Despite all the focus on the learner experience over the last few years, most companies failed to answer the most basic question from their learners: “What’s in it for me?”

Given the volatility and uncertainty of the pandemic era, organizations are scrambling to upskill and reskill their workforces to meet the future’s evolving demands, yet learners still want to know how they will benefit. Though on its face, the question may seem arrogant, even argumentative, it’s really a cry for help.

Corporate learning has unfortunately gotten to a place where the L&D function has taken a “we know what’s best for you” stance. Companies put together well-thought-out and designed programs, but simply making them available to learners without providing the how and why behind them is insufficient. The existence of the programs is no evidence of their effectiveness. It doesn’t work that way.

This is why companies struggle with learner engagement and adoption. And while many apply strategies like gamification, strong UX design and more to get and keep learners’ attention, all the best design practices in the world won’t engage learners if they aren’t connected to the learning in the first place. They must know what’s in it for them.

This starts by having learners involved in the process and incorporating their feedback into the overall learning strategy. It also requires knowing a program’s expected outcomes. Seems simple enough, but few companies build their learning programs based on specific, defined metrics. This leads to a bit of a hit-or-miss design/delivery approach — and a disastrous measurement process. Throughout it all, the learner may be unsure why they are engaging in the learning in the first place.

If we want to upskill and reskill the workforce in an agile, sustainable way, we must include the learner in the process. Find out how and when they prefer to learn and take it into consideration. Let people know what outcomes are expected of them, their teams, and the organization as a result of the learning programs. Give them an overview of how the program will be rolled out and manage expectations throughout. Taking this approach builds learner engagement before anyone has even clicked a link.

This is also the first step to personalizing learning at scale. It doesn’t have to be personalized down to the learner’s DNA, but answering the “what’s in it for me?” question provides the connection and contextual foundation for more impactful, engaging learning.

For a deeper dive into personalizing learning at scale, download this eBook.


About Brandon Hall Group Inc. 

Brandon Hall Group is the only professional development company that offers data, research, insights and certification to Learning and Talent executives and organizations. The best minds in Human Capital Management (HCM) choose Brandon Hall Group to help them create future-proof employee development plans for the new era. 

For over 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world influencing the development of over 10,000,000 employees and executives. Our HCM Excellence Awards was the first to recognize organizations for learning and talent and is the gold standard, known as the “Academy Awards of Human Capital Management.”

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David Wentworth

David Wentworth has been a senior research analyst in the human capital field since 2005 and joined the Brandon Hall Group in 2013. He has authored reports and articles on various human capital subjects with an emphasis on workforce technology. He has contributed to several reports published by ASTD, including authoring Mobile Learning: Learning in the Palm of Your Hand, The Rise of Social Media: Enhancing Collaboration and Productivity Across Generations, and Instructional Systems Design Today and in the Future. His work has also appeared in Compensation & Benefits Review and T+D Magazine.