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Addressing the Learning Needs of Diverse Audiences in Your Organisation

Ask any hotel chef who’s tasked to whip up a full-course meal for his or her guests, and you will know how challenging it is to prepare a standardised meal that will satisfy everyone’s craving. For starters, there are the fussy children who refuse to eat greens no matter how you try to cajole them. Then, there are the senior citizens whose dentures cannot withstand solid foods. And how could one forget about the guests with allergies to certain types of foods? Indeed, if there’s one analogy that one could use to compare learning and development (L&D) with, it’s this aforementioned picture of a chef preparing a full-course meal for people of diverse palates.

Every Employee Learns Differently

There are many personality types and learning styles influencing the extent to which your L&D programmes can meet your employees’ learning needs. With workforces around the world becoming more diverse across all demographics, there will only be a greater need for you to tap into this power of diversity to augment the effectiveness of your L&D programmes.

For example, age-wise, workforces are typically composed of five generations: millennials (those born between 1980-1994), Generation Xs (1965-1980), Baby Boomers (1944-1964), Generation Z (1995-2015), and the Silent Generation (1926-1945). Did you know that research has shown that employees from different generations have different priorities when it comes to L&D? 71% of Generation Z and 69% of millennials want their workplace learning experience to incorporate social elements. As workers get older, this inclination towards social interaction decreases. Generation Z (43%) and millennials (42%) also want more independent and self-directed learning experiences compared to Generation X and Baby Boomers (33% each).

Thinking About The Different Skills and Mindsets For Your Audiences

How then, can one cater to the learning needs of different employees? The best way to do this is by continuously segmenting your workforce into smaller subcategories, and then, identifying the skills that each category of employees would require to excel in their business function.

This process of segmenting your workforce will also require you to design archetypes which represent user behaviour and general characteristics. An example of an archetype might be motivated employees in the Marketing Department. By using archetypes for analysis, you can group audiences and analyse your data at a deeper level to track and measure mindset shifts, which will allow you to make meaningful changes as a result of the learning experience.

  1. An example of skills and mindsets everyone should have: good work ethics that is required of every employee in your company, regardless of position or department.
  2. An example of skills and mindsets that specific audiences should have: technical training revolving around Search Engine Optimisation for your Marketing department.
  3. An example of skills and mindsets that specific individuals should have: leadership skills or mindsets of highly successful people targeted at C-suite leaders or senior executives.

For your L&D programmes to be able to target specific individuals at the apex of the pyramid, you may need to craft specific learner personas. Personas are fictional profiles with specific attributes created on the basis of data collected about the end user. The purpose of creating learning personas is usually to be able to empathise with the end user. To achieve this, you need to be able to truly understand the individual’s behaviour, needs and motivations. Hence, the process of crafting a persona needs to have a solid grounding and stem from well-executed research. One method of understanding more about your specific target audience is through interviews and observations. Ask your specific target audience some of these questions: Why are they interested in picking up a certain skill? What challenges do they face in their current role? What are their future aspirations? What is their preferred method of learning and why?

Once you have segmented your workforce into the various subcategories, structure your L&D programmes accordingly so as to maximise their impact on the respective target audiences.

For skills and mindsets that are required of all employees, strive to use always available, on-demand, employee-driven, themes-based learning platforms. Do you know that the most common lament among employees when it comes to L&D is how inaccessible it is — for example, 80% report that they have experienced problems accessing their company’s L&D programmes? Your L&D programmes should therefore be put onto platforms which can be effortlessly accessed by everyone in your organisation, such as on-the-go digital platforms.

For skills and mindsets that specific audiences should have, make use of targeted interventions, in-depth programmes, specific sessions and workshops designed for them. Hold these targeted workshops on a regular basis, say, once a month. Using the aforementioned example, you may wish to subscribe your employees in the Marketing department to monthly Search Engine Optimisation courses held by established training providers. Then, weave your digital content in between these targeted sessions to reinforce employees’ learning.

For skills and mindsets that only specific individuals — such as C-suite leaders or senior executives — should have, make use of individual mentoring and coaching sessions. For example, according to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review with 45 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), 71% said that they were certain that company performance had improved as a result of formal mentoring arrangements. Strong majorities also reported that they were making better decisions (69%) and more capably fulfilling stakeholder expectations (76%).

In conclusion, it is no doubt a Herculean task to whip up a full-course meal that can satisfy every single one of your guests, from the fussiest of eaters to the most senior of them all. There’s also nothing stopping you from cooking up a storm and serving an all-you-can-eat buffet for your guests, which will guarantee that everyone will be able to leave your banquet feeling full. But what distinguishes a great chef from a good one is his or her ability to understand the dietary needs and preferences of every guest, and customise his or her dishes down to the last detail.

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