ATD Blog

Personalization: The Next Generation of Learning

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Currently, the most engaging Internet applications offer highly personalized content. Music providers, entertainment providers, dating services, news services, and most large companies now offer content that targets individuals rather than markets. Content is now personalized to user preferences and system learned behaviors. People receive information that is uniquely relevant to their needs and interests.

 Learning and development (L&D) organizations are no exception to this trend of personalizing content, and are finding ways to leverage interactivity and personalization in the context of delivering learning content. L&D leaders are delivering rich libraries of classroom and online content in more relevant and engaging ways. They are mixing existing content with new personalized content to the individual needs of their employees. 

The promise of personalization is that it will make the process of learning significantly more efficient and effective. Employees receive the content they uniquely need—without sitting through the all the content they don’t need. Seasoned sales people, for example, who attend sales training learn about the specific areas of selling that are most important to them, rather going through an entire sales training program in which much of the content isn’t important to them. 

Coaching: Ultimate Personalized Learning 


Both in-house and external coaching has become increasingly popular because it offers highly targeted and personalized development. A recent study found that external executive coaching was ranked a higher form of senior leadership development than were business school programs. By working 1-on-1 or in a small group with a coach, people quickly get right to the topic that is relevant to them. If an employee needs help in one particular aspect of public speaking or time management, they go directly there without having to attend a comprehensive speaking or time management course. 

The challenge now facing L&D organizations is how to provide learning and development in a personalized way that comes as close to individualized coaching as possible, yet more economically. L&D organizations need to take their content and learning management systems to the next level—as companies have done with their Internet applications. They need to eliminate the post-training evaluation comments, such as “I learned very little from this training program” or “Most of the content in this training program wasn’t relevant to my needs.” 


Personalizing L&D Is Possible Today 

Tools, methods, systems, and services are available and being used to enable personalized learning programs. Personalization is being used in the creation of personalized learning paths, curriculums, environments, and content. Leading organizations are personalizing blended learning models that include digital learning platforms, classroom delivery, individual development planning, coaching, assessments, and project based learning activities. 

If you’ve not yet moved into the realm of personalized learning, perhaps now is the time. You can leverage your existing resources. You can maintain standard competency levels. You can maintain standard offerings in areas such as diversity, compliance, security, and safety while offering more targeted offerings in other areas such as leadership, sales, and soft skill domains.

About the Author

Mike Hawkins is award-winning author of Activating Your Ambition: A Guide to Coaching the Best Out of Yourself and Others, author of the SCOPE of Leadership six-book series on coaching leaders to lead as coaches, and president of Alpine Link Corporation. Mike coaches, consults, and trains organizations and individuals to higher levels of performance. He is a seasoned executive coach, management consultant, author, speaker, and college lecturer. He is considered an industry thought leader on leadership, consultative selling, self-improvement, and business management.  

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