Strategies for transformation 1: from generic to tailored

In the next six posts, I explore six ways in which learning professionals can realise a transformation in the way that learning and development occurs in their organisations. It builds on my previous six posts in which I set out the six major elements in a vision for change, i.e. learning that is aligned, economical, scalable, flexible, engaging and powerful.

The first step on the route to transformation is a shift from interventions that are generic to those that are more tailored. Like each of the recommendations that follows in the weeks to come, this change represents a movement of a slider, not a switch on or off. Every organisation is different: some may already offer highly tailored solutions, others will have good reasons for sticking with a more generic approach. However, a great deal of current l&d offerings can be categorised as ‘one size fits no-one’, a sheep dip approach in which everyone receives the same learning experience, regardless of their prior knowledge and current need.

It might seem counter-productive when resources are very tight to offer a more personalised service, but there are ways in which this can be achieved without incurring additional cost:

  • You can start by adopting a more modular architecture for your interventions. This allows employees to pick and choose from the ingredients they need to make their own perfectly balanced meal. Modularity implies a more granular structure – activities and resources must be provided in much smaller chunks. Modular structures are not only more flexible, they also provide improved results, because learners are so often overloaded by lengthy courses and resources.
  • To help employees to make more informed decisions about their requirements (and to reassure employers that important needs are not going un-met) make available diagnostic tools which pre-assess knowledge and (if possible) skills.
  • Don’t shy from one-to-one support where it’s needed. While it is increasingly uneconomic to provide whole solutions on a one-to-one basis, discriminating use of tutor support, access to experts and coaching can make all the difference. If just 5% of a solution is offered in this way (and some learners won’t use it all, some a lot more) then your interventions are much more likely to make a real difference.
  • If you’re a little more ambitious, build online content that intelligently adapts to the learner’s progress.
  • So what effect does pushing the slider from generic to tailored have on the six elements of our transformation vision?

Aligned: Almost by definition, a tailored solution is going to be better aligned to requirements than a generic one, just as a bespoke suit will fit better than one bought off-the-shelf.

Economical: Lets be honest, this move is unlikely to make your offerings more economical. You may gain by the fact that less courses are being taken that are not really needed, but you’ll lose by adding one-to-one support.

Scalable: Again, it’s hard to argue that tailored interventions are more scalable, so we’ll have to gain scalability through other actions that we take.

Flexible: We’ve already seen that tailored offerings are more flexible, because the learner gets more choice to configure a solutions that works for them.

Engaging: One of the most important elements (if not the most important) in engagement is relevance and, as one student of mine suggested, ‘relevance drives out resistance’. When you get to choose those elements which are best suited to your need then you can ensure relevance and cut out those days spent trying to keep awake on unnecessary classroom events and the endless clicking through meaningless pages of e-learning.

Powerful: You would expect tailored interventions to be more powerful because they are aimed at real needs and respond to individual differences. And, in the end, powerful learning is what it’s all about.

Coming next: Strategies for transformation 2: from synchronous to asynchronous
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