If you are an HR Leader, odds are your house is no longer “on fire,” but your people strategy and employee experience are still changing daily.

Some of your offices may be putting together reopening plans; others have already opened and re-closed in response to regional resurgence. Some employees are eager for the return to the office; some never want to come back. Employees with children are waiting to see if and when schools might reopen this year.

The common thread? That there isn’t one. This ambiguous and highly contextual environment is placing immense pressure on enterprises to personalize aspects of their employee experience for the first time.

As HR departments grapple with these new issues – such as how to support remote workforces and maintain engagement while cutting costs – some priorities have remained the same. A yearly Gartner survey of HR leaders found that critical skills development was the highest priority item on HR’s agenda for 2020, and was still the second-highest item for 2021 (the survey for 2021 was conducted in May 2020, deep into the Covid-19 outbreak). While the exact details and implementation of learning and development (L&D) programs will vary from company to company, the need remains constant.

The importance of learning and development now

In this time of immense change, especially in the world of work, learning and development has never been more important. The Enterprise just went through an incredibly accelerated digital transformation, possibly the fastest one ever.

Many areas of the organization that relied on in-person meetings and travel before the pandemic, such as Sales, have been forced to completely change their business models. Even teams that were fully remote or highly digital before this change still need help responding to the new reality of work. Employees need to re-skill and adapt quickly to be successful in these environments.

And, on top of this, employees are dealing with increased stress from personal and economic uncertainty. A strong L&D program can help employees adjust and grow during this difficult time.

Why L&D needs personalization now

The real financial strain that many organizations are facing now, paired with the fact that employees and areas of the business have differing, yet equally urgent learning needs, makes this the perfect moment for personalization in L&D.

Personalization should allow for an organization to put fewer learning tools in place to respond to different learning needs, a particularly appealing prospect for organizations that are looking to do more with less. In some cases, personalization engines can even help organizations get more value out of their existing learning systems, such as by offering LMS content to the right employees at the right time.

Personalization can also offer a better, more valuable learning experience for employees than by targeting their unique needs. This is especially important now that employees have even less time for learning (just 24 minutes, or 1% of their weekly work time according to HR researcher Josh Bersin).

AI may offer a solution

Any tools organizations use to personalize learning for employees will generally leverage AI. A major value proposition of the technology is delivering bespoke or highly personalized experiences at scale, with minimal to no human intervention. Similar to how a YouTube algorithm recommends videos that a person may like based on their viewing history, AI-based L&D systems can recommend training modules based on an employee’s interests, or force them to repeat modules where they struggled to ensure they aren’t falling behind. AI solutions can also offer training and development coaching at a significantly lower cost than human coaching and can scale up to support many more employees. Plus, they’re still a viable option during Covid-19 recovery when in-person events and trainings might be unsafe.

The current environment is putting pressure on employees and enterprises alike. Personalized learning and development, and the application of AI to it, offers one potential solution to alleviate some of that stress while meeting the wide-ranging needs of employees right now.


Cultivate is a digital leadership platform that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to provide in-the-moment feedback and tools to enterprise employees. Our mission is to help build stronger workplace relationships, and empower people leaders and employees to be more effective, engaged, and balanced.