Adaptive Learning: Your Key to Crushing Corporate Training

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Strategic HR is your only choice if your organization is going to win the talent wars — and incorporating continuing education and career development into your HR strategy is critical to attracting and retaining top talent. A 2020 Gartner survey proved that HR leaders are focused on building critical skills and competencies, developing future leaders, and improving the employee experience. So what’s the best way to ensure your employees (and your business) truly benefit from your efforts? The answer is adaptive learning: “the future of employee training.”

What is Adaptive Learning?

While recent advancements in gamification and virtual and augmented reality have sparked renewed excitement in corporate training, HR leaders continue to confront the same conundrum they’ve faced for decades: how to make workplace learning effective and efficient, for all employees.

For many organizations, traditional online continuing education techniques have been cultivated with cost and convenience in mind; the efficacy of those techniques has largely been ignored. Adaptive learning is designed to satisfy the need for providing continuing education, anytime and anywhere, while improving learner engagement. Improved engagement, of course, means increased effectiveness and efficiency, creating better leaders more quickly and affordably.

Adaptive learning in corporate training achieves this goal by adapting to the learner, analyzing performance in real time and modifying teaching methods based on the data. “Whether we use algorithms, nonlinear narrative (branching), personal info, clever interfaces, human intervention, or more likely a combination, to achieve it,” the goal is always the same.

Adaptive learning: Adapt or Fail (Scrabble pieces reading vertically top to bottom: 'ADAPT OR FAIL'

An Adaptive Learning Model

In contrast to a one-size-fits-all approach, envision, for instance, an online continuing education course that adjusts to each of your employees’ unique professional skills, interests and learning styles. The employee requiring more context, better explanation or additional practice receives it, while the employee who does not can skip past. The training lasts only as long as is necessary for each individual. And this is one adaptive learning model among many that can be customized to meet your organization’s needs. 

As Nick J. Howe, chief learning officer of Area9 Lyceum, explains, adaptive learning “offers tremendous potential to establish effective and time-efficient pathways to mastery that are unique to every individual, while improving business-based outcomes.” Area9 Lyceum is a global leader in ‘micro’ adaptive learning technology.

The Top 7 Benefits of Adaptive Learning

With adaptive learning technology, your employees get the training they need through automated customizations triggered by the real-time intelligence of your adaptive learning platform. This benefits not only the learner, but the human resources professional tasked with overseeing and optimizing workplace learning. 

1. Facilitates personalized feedback

Adaptive learning personalizes employees’ learning paths, but that’s not all. By measuring employee progress, your adaptive learning platform can provide personalized feedback and suggest applicable follow-up courses or materials. This promotes the feeling of one-on-one instruction, even with asynchronous learning.

2. Reveals skills gaps more accurately over time

HR leaders know they’re not always aware of what their employees need to enhance their skill set. And their employees don’t always know either. Adaptive learning technology makes it easier to identify skills gaps and deliver the right content in response — and not only in real time but over time, as your adaptive learning platform continues to collect and analyze data, ever-strengthening the accuracy of its recommendations.

3. Saves time and improves efficiency

Imagine implementing an adaptive learning technology that frees you up from developing corporate training materials, enabling you to focus on more strategic HR initiatives. Now imagine that same adaptive learning platform learning in real time how to improve the learning experience for every employee, shrinking the time it takes for each to complete their training and enhance their effectiveness at their job.

A woman with long blonde hair engaged in adaptive learning at her standing desk

4. Produces better outcomes

“After spending billions of dollars a year on corporate learning, U.S. companies probably assume that their employees have the knowledge and skills they need to carry out their jobs. The employees themselves probably think they’re prepared, too, having gone through these exercises,” says Ulrik Juul Christensen, CEO of Area9 Lyceum. “But according to data from industries including academia, health care, technology, manufacturing, retail, sports, and business services, people are actually ‘unconsciously incompetent’ in a typical 20% to 40% of areas critical to their performance.” With adaptive learning, you can quickly identify and remediate for unconscious incompetence.

5. Provides flexibility

When it comes to workplace learning, what works and what doesn’t changes over time. As do the needs of your organization and what you require of your employees. Traditional corporate training approaches haven’t accurately tracked what employees learn, and couldn’t adapt their techniques if they had, making it complicated to add new material without adversely impacting the learning experience. With the right adaptive learning platform, you stay nimble, and the technology does the work for you. When changes to a course are introduced, for instance, your adaptive learning platform differentiates between material each employee has already covered and what they still need to learn. Your adaptive learning platform also allows you to incrementally create and incorporate content, releasing the highest-priority material first and then adding new content to the system.

6. Engages and empowers employees, improving employee retention

We’ve all been assigned a boring online compliance training. It’s challenging to remain engaged when the required course feels generic and outdated, doesn’t reflect the actual work you perform, and fails to advance your capabilities and career trajectory. With adaptive learning, you can target your staff anytime, anywhere, and customize to each individual employee. Then, each employee chooses their own adventure, spending more time in areas they need work and skipping concepts they’ve already mastered. This improves two different types of employee retention: their ability to retain the information they’ve gathered through the corporate training, and your ability to retain top talent, who understand the benefits of your adaptive learning model.

7. Creates better leaders, demonstrating your commitment to your workers and advancing employee recruitment

Not only does adaptive learning technology deliver the right training to the right employee, enabling each employee to more quickly grow in their role, by empowering employees to take charge of their own continuing education adaptive learning produces more employees who are confident and equipped to take on increased responsibility. In turn, you’ll be able to leverage your organization’s history of internal advancement for your employee recruitment strategy.

Young male person of color sitting at a table, engaged in adaptive learning on his Mac Powerbook, with headphones on

Three Types of Learning Needs, and How to Tackle Them with Adaptive Learning

Learning need 1: our employees already know what they don’t know

If you’re certain your employees already know what they need to learn for each of their roles, incorporate pull-style learning, which you can use to provide your employees with different learning paths, modules or materials they can select based on their needs. You can also entice learners to expand the depth of their learning by asking unusual questions or telling compelling stories. 

Learning need 2: our employees have diverse skills and interests, and we don’t know what they need or want

If your employees don’t know what they need or want, you probably don’t either. With adaptive learning, you can create a pre-training self assessment that guides each employee in identifying their knowledge and skills gaps, and then offer the training that best addresses those gaps. For example, you can create a simulation that requires employees to apply their knowledge of the subject in real-world situations, and offer additional workplace learning opportunities in response to mistakes.

Learning need 3: our employees need different types of training based on their department, job function or experience

At certain organizations, corporate training is tied to the goals and expectations of a particular department, position or seniority level. To streamline your corporate training with adaptive learning, create a pre-training screening that enables you to filter each employee onto an appropriate path, and then allow your adaptive learning technology to adapt and customize as the employee moves along that path.

Developing Your Adaptive Learning Model: The MBL Difference

Looking for guidance on assessing, selecting and implementing the right corporate training model at your organization? There’s no better solution than MBL. At MBL, we are a true partner. We think of our work as building relationships, not as a business transaction. It’s our mission to learn as much about your company and its needs as possible, so we can act as your guiding force. We will share our vast network of carriers, technology and wellness providers, and more, so you can keep your employees happy; attract, develop and retain top talent; and boost your bottom line.

if you're looking for guidance on assessing, selecting and implementing adaptive learning at your organization, consult with our advisors

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