning circles. It is also slowly but surely making its way into basic education and corporate learning. However, the big question in today’s corporate learning circles would be: “Is it even feasible in a corporate setting?”
Before we begin to answer that, let’s find out what it is first, what makes it quite unique, and why it is or isn’t applicable to the corporate environment.
What is personalized learning?
For those who are new to the term personalized learning (or PL for short), it is a fairly new buzzword that has recently found itself in the learning lexicon. Its main drive is that it leverages on a learner’s current capabilities, interests, and preferred medium of learning. There is actually no set definition for PL.
In a way though, you can say that it’s delivering the right lesson, to the right person, at the right time, using the right approach.
It also involves crafting a personalized learning plan. This plan contains the learner’s overall objectives, targeted milestones, and initiatives that will address knowledge and skill gaps.
More importantly though, these goals aren’t dictated by a certain curriculum, an instructor, or by the business. All objectives are a consensus between the learner, the facilitator, and the company.
Aside from the highly-customized curriculum, it is the learner’s active participation in setting their own learning goals that sets this approach apart from others. As a result, this method also involves utmost commitment between the facilitator, learner, and the organization. It also takes a considerable amount of time, effort, and commitment between all the parties involved.
Fitness trainers are the most common practitioners of personalized learning. For example, each trainer has students (or a class) who all have the same goal – fitness.
However, each student has a unique objective (lose weight, gain weight, improve stamina, etc.) A fitness trainer, together with the trainee, formulates a plan based on the latter’s current skill levels, capabilities, and even work schedule.
While the overall goal is the same, each trainee is then assigned different objectives and milestones. Trainees are also designated distinct exercises and are made to follow unique programs.
Like what was mentioned above, this is a perfect example of customized training. It is about teaching the right person the right type of exercise, at the right time, using the right (or applicable) approaches.
Is training personalization feasible in corporate learning?
Having defined what PL is, we now go back to the big question. “Is personal learning applicable to the corporate environment?”
Yes, it is!
This answer comes with a caveat, though.
Remember the required commitment from all parties? While PL is the most ideal approach for both learner and facilitator, executing PL programs will greatly depend on the capability of the organization. Personalized education requires a great deal of resources to execute.
Let’s take a look at costs. Cost-wise, personalized learning isn’t a very viable option for corporate training programs. Take new hire training programs, for example.
PL just wouldn’t be practical -especially for companies that do mass hiring. It also isn’t a cost-effective option even for rank-and-file employees’ learning and development.
Just imagine all the capital – human, monetary, time, or otherwise – that you would have to tap just to get personalized profiles for each new hire and staff member. And that’s just the beginning! You also have to implement the PL program through classes, eLearning, mentorship programs, and such.
Take note that though personalized corporate training can be done, the organization has to heavily invest in their training department and learning programs. In order to do this, the company would need more training staff (and the associated costs) to accommodate all employees.
Executive training programs, however, are a different matter. Now, this is where personalized corporate learning can be more feasible, more relevant, and more effective, in a corporate environment.
Unlike rank and file (and even mid-management) staff, potential business leaders have developed skills that most of the company’s generic courses cover. Instead of those, high-potential employees need development more attuned to their current skill levels, knowledge, and learning needs, in order to prep them for leadership posts.
Personalized learning will be most effective in developing future business leaders and executives. High-potential employees can craft a learning and development plan with the help of an executive coach. This plan will primarily focus on what competencies the employee would need to develop in order to prepare him or her to take on a leadership role in the business.
For example, a potential manager can get mentoring and coaching from more senior colleagues when it comes to learning business acumen.
Personalized eLearning and certification courses can also be taken from different certifying institutions in terms of industry knowledge. Industry and competency-related conferences, workshops, and seminars can also be part of a high-potential employee’s PL plan.
Let’s now go back to cost. Employing PL for executive learning and development makes sense cost-wise. Executive coaches can be third-party consultants; so there is no need to hire additional in-house staff.
Third-party institutions can also be tapped for executive and business leader-specific learning and development initiatives; so no need to run these programs in-house.
Moreover, PL programs for high-potential executives will also have minimal effect on productivity as these employees tend to have more flexibility in terms of workload and schedules as compared to lower ranking staff.
Having said all of that, personalized learning is more cost-effective and relevant when used exclusively for developing potential business leaders and executives. And the best benefit of doing so will make PL more feasible – even to smaller-sized organizations. Not only will it save the organization in terms of costs, but it will also make learning more relevant, thus more effective, to PL participants.
On A Personal Note
There is an adage that states, “at the end of the day, a business is still a business.” A competitive business is an organization that must deliver services and products more efficiently and with the least cost possible.
A company-wide personalized learning initiative just wouldn’t be feasible even for larger, multinational companies. The cost alone of having specific personnel running the program can definitely put a big strain on company resources. These incidental costs make PL impractical for any company, no matter its size.
However, running PL programs for a select group of employees – executives and high-potentials, for example – can be greatly beneficial for any-sized organization. These strategies can be run in-house – especially if your company has the expertise and learning resources to do so.
Additionally, it might even be more cost-effective and more feasible to outsource PL strategies. Not only will it get your organization support from industry experts, but it will also give the participants more options regarding their learning and development.