Meet learners where they are by building an ideal learner journey

Just like marketers create an ideal customer profile to target prospects, L&D leaders must create a learner profile and corresponding "journey" to support relevancy in their content and delivery. But how do you do that?

We've seen learning teams flip learning programs with low adoption and engagement on their head with nearly identical content. By understanding the day-in and day-out lives of their learners, learning teams can get smart about delivery, course length, and how data is gathered to provide relevant, timely, and actionable content.

Stick with us for an in-depth explanation of each stage of the learner journey. By the end, you’ll understand how learners’ environments, motivations, and habits influence their behavior.

What we'll cover: 

  • Why spend time creating a learner journey?

  • 7 steps to map an ideal learner journey

  • Create a learner profile

  • Think about awareness

  • Tap into motivation

  • Encourage engagement

  • Push them to apply what they’ve learned

  • Ask for learner help

  • Re-engage

  • Pros of charting the learner journey

Why spend time creating a learner journey?

L&D teams spend a ton of time on creation and adoption. But all that hard work isn’t moving the needle. Nearly 50% of employees wouldn’t recommend their organization’s learning and development opportunities.


There are significant mismatches between the coursework L&D creates and what learners expect. Traditional corporate learning programs don’t always take into account the skills learners need, how learning is delivered, and the reality of a learner’s day.

Take nursing, for example:

  • Nurses often don't check their email → they miss invites to new courses that could further their development

  • Most only have laptop access at nursing stations located on different floors or buildings → Computer-based learning greatly disrupts the flow of their work

  • They work 18-hour shifts → they simply don’t have time for hours-long one-off learning events or long-form corporate learning

No wonder these learning programs achieve less than 10% learner adoption. Identifying and designing around these blockers in the learner’s daily routine can help you deliver the right content in the right place at the right time.

7 Steps to map an ideal learner journey

So, where do you start? Below, we outline the seven main components of an ideal learner journey, and explain how to implement them in your organization.

1. Create a learner profile

Who the learner’s boss is, who they interact with, and their career tenure all affect the type of training they need and their preferences for how to receive it.

How to do it

When developing content for a specific team, start by examining the following:

  • Org placement: Are learners in management, or are they ICs? What teams do they interface with a lot? Are they customer-facing?

  • Experience: Are these folks newer in their career or more advanced?

  • Pay structure: Are learners salaried or hourly?

  • Work environment: Do learners go into the office, work remotely, or work in the field?

  • Their work day: Are they mostly in meetings? Do they have long commutes?

  • Repeat this exercise for every team of learners you’re trying to target and start to formalize several distinct personas.

  • Keep your personas top of mind and refer back to them as content is created, edited, published, and analyzed.

2. Think about awareness

Learners can’t learn if they don’t know your courses exist. So initiate your first touchpoint with each learner in the context of their profile.

How to do it
  • Sending emails to invite learners to trainings is a no-brainer and fairly low effort. But email shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all. Promote your courses in person, make a point to introduce them in new hire onboarding, and ask managers to bring up training in their one-on-ones with direct reports. Use a variety of touchpoints and channels to get the value of your trainings across.

  • When employees want to learn a new skill, they typically don’t Google it or refer to your learning management system (LMS) first; 55% of them ask a colleague. Set up a colleague referral program or use social proof to demonstrate that other peers have increased their confidence, improved customer interactions, or even earned a promotion or bonus as a result of training.

  • Tools like Arist enable a variety of push and pull learning delivery directly to messaging apps learners already use. This maximum flexibility in delivery helps learning teams to "stay in front" of learners

3. Tap into motivation

Learners want to know what’s in it for them. According to Forbes, over 55% of employees consider career growth and opportunity more important than salary. But salary can be a factor, too. Survey Monkey found that 33% of employees cite learning as a factor in earning a pay bump.

Knowing what learners care about can help you cater your content and its delivery.

How to do it
  • Training needs to align with actual work needs. This means delivering at the right time, on the right topic, and in the right amount of time (not too long).

  • You could make training mandatory or add it as a requirement in a career development program.

  • Try stoking some competition. Make a leaderboard and shout out the people buying into the learning process.

  • Tie each course’s applicability to new career opportunities and ask managers to emphasize that in their one-on-one conversations.

4. Encourage engagement

66% of workers ages 18-24 ranked learning new skills as the third-most important perk when evaluating new job opportunities, behind only health insurance and disability benefits. But getting them to participate when given learning opportunities is a major challenge for most L&D orgs. 

How to do it
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify. The less friction, the better.

  • It should be abundantly clear why a learner is taking a course and what they’ll get out of it as soon as it starts. Reduce the number of clicks to get started and lead with actionable information.

  • Consider form and function. Some people might be more visual, while others learn better with audio. Switch it up — use a combination of PowerPoint, VILT, video, and microlearning depending on how long the learner has and in what location.

  • Give clear direction to learners. They should immediately know where to go, what they need, and why the content is important.

  • Use nudging to keep their attention, remind them of what they’ve learned, and point them to other relevant courses.

5. Push learners to apply what they've learned

Publishing hyper-relevant content and consistently reminding people to apply what they’ve learned is how you make content stick.

How to do it
  • Keep courses actionable and reinforce key takeaways throughout the learning rather than after. Show job applicability throughout the experience with specific use cases or situations the learner might encounter.

  • Motivation can play a significant role here, too. Go back to the original personas you made in Step 1. What would push learners to not only finish training but internalize the information?

  • Encourage self-reflection at the end of courses to get people to recall what they’ve learned.

6. Ask for their help

You can guess what learners need to know and what their motivations are, but why not ask them directly?

Doing so builds trust and generates more content they are excited about. The more relevant and accessible the content is, the more likely they will recommend it to their work friends.

How to do it
  • Run more than quarterly surveys. Use metrics like confidence lift and frequency of use to inform where to adjust your courses. Interviewing learners and their managers can help you determine where learners may get stuck or feel indifferent.

  • Try sending instant post-learning surveys. In tools like Arist, you can send a questionnaire after each portion of a course.

  • Dig into course activity. Identify what content learners interact with the most and which new course suggestions they click on.

  • Find ways to showcase that learners have enjoyed taking each course. Start off with a testimonial or include one in your email invite.

  • Create a feedback rewards program to incentivize learners to give you constructive criticism.

Remember to get managers on board as well. A Gallup survey found that 70% of the variance in team engagement is explained by the quality of the manager or team leader. And according to HBR, most managers express a dim view of the effectiveness of their L&D function.

Having managers in your corner promoting the courses you create and emphasizing what’s in it for their direct reports can go a long way toward boosting overall engagement and performance.

7. Re-engage

Learning shouldn’t be a one-and-done activity. But how can you get learners into the habit of continuous learning?

How to do it
  • Once a course ends, give immediate opportunities for re-engagement with surveys, reflections, and learning pathways.

  • Push course recommendations a few days after a course is completed that are a logical follow-up to what the person just learned.

  • Remind learners of their goals and what they get out of training.

  • Make awareness a constant effort. Talk about training in All Hands, department meetings, share opportunities in Slack, and congratulate learners internally and externally on social media channels.

Pros of charting the learner journey

Let’s revisit the nursing example. With a fully mapped learner journey, you’d know that nurses:

  • Are extremely busy and have little time to spend on learning.

  • Are primarily motivated by managers who communicate with teams in daily group huddles.

  • Care deeply about learning that will boost their productivity and enhance the patient experience.

With this information in mind, you might consider:

  • Using a microlearning platform like Arist to provide bite-sized courses via SMS, Slack, or Teams.

  • Making sure courses took just a few minutes to complete.

  • Weaving in more personal, situational experiences into learning to show how new skills can help nurses manage their stress and improve patient outcomes.

  • Asking nursing managers to share QR codes to courses in their huddles instead of trying to market new courses over email.

  • Asking nurses to opt in to further learning and nudge them with reminders about what they’ve learned.

Thoughtfully considering and orchestrating learning around the persona can have an incredible impact. A real nursing organization applied these best practices to achieve:

  • 92% adoption

  • A 9.3/10 average learning experience rating

  • A 17.7% lasting increase in confidence in their ability to apply new skills

  • 85%+ information retained after 30 days

  • A 95.8% completion rate

  • A 81% re-engagement rate in a second course

Learn how global insurance provider MAPFRE used Arist to improve learner engagement rates and accelerate course creation and delivery.

Aim for sky-high learning adoption

Creating compelling, relevant content that encourages adoption and application takes dedication and thoughtfulness. Taking the time to document the journey and craft a learning experience tailored to each persona is the way to get unprecedented learning adoption.

Start paving the way by watching “Building Your Learner Journey” and filling out our cheatsheet. And if you’re ready to take your L&D to the next level, request a personal Arist presentation for your organization to see how you can begin meeting learners where they are.

Merrill Cook


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Build skills and shift behavior at scale, one behavioral touchpoint at a time.

(617) 468-7900

2261 Market Street #4320
San Francisco, CA 94114

Subscribe to Arist Bites:

Built and designed by Arist team members across the United States.

Copyright 2024, All Rights Reserved.

Build skills and shift behavior at scale, one behavioral touchpoint at a time.

(617) 468-7900

2261 Market Street #4320
San Francisco, CA 94114

Subscribe to Arist Bites:

Built and designed by Arist team members across the United States.

Copyright 2024, All Rights Reserved.