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How Personalized Learning Helps Maximize Employee Development

Note: This post first appeared in D2L’s blog on August 16, 2018.

All good managers strive to lead high-performing teams, but a winning culture often evolves from employee growth at the individual level. According to Ceridian’s 2017 Pulse of Talent Report, 91 percent of respondents believed learning and development opportunities are crucial to a productive work environment. But as professionals look to improve their existing skills and learn new ones, there needs to be a structure in place to enable that development, and personalized learning offers a sound foundation on which to build.

The best organizations understand they can’t take a macro approach to employee development. Every individual brings a unique skill set to the table, so a one-size-fits-all model won’t address everyone’s strengths and weaknesses across the board. To ensure it resonates, instruction should be personalized whenever possible. Here are three steps organizations can take to maximize the development potential of their employees through personalized learning.

Assign a coach or mentor

Coaching and mentoring are key for personalized learning in the workplace. While direct supervisors oversee an employee’s daily tasks and manage them on behalf of the company, coaches and mentors work with the individual in mind. These confidants help professionals set personal goals, guide them down their desired career path, and help them gain additional perspective on themselves and others. Coaches and mentors don’t have to work within the same organization, but they usually have extensive experience in a similar field.

More than anything else, coaches and mentors hold employees accountable to their own goals. This process starts with a healthy dialogue where they help individuals identify their strengths and weaknesses and build self-awareness. As professionals start working to improve their skills, coaches and mentors typically become a support system for advice and encouragement. Over time, coaches and mentors often morph into a springboard for ideas and aspirations, a safe space where employees can vent their frustrations, and a trusted source for feedback.

Organizations obviously benefit from the personal and professional development their employees undergo, but assigning a coach or mentor often helps them retain top people as well. All the investment coaches and mentors put into those individuals usually results in increased loyalty to the company.

Provide frequent feedback

Offering employees regular feedback is another important piece for promoting personalized learning in the workplace. Whether it comes from a coach, mentor, or the employee’s direct manager, individuals often improve the fastest when they receive frequent feedback. Professionals should always set goals and understand where they are in relation to meeting them, but this is especially important when they’re learning something new. When an employee has to wait an extended period of time to discover their strengths and weaknesses, it delays opportunities for improvement. Frequent feedback enables employees to address a problem area before it becomes a habit.

Frequent feedback also tends to be more relevant. Problems often persist over time when they aren’t addressed, so providing constructive criticism in a timely fashion helps a manager or coach point to specific examples of behavior and be more detailed in their ideas for improvement. These factors really help drive the desired learning outcomes home.

Leverage experiential exercises

Hands-on experiences help individuals connect and apply their knowledge to real-world situations, but how can organizations facilitate these interactions without the threat of real-world implications? Instead of having employees refine their skills on the job, experiential learning exercises enable organizations to construct meaningful applications in a more controlled environment.

For example, if a sales rep really struggles overcoming objections, their coach or mentor can create mock scenarios where an employee repeatedly practices the appropriate responses without risking a sale. Such an exercise is especially powerful through a video assessment platform that facilitates personalized learning opportunities. Not only do video assessment solutions enable face-to-face interactions, but they also allow multiple parties to deliver personalized feedback on every submission. Each video an employee submits can either serve as a teaching moment or direct evidence of their comprehension.

With the rise of automation, it’s important for employees to turn themselves into lifelong learners capable of working with and alongside machines — as well as each other. Organizations inherit some of the burden to upskill their employees and nurture critical abilities like communication, self-assessment, and collaboration. These three steps can help companies in any industry maximize the learning potential of their employees and ensure they don’t fall behind the curve.

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