5 Ways to Ensure Your Learning Is Relevant and Useful

Make sure your learning venture is meeting learner and business needs by giving its production the right start. In this article, we share five tips to help you get to the heart of the problem you’re trying to fix and ensure your learning projects stay relevant.

learning relevant

Our recent Elucidat articles provide guides on smartening up your digital learning and ensuring that it targets (changing) needs. Now let’s look at how you can keep your learning projects relevant.

Designing with blind spots

Recently, we’ve been focusing on the idea that common development processes may be slowing you down. Even worse, they may be creating blind spots that risk learning and development teams missing the window of need. This refers to the need to stay relevant to both your learners and your businesses needs; and to sometimes move quickly to meet emerging, urgent, or short-lived performance needs.

We’ve found that learning content is too often created in a bubble, away from where the real needs and context exist. This is partially because there’s a tendency to productize elearning rather than think of it as part of a living learning process with inevitably changing needs. It’s necessary to shift these mindsets so that project iteration, collaboration, and testing are the norm.

Start off on the right foot

To ensure your learning ventures are relevant and useful to both learners and the business, you need to start with real needs and stick with them. Commit to delivering real improvements over time.

This means acting a little bit more like a performance consultant than a learning designer and considering what business problems need to be fixed. It’s not as scary as it sounds; it’s mostly about being human—and getting out and talking to people.

Five tips to start from a place of need

Here are five tips and tricks to help you get your team, process, and solution focused.

Tip 1: Take a step back

What’s the real problem here? If a business leader says managers need training, do you understand why? Don’t be afraid to dig into the root of the perceived problem and help business leaders articulate what the real issue is. What evidence is there for a skills gap or performance problem? What other factors could be at hand? What would prove to the leader that the problem has been fixed?

Tip 2: Ask if learning is the answer

Asking the right questions will help you discover what gap needs closing. Be honest: Is learning the answer? Consider whether it’s a communication, awareness, or skills gap; a process problem; a performance support issue; or something deeper (i.e., behavioral or cultural). How systemic is it?

If it’s a problem that won’t be fixed by learning alone, say so and make some recommendations. For the elements that do need awareness drives, education, development, or performance support, be clear on what your key performance indicators (KPIs) are so you prove your success.

Related: What elearning content are you creating: performance support, learning or information?

Tip 3: Get close to the context (that means talking to people)

Talk to people living and breathing the roles and tasks at hand. Find out what their pain points are, when they feel them, and what they feel would help. Separate the instant fixes (performance support) from the long-time or preventative ones, which may be more training and coaching related. This should help you figure out what kinds of performance enhancement content is needed and whether you need to invest in skill or behavioral learning, just-in-time content, or a bit of both.

Tip 4: Find performance heroes

Discover who the real role models exemplifying the best practices are, and find out what they do. Observe their performance, find out what they use to help them learn and perform, and set a performance benchmark based on what you find.

Capture their tips and best practices (whether on camera, on paper, or through recorded interviews), and sign them up to be content authors and experts!

Tip 5: Know what’s working well already

Before jumping into a solution, make sure you have a good sense of what learning and performance support interventions are working well for people already. This includes manager support, coaching, social and collaborative learning, and more formal elements such as mobile learning resources or elearning. Ride on the back of success.

When it comes to elearning elements, is there an interface and approach that’s working well already and that makes sense to apply here?

Final thoughts

Starting from the place of need means you can meet these needs and prove value to the business. It also means you’ll up your chances of being the learning team that follows needs as they change and emerge.

With two of our useful guides, find out how to adopt processes that enable you to stay nimble to needs, deliver smart solutions quickly, and put learning into people’s hands through collaborative technologies: