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Mar 2019

Content was Never King: Part Three: Know Your Audience - User Personas to Focus Learning

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Shaping the future of learning

Our five-part series on how to deliver eLearning solutions that drive organizational and business impact continues with our guide to knowing your customers. Missed the start of the series? Catch up with part one and two now.

Peter Drucker said about marketing: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” As it is with marketing, when developing an eLearning solution, it’s essential to know and understand the business and the learners so well that the curriculum, and the solution as a whole, accomplishes the target objectives.

Creating a clear project charter is a great start, but it only tells part of the story about what solution to design. At its core, training is about getting people to start, stop, or do more of something better, to achieve a business goal(s). So needless to say, people are at the heart of what we develop and why we design the solutions we do.

One common fault with many training programs is that they often have a large, homogenous potential audience –“all members” or “all new employees” or “our entire organization.” And a common trap we see designers fall into is to try and design one solution that meets the needs of all of these potential audience members. Unfortunately, this one-size-fits-all approach will leave you coming up short for everyone.

Let’s revisit the fire fighter example introduced in Part 2.

The audience for this program is anyone who takes on a leadership or management role within a station. Some are fire fighters who no longer want to be out in the field fighting fires but still want to help. They understand the firefighting process and all that’s needed to support that process. Others have retired from traditional, corporate-based jobs who want a way to give back to the community. If you design a training program focused on firefighting, you’re doing a great disservice to the retired corporate individuals who already know about firefighting by taking their focus away from the business skills they need to learn. The same holds true if you design with only the firefighters in mind—you’ll end up alienating your retired corporate individuals with too much focus on remedial business concepts.

So, while it may seem obvious, a critical, and often overlooked, step is to identify and know your primary audience or audiences. If there are more than one, it will likely be necessary to create multiple versions of a solution. Conversely, if the budget only allows for one solution, the L&D team will have to make accommodations in the design and development to allow different audiences to focus on the content most relevant to them, at a time that is appropriate for them, using the tools most comfortable to them.

There are many approaches to segmenting an audience. For example, it can be simply role- or goal-based segmentation, or, it can be deepened to include more detailed information such as skill levels and years of experience. Once the segmentation approach is determined, it’s critical to drill-down even deeper to really “know” and understand the company and the audience and discover what makes them tick. We’ve often had clients tell us “you know us even better than we do ourselves.”


Take some time also to think about the learners in the context of the solution or curriculum such as why they’ll be taking this training, what are their expectations, their skill level, and also their pain points. 

At Kineo, we’ve come to learn over the years that getting to know our clients and enabling them to know their learners, while challenging and time consuming, is critical to the success of any curriculum or eLearning solution. The business of getting to know our clients and their learners is simply too critical to leave to chance. And the consequence of not performing this important analysis is not reaching the learners at all.

Enjoyed the third part of our Content was Never King blog series? Be sure to catch up with the first and second entries in the series before moving on to part four


Missed the 'Content was never King: designing elearning solutions for results' webinar? The recording is now available. Sign up to view the recording today.


Shaping the future of learning

Kineo helps the world’s leading businesses improve performance through learning and technology. We’re proud of our reputation for being flexible and innovative, and of our award-winning work with clients across the world.