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Define the Learning Priorities for Your Team: Ask These 8 Questions

An LMS or Employee Education Portal can be the panacea to plenty of training problems. But how can you build a system that targets the people who need it most? Where should you spend your budget? What will have the greatest impact — and what can wait? You must first assess your organizational learning priorities. Here’s how to do that.

What are Learning Priorities?

Learning priorities are the most critical concepts a person (in this case, an employee) needs to know to be successful in their role, and thus contribute to their organization. This foundational knowledge is fed by two distinct streams:

1. Overarching knowledge about your business. Think of your vision, values, code of conduct, and basic information about the services or products you offer. Without a shared collective understanding of these fundamentals, your employees wouldn’t be successful at your organization. Everyone needs to understand the business promise and their role in ensuring that promise.

2. Position-specific or role-specific knowledge. This includes the basic knowledge a person needs to complete the tasks and accountabilities of their role. Imagine the difference between a construction worker and an IT administrator. One of the top learning priorities for a construction worker is likely safety, whereas the IT worker first and foremost needs to know how to work the internal computer systems.

Think of defining learning priorities as a major opportunity to plan your LMS properly, so that it succeeds.

Identifying Priority Stakeholders and Priority Knowledge

Start by talking with both your internal and external stakeholders to assess any existing, common, and overarching training pain points.You’re looking for the base of knowledge that influences the most goals, the most stakeholders and the most positive outcomes for your business. This will help you hone in on the departments who most need employee education. In many cases, the people who can benefit most are those who are in roles that might shift suddenly, or roles that are constantly incorporating new recruits.

What Are the Learning Priorities for Your Team? 8 Questions to Ask

Once you’ve identified the target audience(s) for your LMS and the general knowledge that all employees need, it’s time to hone in on the learning priorities for this specific group. Ask the following questions:

1. What are the top few things employees in this particular department or job need to know to be successful in that role? Aside from the general, overarching knowledge that is shared company-wide, what specific knowledge do staff doing this particular job need to know to complete their tasks successfully?

2. What must employees first understand before they can move on? Think about a junior in this role versus someone with years’ experience or promotions behind them. This will help you determine the sequence of learning that is critical to your team. What are the foundational tasks of each role? What can a beginner do versus a person with more advanced skills? How are those tasks executed — and what’s the difference between executed well and executed poorly? So on and so forth until you have a clearly defined flow of information new employees will need to know.

3. What knowledge is most often misunderstood? Knowledge gaps and errors are indicators of the need for better training. Determine where the most problems, inefficiencies, stresses, delays, or miscommunications happen — these are likely learning priorities to prevent future issues. Ensuring all of your employees can work through these misunderstandings minimizes the overall negative impact within your organization. Furthermore, you can easily set benchmarks when you examine knowledge gaps — making it easier to set KPIs and measurable goals to monitor your progress and have tangible evidence of success.

4. What are the biggest training pain points? Ask this question beyond your leadership team. The executive team will of course be familiar with some training pain points, but speaking to stakeholders at every level (including those on the frontlines) will provide additional insights that will allow you to combat the specific struggles of those individuals.

5. How motivated will employees be to learn this information? This can vary drastically from business to business and even department to department. Some learning is just inherently exciting and valuable to stakeholders — perhaps it directly affects their ability to progress at the company. Other subjects may require more of a “push” from management. You may want to consider prioritizing these subjects first.

6. How much do your stakeholders already know and how much time do they have to learn? Focus on the learning priorities that are at the right level for your team. Too basic is of little use to your organization. Too advanced and staff won’t be successful. Furthermore, consider just how long you expect them to devote to learning on the system — how much time can they take for training out of their days, weeks, or months? This will help you build a curriculum that is realistic, engaging, and ultimately sustainable.

7. Is it actually possible to teach this material online? At the end of the day, some material is just better taught on-the-job or in-person. As you assess the learning priorities you’ve identified, it’s important to take a realistic look at the knowledge and envision how it could be conveyed. There are plenty of options where an Employee Education Portal can support on-the-job training — but it’s vital not to assume that your portal can handle 100% of the training 100% of the time.

8. How is the information best taught and consumed? Consider the different mediums that are available for online content (articles, videos, eBooks, to name a few) and compare with the learning needs of your audience, the information itself, and the use-cases for the portal. These factors will help you hone in on the content mediums that best fit your needs. Explaining the different components of a cash register, for example, is more easily accomplished with a diagram. A step-by-step process likely lends itself well to a checklist, infographic, or video.

Next Steps: Organizing Learning Priorities Into Broad Categories

After you’ve asked yourself those eight questions and defined the learning priorities for your staff, the next step is to assess the broad “buckets” or categories of knowledge that are critical across your organization. Once you’ve taken a step back to see how your knowledge is interrelated and connected within these larger nodes, you can start to identify the more granular training needs. You’ll begin to understand which learning must come first, and be able to prioritize more effectively before embarking on a deep dive into increasingly specific, position-based knowledge.

At that point, you’ll start to plan the curriculum on a piece by piece basis. This is a good time to keep the principles of “chunked learning” in mind — remember that your audience will learn, retain, and engage more when they consume quick content rather than in long-form pieces.

Understanding the learning priorities of your team is just the first step in building a successful LMS. However, just like your training system, it’s impossible to win the end game without building on foundational necessities. Identify them now, build your system to target them effectively, and reap the rewards in the long term.

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