What do learners and L&D Managers really want?


It’s a question that is often posed but rarely answered – what do learners and L&D Managers really want? In recent years, the debate seems to have intensified with the emergence of Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennials. Now the next in line is Gen Z, tagged as the ‘Homeland’ generation. There is an obsession with labeling a generation and then defining them with common characteristics.

We live in the digital age so we label new learners as “digital natives” or the “iGeneration” almost suggesting an android creation. I wonder, is it really that simple to determine what a learner wants from the date when they were born? Aren’t we all individuals who have different preferences and learning needs? Shouldn’t we focus more on customising the learning experience?

Making an impact in the corporate world
At the recent The World Forum for Foreign Direct Investment I was a panelist on ‘Developing Top talent: Trends, Workforce Development and International Mobility’. With representatives from Shell, Cisco, Oracle and IBM, we discussed the need to review education curricula to develop current and future generations.

We agreed how important it was for better collaboration between academia and the corporate world, given the fast changing workplace in which we operate. Are the skills of today really needed tomorrow? Do traditional structured curricula really prepare you for the dynamic working world? Is the classroom being replaced by MOOCs and elearning? Do learners really want to just study exams remotely via video? Students stop watching videos longer than 6-9 minutes, so how can this represent the future of effective learning?

What was clear from our panel discussion was that, from a corporate perspective, skill needs are changing and school leavers want to be better prepared to make a positive contribution. They want to understand their value to the organisation.

The quest for what learners want continues
At Fitch Learning (part of The Fitch Group) we have the privilege of partnering with many of the world’s leading financial institutions to design and deliver their corporate learning solutions. We do this across the globe, taking in a diverse population of students with different academic, language and cultural experiences. Our learning philosophy is simple: ask first and understand what’s needed before we consider a solution.

When we peel back the layers of the needs analysis we find that our corporate clients want learning investments to generate competitive advantage, in conjunction with recruitment, compensation, leadership development and the working environment.

This learning adaptability is key to remaining competitive in the industry’s ongoing ‘war for talent’, given a truce is unlikely to be called anytime soon

Then we turn towards the learners’ needs and find again their objective is often the same – competitive advantage to progress and develop their careers. So we focus on creating a solution that aligns to these objectives. The iterative process of design ensures that all parties’ needs are addressed and considered. Critical learning needs are identified and prioritised but importantly, we also allow for less core outcomes to cater to the individuals’ aspiration to progress beyond the corporate agenda.

This learning adaptability is key to remaining competitive in the industry’s ongoing ‘war for talent’, given a truce is unlikely to be called anytime soon.

Just how important is adaptable learning?

We recently completed a survey across learners, L&D managers and business sponsors, to find out what is their preferred learning experience. Interestingly, there wasn’t a clear preference for elearning or classroom training; the preference was for multiple delivery channels – meaning choice.

Our research highlighted the need for both content and experience, to successfully progress within the organisation and not necessarily in a ‘linear’ path. There was a strong response that the ‘overwhelming’ volume of content available through traditional, enterprise-wide, elearning catalogues was neither suited to career needs – nor providing a competitive advantage.

The view was clear that traditional learning delivery is at risk of becoming ineffective unless the classroom experience can adapt and blend with the digital revolution that is occurring all around us.

Our clients demand that learning is:

  • Practical – focused on organisational and learner needs
  • Relevant – motivates learners to engage in the experience, as opposed to ‘tick box’ attendance
  • Project and assignment based – simulates the dynamic organisational environment

And provides:

  • Structured and unstructured pathways to avoid traditional fixed curricula which don’t reflect industry
  • Adaptive and progressive assessments allowing sufficient challenge to be applied to an individual
  • Access to multiple delivery channels driven by a learner’s preference and need at that point in time – live and digital (just like the music industry).

There can be no doubt the last decade has seen a technological revolution, with everyday habits being transformed and disrupted to provide information quicker and 24/7 on-demand. Nowadays apps, MOOCs, streaming, downloads and tablets are part of our daily vocabulary. What remains constant is the need to get ahead and gain competitive advantage from learning investments.

Organisations want learners’ motivation to ‘pull’ them towards the experience rather than have it ‘pushed’ onto them through hours of elearning.

Learners don’t want to be in a classroom taking notes. Instead they want to be in a dynamic live environment with their peers discussing the challenging and relevant topics which impact their organisation. They want access to real-time data, quality research and information, not textbooks which were printed pre-iPhone. They want structured and dynamic learning pathways which allow learners to control where they develop themselves.

At Fitch Learning, we feel today’s learner needs are similar if not the same as previous generations – aren’t they? The difference today is ‘we’, the learner, are more vocal and demanding since we know the solution is no longer a futuristic ‘star trek’ dream but a reality. We are all part of “Gen NOW”.


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