The consumer learner: Managing expectations

Today's technology is having a significant impact on the way that learners access information. These top tips help you manage their expectations.

Written by Mind Tools
Published 29 June 2019
The consumer learner: Managing expectations
With the digital boom of mobile devices, social media, online shopping, and on-demand TV, everything is now available at the touch of a button and people expect to be able to access what they want, whenever they want it. This expectation has also become increasingly apparent when it comes to learning, and it provides us with an opportunity to engage our people in learning.

As a result of this shift, many learners have increased expectations of the development opportunities provided to them by their organizations. In fact, research from Deloitte has revealed that 63 percent of millennials reference a "lack of leadership skills development" as the main reason for planning to leave their organization. Job interviews are no longer a one-way conversation: the company is under just as much scrutiny. Without the promise of learning support and career development, a once desirable role can start to lose its appeal. After all, why should someone invest their time and effort to support an organization that isn't prepared to invest in them?

So, what can we do to ensure that our learners are kept engaged, and less inclined to move on to "greener pastures?" Here are five key expectations of the consumer learner, that you need to meet.

1. Learning as the consumer learner needs it

The research in our 2016/17 member survey has found that 40 percent of the managers who took part are spending eight or more hours doing self-directed learning a month. An "always on" culture means that people no longer distinguish between in and out of work hours when it comes to learning. So giving your people resources that they can access where and when they need it - whether that be at their desk, on their commute, or while waiting for a meeting to start - is vital.

2. Quality on-demand resources

With millions of search engine results to choose from - and with society's recent focus on "fake news" - many L&D professionals are rightly starting to question the quality and relevance of the information that their people are relying on. If your people are using unreliable sources for their learning, this will have a directly negative impact on their effectiveness - and on that of your organization in the long run. The key is to invest in a solution where the consumer learner can easily search for what he or she needs, while you can remain confident that he's accessing high-quality, highly relevant sources that will benefit both him and your organization.

3. Flexibility is key

Every day brings a new set of challenges, so it's important that your learners are  prepared, with access to a variety of different tools in a range of formats to help with any situation. Whether they have 10 minutes to watch a video on the bus, or wish to spend their lunch break catching up on a webinar, having that choice of formats is important to (and expected by) your learners. Our research has shown that people are learning from traditional classroom-based sessions as well as forums, webinars, videos, podcasts, workbooks, and blogs. Do your consumer learners have access to this breadth of formats?

4. Deciding what they learn

To enable this flexible and accessible style of learning, your people expect to have access to a broad range of learning materials. Last year, the most popular of our 2,400+ learning resources on included topics from strategy and leadership skills to team management and career skills. This can obviously differ from person to person depending on their situation, so it's important to cater to different requirements and provide a wide range of topics to choose from.

5. Total control

In a report based on more than 7,000 responses, Deloitte identified a new expectation from employees: "Employees at all levels expect dynamic, self-directed, continuous learning opportunities from their employers." This expectation can once again be traced back to our focus on technology, and our expectation to consume information where and when we need it.

Modern managers seek total control over their learning, while still expecting the support and relevant resources from their employer, at a time that suits them. Even though this type of learning is self-directed, we found that 60 percent of managers' self-directed learning is still focused on their organizations' goals. This means that you can trust that your investment in their learning will not go to waste. Sharing control and enabling them to learn will have a significant and positive impact on your organization.

Looking for more information?

For more details on these key five expectations of today's consumer learner, download our white paper, 5 key expectations of today's consumer learner.

About the author

Mind Tools

Mind Tools

Mind Tools was started in 1996 to offer practical online learning to people in the workplace.

By the time they joined Emerald in March 2019, they had grown into the one of the world’s most comprehensive learning resources, with millions of individual learners in 50 countries worldwide.

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