I recently wrote about having a learner centric approach in business training, focusing on the immense ROI I have seen from such an approach. When professional situations are faced with an attitude of learning even outside of a training setting, teams are more motivated, creative, and productive. You can read my full article on the topic here.

I had the privilege of hearing from a handful of top leadership and educational professionals on having a learner centric approach. These individuals are lifelong learners, top national educators, and business leaders with team building experience.

Getting to know the interviewees:

Dr. Holly Orozco – Dr. of Public Health, Vice Provost of Graduate and Professional Studies, Dean of Extended Learning at Point Loma Nazarene University

Tim Willette – JD, MBA, Chief Compliance Officer at UNT System Administration Dallas, current DBA learner at CalSouthern

Dr. Catrin Hechl-Novak – Instructional Designer at Southern States University and Educational Consultant at CHN Higher Education Services

Dr. Lawrence R. Ness – PhD in Business Administration & Management; Founder and CEO at My Dissertation Coach


Considerations for leaders

 “All learners, including employees, students, and others, are not blank slates. They come from a lifetime of learning, experiences, and established beliefs and expectations. A learner centered approach to training in business or academia varies from the traditional instructor-led training towards learner involvement as part of the training process.”

-Dr. Ness

“Leaders in education should be investing in their own learning, continuously challenging their own assumptions and sharing their insights with others. This commitment to learning means reading, listening, engaging, participating, and relearning.”

-Mr. Willette

“My advice to organizations is to invest in an e-Learning team – content developer, SMEs, designers, and good software. Create short tutorials on everything that matters in your organization. Make sure all the content is available to all that need it and to all that are interested (discovery learning and just-in-time teaching). Only then will you truly demonstrate you’re on board with a learner-centric environment that actually teaches and develops employees.”

-Dr. Hechl-Novak

Appealing to younger employees

“Millennials hate complacency; they cannot be pleased with themselves if they are not challenged, which begs the questions what organizations and its managers can do about that. The latest generations want to learn on the go, meaning they want to have everything important at their fingertips. Generations Y and Z want to learn –  but on their terms; they want the information readily available on all of their devices and they want it 24/7. They are very capable of helping themselves if you let them and if you provide the means to do so.”

-Dr. Hechl-Novak

Expanding the learner centric mindset: becoming a lifelong learner

“At first, the thought of returning to school at the age of +60 seemed daunting. In fact, I even though it was a bit quixotic, especially with already having earned my JD and MBA – some 20 years earlier and remembering the toll it took on not just me. I learned I have an advantage many others do not have: a choice. Choosing to go back to school to earn a DBA, I realize I am not the same student I was at 20 or 40 years of age. This time I get to learn and not have to learn. That is not to say it has been easy. The online coursework requires diligence and determination. Accepting and moving into a new position required that I took a hiatus from my classes to help ensure I hit the ground running. Now back in class, I am returning with a realization that lifelong learning is a journey that never ends as long as I am seeking windmills of wisdom.”

-Mr. Willette

Benefits of holding a learner centric approach

“The benefit of a learner centric approach to training is that learners are more engaged – able to apply learning to their accumulated life knowledge and experiences, resulting in improved engagement, application, and retention beyond the training facility and course room. As a result, improved ROI would likely result as employees would experience improved productivity and effectiveness. For colleges, students would demonstrate improved grades, persistence, graduation rates, and ultimately, qualified candidates for employer hiring.”

-Dr. Ness

“The most important relevant component in any mix of instruction modality is the level to which the learner is engaged in their course material with their faculty, fellow students, and even professionals working in the discipline of the degree program. A passionate faculty will engage a student to participate in course material that develops a student’s ability to solve problems and create solutions that are applicable to life outside the classroom.”

-Dr. Orozco

“Sustaining a competitive advantage in any industry requires leaders who know how to build meaningful relationships, gather timely information, actively engage with others, and collaboratively share ideas through the use of new technologies. Invest in what we profess; education opens doors to endless opportunities.”

-Mr. Willette

The future of leadership: employing a learner centric approach

“The timeline and continuum of higher education will show that there are more options for learning then there are students to select those options. It would seem that the one option that institutions of higher learning do not have is to not embrace student-centered approaches. [Organizations] can offer a learner centered approach if they include personalized learning components, foster collaborative learning, and simulate real life problem solving.”

-Dr. Orozco

“Traditional training sessions, often lengthy and not relevant to all, are a thing of the past; just like the lecturer in the classroom is a thing of the past. The learning experience, in and out of the classroom, evolved, and still evolves, by putting the focus on the learner away from the instructor, manager, leader; ideally, teachers and supervisors become facilitators.”

-Dr. Hechl-Novak


Relationship building has been emphasized in marketing and business leadership for quite some time. However, applying this concept to training is not often discussed. This is where a learner centric approach comes in. Customizing the material for your audience, challenging them to engage, and encouraging them to become lifelong learners embody the idea of holding a learner centric approach in employee training.

What are your takeaways? Have you seen value in having a learner centric approach in leadership or training?

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