One of the core principles of the OK-LCD model is to focus on learner needs. Our context as training designers and deliverers is no longer as important as the context of the learner, especially in a digital age where we have the ability to deliver learning when, where, and how the learner needs it. But how do we know what our learner needs?

That is where the Learn Action of the OK-LCD model comes into play. In this Action, L&D professionals identify learner personas and start to uncover the most likely moments of need for each persona. We effectively transition from the traditional approach of a “target audience” to understanding the descriptive learner persona story that goes beyond positions and demographics and into behaviors, attitudes and the day-to-day life of our learners.

In a recent private workshop, a question arose about how to narrow down to only 3-5 personas as suggested by the model. This particular workshop attendee was easily able to identify upwards of 20 learner personas, and as you can imagine, that felt pretty overwhelming to them. Below is how we workshopped down to 3-5 from the original 20:

1. Go back to the Strategic Performance Objective (SPO).  In the Change Action, we defined the changes in behavior we wanted to see from our learners back on the job. Since the Learn Action is heavily influenced by the result of the Change Action (see Step 1 of the Learn Tool), we wanted to confirm that these were, in fact, the outcomes that the stakeholders and/or business leaders desired. The LCD model states that we aren’t just looking to identify any old learner persona that characterizes employees in a general way. Learner personas and their defining characteristics should contribute significantly to achieving the SPO.

2. Make sure personas are distinct enough from one another. Looking at the list of personas, we were able to dive deeper and identify any common themes or threads that might warrant combining two or more personas. A big clue is if we learned that the personas led the same learning content or learning assets, since ultimately the intention is for personas to have tailored learning assets in the cluster.  We did this by asking the following questions:

  • What do they need to know?
  • What does their flow of work look like, and how can they learn best in that flow of work?
  • When will they need the learning?
  • Where will they be when they want or need to learn?

By asking these questions, we are able to combine several of the personas to reduce the list even further.

3. Rate the level of impact. Once we confirmed the desired outcomes with the stakeholders and/or business leaders and combined like-personas, we then took out our SPO and asked the following question: Which persona groups will have the largest impact on the desired business results if their behavior changes? From there, we rated each persona group based on their impact on the SPO, and chose the top 5 from there.

Note: This does not necessarily mean you need to forget about the rest of the personas. For this particular situation, we suggested moving forward with creating a learning cluster with these 5 personas in mind, and going back to assess if they need to move further down the list and include additional personas in their cluster at a later date.

When it comes to the Learn Action, while the possibilities could feel endless, it comes down to the art of balancing generality and specificity. You need enough information to be smart about selecting learning assets, but not so much information that you have an infinite number of personas. If the number starts to feel overwhelming, remember to follow these three steps.

Final Note: Remember!
Unlike other models were personas might not clearly contribute to the final design, in the LCD model, you haven’t built a learning cluster unless you can draw a direct connection between the learner personas and the learning assets you’ve chosen.

What challenges have you faced in creating learner personas? Join the conversation on LinkedIn.