A Snapshot of the Modern Learner, And How to Reach Them

September 5, 2016

Twenty-five hundred years ago, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu had simple advice for winning in battle – “know thy enemy.”

The business version of that ­– “know thy customers” – is as relevant today as it was in 496 B.C. And, for learning and development departments, that means understanding the modern learner they are hoping to inspire with their content.

So what does the modern learner look like? Well, here are the key characteristics of the modern learner, and the best ways for learning and development leaders to reach them.

The modern learner is busy.
  • More than half of American employees say they are overworked.
  • Employees say they can dedicate 1 percent of their work to learning and development.

Solution: You need to have your elearning fit into your employees' schedules. So, for example, the average person spends 52 minutes commuting to work each day.

If you have elearning courses they can listen to or watch while driving/taking the train to and from work, there’s a much higher chance they’ll actually participate in it.

The modern learner has many things on their mind.

Solution: To cut through that noise, the content you serve to people has to be highly relevant. So, recommend courses to employees that directly serves their needs.

How do you do this? Consult with relevant department heads and find out what they are prioritizing. Or do some research and discover what’s trending in the market, such as Cloud computing in tech. Have employees opt into programs, such as a tract to become a manager, so you know the content they're looking for.

The modern learner has a short attention span.

Solution: Your content has to be snackable. That means it should be broken into small bits, which a person can easily consume.

For example, you are going to turn people off if you have a 30-minute elearning course. However, if you split that 30-minute course into ten 3-minute sections, you vastly increase the chances of people tuning into that content.

The modern learner wants to advance their career.

Solution: Your learning and development program needs to be tied to real outcomes. And that means keeping relevant metrics that show how your elearning can help a person's career.

For example, analyze if people who participate in your learning program have a higher chance of being promoted or get better performance reviews. If they do, spread the word, as that’ll motivate people to learn. If they don’t, well then, it’s time to rework your learning program.

*Image by Death to the Stock Photo