Learning & Development

How to Personalize Learning When Training Employees

Have you ever given someone directions by telling them to turn left at the blue building and right at the large barn. Or maybe you give directions in terms of .5 miles to the north and 3 miles due west. The bottom line is everyone’s brain functions differently and processes information in various ways. This is the same when it comes to employee learning. The format that works best for one employee won’t work for another. That’s why you need personalized learning for your organization. That way everyone can learn new skills in a way that works best for their personality.

You may wonder how this is possible if you run a large company with many employees or if you run a small company and have limited budget constraints. The process is relatively simple if you follow a learning and development strategy that caters to personalized learning. But before we discuss the plan, here are some benefits to customizing your training program.

5 benefits to personalized learning

1. Drive engagement

If you think back to school there were always subjects you did better than others in. A lot of this has to do with how you learn and also how engaged you are with the material. By offering personalized learning, you can play to an employee’s learning strengths. And when an employee is interested in the training, the more vested they will become.

2. Helps design thinking

Design thinking is a strategic problem solving method. It creates a linear approach to learning new skills. It has been shown to increase engagement and help employees retain information longer all while gaining a deeper understanding of the material. Design thinking is easy to add to a customized learning plan to help all types of employees learn the same subject matter.

3. Builds further skills

Although you may need an entire team to learn a new software program, it will take some employees longer to learn than others. And some employees will truly excel at the new software skills being taught and want additional training modules. Personalized learning can help those lagging behind focus on learning while offering additional training to those excelling. In the end, everyone gets what they need and you create more experienced employees in the process.

4. Better time allocation

There are many ways people learn from visual to audio to text-based training. By creating personalized learning, employees learn in the best capacity possible. This makes training quicker and offers increased flexibility. As a result, more training can be taken in shorter amounts of time. In the end, training becomes more efficient and allows more time for workplace productivity. 

5. Faster results

When employees are trying to learn in a format that is hard to understand, they either gloss over the information or have to keep rereading what is being taught. This wasted time makes employees frustrated that training is taking away from their valuable work hours. Plus, the lack of understanding means they don’t learn what they are supposed to. But by using personalized learning, you can focus on what works for each individual. You’ll get employees up to speed faster and the learning process will be one they look forward to taking.

How to implement personalized learning

Now that you know some of the benefits, let’s discuss how to start customizing learning within your organization. If you say you don’t have the budget or the resources to revamp your program, don’t be deterred. It’s simple enough to build personalized learning into your existing program. Here are the steps to take.

1. Gather employee feedback

The first step is to get feedback from the employees. This is easy enough to do during the review process. Managers should create an employee development plan with each of their team members. Department goals should be outlined and what each team member needs to do to help meet those objectives. Then asking the employees what skills are most needed to learn in order to be the most productive. This is an important step in personalized learning because it gives every employee a say in what they feel they need to learn. 

2. Consider different formats

Next look at how you train. If it’s all classroom based, consider taking a more blended learning approach by adding in some virtual options. The more varied the learning is, the more personalized you can make it for your employees. For example, some employees travel heavily and will benefit more from an mLearning platform where human resources soft skills training may work best in a group setting. Changing from one format to another can be easy if you use a learning management system. A resource like this can offer templates and help you transfer data to various platforms.

3. Build in assessments

Instead of offering assessments at the end of a training session, offer these at the beginning middle as well as the end. That way, an employee can easily see what they know before the course, what they are learning while training and what the new takeaways have received post training. Assessments are a great way to personalize learning since everyone learns at various speeds. Based on the scores, you can offer additional resources during and after the training to really drive key points to memory. 

4. Take into account different learning styles

As we said before, everyone learns in a different way. Although you can’t account for everyone’s unique style, you can use several formats to make it more personal. For example, one learning module may contain quizzes, videos, a PowerPoint slide and a link to a webinar at the end. The more varied your learning, the more customized you can make the training process.

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5. Assess how the new format is working

After you have rolled out your personalized learning program, ask for feedback. You can either do this through your learning management system or create a separate questionnaire. You’ll want to know how facilitators think training is going as well as employees who are taking the courses. Managers should also weigh in as to how training is helping team efficiency meet department or project goals. 

What type of exercises work best for personalized learning?

Once you develop a roll out plan for personalized learning, next you’ll want to create exercises that lend themselves well to this format of training. Here are some methods to implement individualized learning.

Use social learning

If you aren’t familiar with social learning, it’s observing someone’s behaviors to change your own. For example, maybe you are into photography so you follow a certain photographer to learn what this person does to use light and balance for better pictures. When you apply this to corporate learning, it’s mimicking someone within the organization to enhance personal learning. This could be a supervisor, co-worker or even a vendor. 

You can build social channels where your employees can collaborate on what training they are taking and what they are taking away from different modules. This can also be a platform for sharing blogs, webinars or other training material that employees find valuable. Another way to use social learning is in group breakout sessions. Team members can learn together how to solve a common problem. Whatever way you choose to use it, social learning helps individuals learn key concepts better.

Mobile learning

mLearning is fast becoming an important way to train. Employees all have different schedules and training needs to be flexible to accommodate this factor. That’s why offering quick training modules that focus on just a single topic are important. Plus, you can offer training on-demand when it’s most needed. Say for example you have a new sales rep who needs quick access to a product. This person could log onto their phone and take a quick five minute training session while they are waiting to pitch to a new client. mLearning is a great way to offer personalized learning when employees need and want to train. Plus, by offering this flexibility, employees are invested in what they are learning and more apt to retain what is being taught.

Coaching or mentoring

Another way to make learning personal is coaching or mentoring. Sometimes it’s hard for employees to see where they could make improvements. Hiring a third party to observe this person and then make training recommendations is valuable. 

Another option is creating a mentoring program. Have more junior level employees assigned to more seasoned employees. The senior-level employees can teach skills to the junior-level employees. This relationship is also valuable to the senior-level employees. In the process of teaching new skills, it reinforces these skills they already possess. And questions that are asked from the junior-level employees may further strengthen senior-level employees skills.


Simulations may be used more widely in training programs like the airlines industry, but it can be applied to any company. It’s a great way to aid personalized learning. Plus, it helps employees learn without the risks. When you create simulations, come up with some common scenarios such as a customer complaint or question about a new product. Then incorporate as many senses as possible to recreate these scenarios. You could use video, sound bites and images to make simulations more life-like. This type of training really drives the personal experience of learning first-hand before applying it on the job.

Learning management system account

If your training is currently housed on the Intranet, consider moving it to a learning management system (LMS) for personalized learning. An LMS is a software system to organize all your courses and assign training based on each employee. That way everyone has a personal learning track that is unique to their job and personal goals they have set with their managers. Plus, LMS training can be tracked to see how well each employee is doing. If they are struggling to learn certain sessions, managers can easily assign additional training in these areas. It helps everyone’s personal growth and only strengthens key skills sets.

Searchable training library

Although training is assigned, employees also want to be proactive in their learning. That’s why it’s a great idea to have a searchable training library within your LMS. For example, after a training module is complete, you could offer a search bar for employees to find additional training on the same subject matter. Just remember to vary these training resources. You could offer videos, short mLearning sessions and webinars all on relevant topics. Employees can choose based on their learning style and what area they feel they need more training in.

Gamification in training

Games are a fun way to make training engaging and personal. You could develop games to be played against team members in a certain department or could include the entire company for a rebranding campaign. Either way, the goal is personalized learning. So keep score and create a leaderboard with each employee’s name listed. Show top scorers within each training module and award badges or certificates for the top performers. Doing this “puts a face” to everyone taking training. 

Dynamic flows

Dynamic flows or simply, “learning in the flow” was a term coined by Josh Bersin. It offers insights into how employees learn new tasks. The common path is employees first want to learn as much as they can about a new skill. Then they apply what they learned. Using this philosophy, it can easily be applied to personalized learning. In order to best utilize it, offer as much as you can about a new subject. Say for example building workplace communication. It could be a mixture of videos, quizzes and certificates on the subject matter. By varying the training delivery, you utilize the dynamic flows process of how employees learn. 

Personalized learning takes your training to the next level!

Training an employees’ eyes is vital for growth and advancing their careers. In order to facilitate the learning process at your company, give every employee the tools necessary to craft their own learning journey. By personalizing the process, you empower every team member to take their training in the direction that works best for their personal growth. By catering to your employees’ training needs, you build a better culture and a smarter company as a whole.

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