Human Resources

Personalized Learning & Development: The Promise and Challenges

July 19, 2023
2 minutes

Overcoming Challenges in Personalized Learning Implementation

Personalized learning is an educational approach that tailors the learning experience to meet individual learners' specific needs, interests, and learning styles. It acknowledges that different people have different learning styles and that different skills are better suited for different models of training. In the context of employee development, it involves creating customized learning paths for each employee based on their existing skills, skills gaps, career aspirations and performance. By personalizing the learning experience, employees can access relevant and engaging content that aligns with their unique learning preferences and professional goals. 

The Promise of Personalized Learning

Personalized learning offers a wide range of benefits for both employees and organizations. 

Benefits for Employees:

  • Tailored to learning styles, preferences and skills level
  • Flexibility to learn at own pace and schedule
  • Address specific skills gaps

Benefits for Organizations:

  • Offer targeted training that addresses skills gaps
  • Improve employee performance
  • Increased employee retention
  • Training is more agile and adaptable to market changes
  • Deeper insights and analytics into learners’ progress and trends
  • Cultivates a culture of learning

While personalized learning outperforms a one-size-fits-all approach, there are common challenges organizations face when implementing personalized learning programs. Let’s explore those obstacles and look at strategies for overcoming them.

The common challenges in Personalized Learning

If personalized training programs are the more favorable learning and development strategy, why isn’t every organization doing it? The short answer is it is hard. Let’s look at some of the obstacle and explore how they might be overcome.

Challenge #1: Collecting skills data.

Powering a personalized learning and development strategy requires a tremendous amount of skills data. Knowing exactly what skills are required at every level of the organization is key to addressing skills gaps with that laser focus. 

Creating and maintaining an up to date skills repository across an organization is its own undertaking. Only then can technology or learning and development teams identify the appropriate learning content to address those skills gaps. And then there is ongoing effort required to keep the skills inventory up to date and relevant content to address emerging skills.

These are the high level steps for creating that skills repository.

  • Step 1: Managers and/or Human Resources identify the skills required for for each role in the organization
  • Step 2: Every employee create their skills profile and identify the skills they aspire to develop
  • Step 3: Identify skills gaps by finding the delta between the skills required for the role and the employee’s skills profile. Some skills gaps may take the form of upskilling opportunities - employees may have the skill but not at the required proficiency level.
  • Step 4: Identify the appropriate learning content to address each skills gap

Challenge #2: Technology.

Creating and housing that skills inventory and connecting the skills gaps to the right learning content requires modern technology. Having the correct systems in place that are properly configured and integrated can be a barrier for some organizations. 

These are the key pieces of technology to power a personalized learning program:

  • HRIS: this is the single source of truth for employee data
  • Skills management system: a software platform that can house that skills repository in a manner that it is easy to socialize and scale across the organization. It should automatically identify the skills gaps and, ideally, identify appropriate learning. It should be integrated with the HRIS to pull employee data to power it, and integrated with the learning management systems.
  • Learning management systems: extensive course catalogs with appropriate learning content that addresses the relevant skills to the organization.

Challenge #3: Employee engagement and adoption. 

At the end of the day, a learning program only comes to life if people actually learn. In most organizations, there are a handful of people who are constantly learning, another group that sometimes learns, and some employees who never learn. User adoption can be an obstacle.

There are several approaches to fostering a culture of learning. Here are 12 tips.

Challenge #4: Budget and resource constraints.

Any program of this magnitude needs to be owned by at least one person, if not a team, in Human Resources, with an Executive champion. All of which is supported by technology to house the skills data and learning content for people to learn. 

With anything, the budget is an investment. Personalized learning programs offer tremendous feedback in terms of metrics and analytics. This presents an opportunity to pilot within a small group in an organization and measure the return on investment in learning. This is the basis for the business case for a bigger organization-wide rollout.

Moving it to reality

Personalized learning has the potential to revolutionize employee development and drive organizational growth. By tailoring the learning experience to individuals' specific needs, preferences, and skill gaps, personalized learning empowers employees to take ownership of their learning journey, fosters a culture of continuous learning, and enhances overall performance. The benefits for employees include a tailored and engaging learning experience, flexibility in learning, and targeted skill development. For organizations, personalized learning leads to improved employee performance, increased retention, agility in skill development, and the ability to make data-driven decisions.

However, implementing personalized learning programs is not without its challenges. Collecting skills data, leveraging the right technology, ensuring employee engagement and adoption, and managing budget and resource constraints are common obstacles. Overcoming these challenges requires a strategic approach. Building a comprehensive skills repository, integrating technology platforms, fostering a culture of learning, and demonstrating the return on investment are key strategies to address these obstacles.

By addressing these challenges head-on and embracing the potential of personalized learning, organizations can unlock the full potential of their workforce. Investing in personalized learning is an investment in the growth and success of both employees and the organization as a whole. As organizations strive to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world, personalized learning offers a powerful solution to cultivate a skilled, engaged, and agile workforce, leading to sustainable success in the ever-evolving business landscape.

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