It’s All About the Journey

Don’t Just Train, Give Learners an Adventure!

Consider this training request scenario:

Learning need: A new business process, along with new software, is to be rolled out to employees within a company division.

Challenge: The employees must transition to the process at software go-live, three months from now. The software is currently being customized to meet the organization’s requirements.

Obstacle: Stakeholders (your clients) want a combination instructor-led training (ILT) and e-learning solution ready in two months for employees to complete before go-live. They’ll provide you with PowerPoint slides and key screenshots.

Sigh… you know the drill. You could probably develop the training in your sleep, if only you didn’t have to stay alert for the software and procedure changes that are sure to come until the last minute!

Create Training That Works

More important, you know this approach won’t result in effective training. What’s called for is a suite of learning solutions geared to employees’ information needs at each stage of their transition to the new process — before, during, and after go-live. Solutions might include:

  • Overview, rationale, and benefits of the new process (webinar)
  • How new procedures and software will affect daily work (ILT or e-learning)
  • Introductory demonstrations of the software (screencast videos recorded by subject matter experts (SMEs))
  • Hands-on practice of essential procedures (in software training environment, using job aids)
  • Executing procedures in the real workflow under guidance (live SME support, job aids, initial work instructions)
  • Working independently with oversight (work instructions, online help embedded in software, SME daily check-ins and virtual support)
  • Continuous improvement (SMEs work with learner-users to solve problems, improve process, enhance performance-support tools)
  • Any others that make sense for your situation; think outside the box!

Does this sound like a lot to create in two to three months? Keep in mind that custom learning solutions to be used before and during go-live do NOT need to be perfect or polished; “quick and dirty” should be your mindset. Materials that live beyond the initial rollout period can be iterated and refined over time as the new process and software become established.

But there’s another aspect to implementing this training approach that’s often ignored and should be done first…

Make It a Learning Story

Rather than setting a rigid training structure for everyone, think of the learner as the protagonist in a choose-your-own-adventure story. You’ll need to enlist your SMEs and representative learners to help you design the two pillars of this story: personas and journey maps.

These two concepts have bubbled up in the learning field over the last few years, but they’ve been a mainstay of marketing and user experience design for a long time. Adopting them in our work will lead to better learning experiences.

What Are Learner Personas?

Start by defining your typical learner in terms of an individual in the affected job role. Several steps beyond a standard audience analysis, a persona describes not only education, experience, and job responsibilities but also things such as what the learner likes/dislikes about the job, aspects of the work environment that help or hinder performance, learner behaviors on the job, and what motivates the learner to do well.

Depending on the makeup of your audience, you may need to define multiple learner personas. Aim to make each one general enough to capture a key set of characteristics but specific enough to reflect the real humans who do the work.

What Is a Learner Journey Map?

A journey map defines when and where a given persona will need learning interventions (training, support, or information) to do their job, and how the persona will likely “take” those interventions. In other words, it reflects the learner’s particular learning context, which will vary from one persona to the next.

Making journey maps will bring into focus aspects of your learning plan such as:

  • What learning solutions your learners really need
  • Delivery method (ILT, e-learning, job aid, etc.) appropriate to each solution
  • Which learning solutions are needed for the short vs. long term
  • Whether a learning solution should be required or optional
  • How learning will be supported, reinforced, and strengthened over time

The Bottom Line

With learning solutions added, a journey map can show learners how they’ll be supported as they become proficient. While you may need to require certain learning solutions at certain points in the journey, you should allow learners to decide when and whether to take as many of the solutions as feasible— that is, to choose their own adventure and be the masters of their own learning. They’ll be much more invested in making it successful!

Want More?

One of the best resources for understanding personas and journey maps is the Nielsen-Norman Group. They’ve being doing them for decades and offer a wealth of practical information and tools on their website.


Susan Fisher has worked in L&D for four decades as a tech writer, trainer, instructional designer, and learning consultant. Currently an independent consultant, she was on staff at Innovative Learning Group from 2007 to 2019.

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