3 Ways Personalization can Improve the Employee Experience

November 06, 2017

Contributor: Sharon George

Digitalization is transforming the business of learning, and L&D teams need to keep up.

Digitalization now requires companies to find ways to build workforce capability at a much greater rate than ever before, and what worked in the past won’t in the future. Increasingly, organizations regard learning and development (L&D) teams as strategic partners responsible for building critical digital skills in the workforce and improving the overall employee experience.

“But the traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to L&D will no longer cut it in the new work environment,” says Jeff Freyermuth, principal research analyst at Gartner.

Expectations for training programs have shifted from simple content recommendations to new advanced and adaptive learning experiences, tailored to each individual employee. This requires personalization, and it will become a critical component in every enterprise’s ongoing L&D strategy.

“ Personalization detects behavior patterns and discovers correlations in behavior among employees”

Gartner defines personalization as a process that creates a relevant, individualized interaction between two parties designed to enhance the experience of the recipient. Personalization will revolutionize L&D by providing customized learning experiences for every employee, based on the challenges they face in their role, their career aspirations and their personal preferences.

Before investing in new learning technologies, HR leaders should consider the following three trends.

Evolving employee demographics and the digital workplace mean that learning initiatives will fail to meet expectations without better personalization

Consider that up to five generations of employees will soon be working together. The five generations typically cited are:

  • Traditionalists, born prior to 1945
  • Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980
  • Millennials, born between 1981 and 2000
  • Generation Z, born after 2000

With this kind of diversity, L&D teams can no longer afford to simply create one set of training materials and treat all audiences the same. Running the same standard training sessions for every employee irrespective of role (HR, sales or IT) and learning style (visual, auditory or gamified) will only go so far.

For example, millennials have a stronger predilection for digital technologies than do baby boomers. They have grown up with a high level of personalization in the consumer sector and expect the same from their employers.

L&D teams must recognize the unique needs of each employee and use specific knowledge about them (including their role, preferences, interests and intent) to personalize their learning.

Organizations emphasize learner experience but fail to recognize and measure how personalization can improve employee engagement

The pace of innovation, coupled with broad trends around digital and agile technologies, are fast-tracking a growing number of HR transformation initiatives within companies.

One of these initiatives is to improve the employee experience. To do this, organizations have invested in learning platforms to help employees quickly locate content (by reducing the number of clicks, for example), register for a class or locate another subject matter expert.

Personalization takes this trend a step further by factoring in search history, classes taken, interests and interactions with fellow employees (with similar roles or learning histories).

“ Personalized learning is a journey”

Personalization detects behavior patterns and discovers correlations in behavior among employees. As the similarities start to be recognized, employees can then be segmented. This segmentation enables HR leaders to effectively deliver relevant content to employees, which, in turn, leads to greater engagement.

When looking to measure and improve employee engagement, it’s important for HR leaders to have an agile, long-term and personalized L&D strategy.

Digital business and the IoT require an increasing number of touchpoints, making contextualized and personalized learning even more challenging

Almost two-thirds of enterprises are experimenting with digital business, according to recent Gartner CIO surveys. The blurring lines between physical and digital experiences add complexity, because personalization can now occur across multiple channels. The key for HR leaders is to use personalization across the employee life cycle and build a holistic L&D strategy.

But realize this doesn't happen overnight — personalized learning is a journey.

A variety of advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), especially in machine learning, predictive analytics and adaptive learning, can also enhance personalization. Smart personalization goes a bit beyond the simplistic "Based on others' activities, you might find this interesting," to the more relevant "To achieve what you need to do, here is what you can use to improve your skills/abilities." Organizations are beginning to see how smart personalization uses analytics to continually assess what is known about an employee and compares it constantly with what is being learned.

As more data is gathered during the learning process, L&D programs can then be retrained to improve the level of personalization.

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