Struggling to meet L&D goals? You are certainly not alone. Many organizations find achieving meaningful progress toward important learning and development-related milestones challenging.
However, there is a solution – custom training. By allowing your learners to enjoy a degree of flexibility, it becomes possible to overcome those hurdles and accelerate your L&D initiative’s success. Of course, it’s important to understand a few things regarding custom training, including why it’s important to L&D success in the first place.
Why Does Custom Training Help?
Too often, organizations take a tools-first or technology-first approach. That makes sense, at least on the surface. You need the right infrastructure in place to deliver training content, right?
The problem with this mode of thinking is that it ultimately excludes the most important factor in achieving L&D success in the first place – your people. When everything is said and done, training is all about the people, not the tools, nor the technology.
Another reason that custom training is so beneficial is that it helps you get creative with the types of content you’re delivering. That gets learners out of the rut they’ve gotten into, helps ensure that there’s variety to engage your learners, and also speaks to preferences in terms of learning content types.
Custom training also helps make your content the focus, rather than the technology used to deliver the content. Yes, you want a smooth, intuitive user interface. Sure, you need easy-to-use tools. Gamification elements like badges, high scores, and leaderboards are important, too. However, those are just icing on the cake. Without substantive, meaningful, easily accessible content, none of the rest matters.
Finally, customized training content also helps your learners chart a path forward. That makes it simpler not only to track forward progress, but to encourage learners to do more. It also makes it more likely that they’ll take initiative to complete additional training on their own, without the need for prodding from HR or management.
How Can You Implement Custom Training?
Now that we’ve taken a look at the “why”, it’s time to consider the “how” of things. The good news is that custom training doesn’t have to mean sizeable investments of time and money. In fact, there are cost-effective, direct ways to achieve it.
Check the Networks: One of the first things L&D leaders should do is identify any existing collaborative networks that are already working together. Do you have employees who are already working with one another to advance their learning or finding ways to implement learning in their day-to-day responsibilities?
With these networks identified, you can begin to expand on them and bring the individuals within the networks into your efforts. Remember that creating a body of knowledge requires individual effort – it doesn’t “just happen”. Augment your efforts with people in your organization who are already organizing around learning and development.
Bake In Calls to Action: Another important tip is to bake calls to action into your existing tools and platforms. Do you use Slack or Trello? Find ways to tie those to pieces of learning. Social tools, collaboration tools, document management tools – they are all fair game. Use them to help spread your L&D message.
Think of this similarly to marketing. You need to make your audience aware of what they need and the solution to their problem, and you need to do it within environments where audience members already spend time. Reaching learners through existing platforms is the simplest, most cost-effective way of driving interest and even creating custom learning pathways.
Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Content Types: Many organizations limit their L&D content. However, don’t be afraid to break out of the mold. There are numerous types of content out there that can drive value, build learner engagement, and help improve outcomes, including things like TED-style talks, day-in-the-life videos, podcasts and audio discussions, lists, listicles, infographics, animated content, games, and so much more. If you need custom content development, let us know.
Yes, creating different content types will require time, some investment of capital, and a degree of expertise in content development. However, it is well worth the cost, time, and effort. Plus, many of these content types require nothing beyond the technology you already possess (webcams and mics), as well as some willing subject matter experts (SMEs) from within your organization. It’s simple to bring together experts for TED-style talks, podcast discussions, roundtables, and more.
Map Out the Learner Path: Custom training should be freeing and flexible, not restrictive. However, you do need to have at least a loose structure when it comes to creating pathways to facilitate learning. These pathways should consist of an activation stage, followed by the core learning stage.
Activation stages can be virtually anything, but they should all speak to the goal of moving the learner forward to whatever content is most relevant, engaging, or interesting. For instance, how will you onboard learners for various content types? What “hook” will you use? Do they have everything they need to engage with the content or to begin a particular journey? Is there a better point along the learning path for them to enter based on their existing knowledge or experience?
Let Them Mix and Match: When learners are forced to follow a path set in stone, it becomes less engaging and less important. While not always possible, strive to build in the ability for learners to “mix and match” elements of their learning to create a customized experience that fits them like a glove.
You can provide mix-and-match capabilities in any number of ways. Content chunking is one option, but “choose your own path” style learning can also be a good option. Or, you can simply let learners choose which modules they want to complete and when to really empower them.
Custom Training Is the Way Forward
In the past, training was largely focused on what the organization wanted to achieve. Today, learners expect more. Custom training provides the means to create a learner-centric, experience-driven journey that results in improved outcomes, better engagement, and enhanced retention