Successful training is all about delivering results: improving job performance, boosting productivity, getting a return on the investment you’ve made in time and resources, and eventually seeing the effects on the bottom line. To achieve these goals, you have to ensure that your methods help learners absorb and retain the information while demonstrating they understand how to apply it. None of this will happen if you can’t inspire learners to pay attention, which is totally dependent on how much attention you pay to learners. And that involves meeting the learner where they are.
Meeting the Learner Where They Are
Each learner is a unique individual, with a distinct set of interests, abilities, and motivations. The philosophy of meeting the learner where they are” honors that individuality.
Successful training programs focus on the learner, and on what makes them who they are. What experiences have they had? How are they best able to learn? What knowledge will help them do their job well? At what stage of life are they? How comfortable are they with technology?
“It helps to think like an anthropologist,” writes Jeanne C. Meister, co-author of The 2020 Workplace. “Consider where your employees are in their lives and what their needs are.”
For example, there is a dramatic difference between Gen Z learners (born between 1997 and 2012) and previous generations. Not only do the Gen Z’ers prefer technology, but they require it—technology encompasses their world. Online videos, interactive learning platforms, and even game-based learning activities (gamification)—things that older learners might find difficult to relate to or tricky to master — are the tools these (primarily) visual and self-paced learners feel most comfortable. Gen Z’ers also tend to be less interested in having an expert teach them. Instead, they want a guide who will help them move along more quickly as they don’t like wasting time.
Human-Centered Design and Goal-Oriented Learning Solutions
So, how do you get the right systems and content in place for your learners, especially if they represent a broad range of ages, experiences, and other factors?
The U.S. government’s Information Technology Laboratory suggests using human-centered design, which they define as “an approach to interactive systems that aims to make systems usable by focusing on the users, their needs, and requirements.”
Human-centered learning solutions incorporate the learner’s experience by using evidence and assessment to shape content. To meet each organization’s specific learning goals, learning experts and subject matter experts (SMEs) design programs that work intuitively with the content, the specific audience, and the learning environment. Program elements include easy-to-navigate training materials, blended learning approaches, interesting engagement exercises, and helpful support materials.
Focusing on the learner during a program’s design phase can help you define and accomplish measurable learning objectives. A multi-modal approach allows learners of different skill levels and learning styles choose their preferred pathways for optimum success.
The Learning Experience
The right learning provider understands that most learners, regardless of age or background, respond to a compassionate and positive approach.
A vital component of human-centered design is ensuring learners understand why they are being trained and how the training will benefit both them (i.e., what’s in it for me?) and their organization. This helps them view the learning process as an investment; however, helping learners arrive at this understanding is not always easy, and generally requires a change management approach.
An article from Forbes looks at the importance of a customized approach to learning support.
One size does not fit all anymore and companies must realize that as their businesses expand to serve more varied markets, internal training must also expand in order to concurrently support employees and accelerate business growth. Employees who believe that their employers have their growth in mind will be more motivated to take an online course than those who feel they are treated as commodities in their organizations.
The right training provider will collaborate with your organization to provide a learning experience that incorporates change management, transparent communication, and training. These three aspects are essential to helping employees fully embrace innovative ideas, updated content, or new technology—emotionally psychologically, and environmentally.
The right provider also offers various pathways for learning, whether it’s gamification for Gen Z’ers—digital natives who learn best using hand-and-eye interaction — or a variety of accessible learning modes for individuals with disabilities.
It is important to let your learners know that there is help available for them throughout the learning process; remind them they have a guide who can answer questions and address problems as they occur.
Diverse Voices, Singular Outcomes
Evidence that a learner-centric focus makes training programs more effective comes from learners themselves. Some learners appreciate the patience of a trainer who speaks to everyone, regardless of their level of understanding, while others value intuitive instruction and the opportunity to ask questions. Many learners want and appreciate a clear orientation on the tools used in a course.
Most importantly for the investing organization, trainees confirm they have succeeded in learning via learner-centric instruction. This increased knowledge will grow their organization’s expertise and capabilities, as well as its reputation as a preferred employer.
"Excellent customer-facing interaction that builds trust and confidence in ability to produce results."
— Program Manager, Federal Government Client