Next up for L&D: Crafting a compelling learner experience

Next up for L&D: Crafting a compelling learner experience
Posted by Mary Slaughter on September 22, 2016.

We’re starting to see an emerging trend, not only with our clients but also in the learning & development (L&D) space in general: an emphasis on learner experience. It’s showing up in people’s titles, it’s being reflected in conference agendas, speakers, and attendees, and it’s becoming a rallying point for organizations that want to shift from a training culture to a learning culture. Here’s a look at what’s driving the trend, and ways organizations can become part of it.

Learner experience refers to a learning environment centered on learners’ needs and preferences, where learning is immersive, seamless, and self-directed. A variety of expectations and concerns are fueling the desire to refocus L&D around learner experience, as organizations seek to:

  • Increase workforce skills and close skills gaps to drive business results
  • Increase employee engagement
  • Decrease attrition and strengthen the talent brand, particularly targeting Millennials and their desire for professional development*
  • Modernize learning programs and offerings to better reflect how people learn today and build the desired workforce capabilities
  • Drive digital capability in the organization
  • Make continuous learning a hallmark of the organizational culture

Note that while “digital HR,” a top 2016 Global Human Capital Trend, is related to learner experience, and learner experience has a digital component, the two are not the same. Your learning environment could be highly digital and still not deliver a great learner experience. Learner experience is akin to customer experience in the world of marketing or user experience in the world of technology. It’s about looking at learning through the lens of design thinking (another top Human Capital Trend), putting yourself in learners’ shoes and trying to understand their needs so you can architect a compelling and engaging experience to help them learn.

Crafting a learner experience strategy
This new focus on learner experience comes in addition to the improvement steps the L&D function has been taking over the last decade. These have included curriculum and vendor rationalization to remove duplication and unnecessary complexity, and organizational optimization efforts such as reviewing org structure, governance, roles and responsibilities, processes, and the like.

In the context of a learner experience strategy, as one would expect, these activities center more closely around supporting learner needs, beginning with a deep dive into better understanding the learners themselves.

Developing personas—detailed profiles of prototypical users—is common in customer experience and user experience efforts and is a key element of learner experience strategy. For example, your learner personas might include an executive with 20 years of experience, based at corporate headquarters, who spends just an hour or two a day on various devices; a sales rep with 5 years of experience who is constantly on the road and connected via her tablet; and a call center rep who is a recent grad and adept at all things digital, but has little business experience.

The learning needs and opportunities for each persona may differ. Our sales rep’s learning may involve the following:


Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

The learning “journeys” of other personas may take different steps along the path. Once you understand the learners in your organization, you can begin to develop the processes, governance, content, and technology to support their learning needs.


Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

Getting started
If we think of learner experience as a wave, we haven’t hit the crest by any stretch, but the curve is moving upward and gaining momentum. If you want to try to stay ahead of it—or at least in sync with it—you can wade in by considering:

L&D Purpose

  • How could the learning organization enhance market readiness among employees?
  • What is your learning organization doing to attract top talent?

L&D Vision

  • What learning experience do you want to create for your workforce?

L&D Capabilities

  • Is your learning organization equipped to deliver that experience at scale?

Learner Preferences

  • What are your employees asking for?

*For more context about Millennials, see Quenching Millennials’ thirst for professional development and The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2016: Winning over the next generation of leaders.


Mary Slaughter is a managing director in the Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, working with C-suite executives to help them define and solve their organizational transformation, talent management, and talent development challenges.

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