Survey shows people take training as infrequently as they go to a conference; but they learn continuously in other ways

Last week I invited readers to take my latest Learning in the Workplace survey, where I asked how regularly are you “learning” in the workplace.

Although there have been well over 100 responses to the survey, once again, as with my previous survey a pattern to the responses appeared quite early on. So to make it easier to read the data, I took a snapshot of the results once 100 responses had been received.

Although there are probably few surprises in the responses to the four main questions themselves, it is when you view the amalgamated results that you  can see the bigger picture. But, here first, are the responses to the four main questions. Click on the images for the full-size versions.

  Question 1: How frequently do you use the following ways to keep up to date with what is happening OUTSIDE your organisation – in your industry or profession?
  Question 2: How regularly do you use the following ways to keep up to date with what is happening INSIDE your organisation?
  Question 3: How regularly do you use the following ways to try and solve a learning or performance problem (e.g how to use a software feature, carry out an job task or professional activity)?
  Question 4: How regularly do you use the following formal approaches of acquiring a new skill or knowledge?

I used a weighted scoring system to create a ranked list of all the items in the four questions, which shows the most frequent way respondents learn, down to the least frequent ways. It also shows in bold red type, the most selected option. (Note: KUPTD = Keeping up-to-date)

Total Daily Weekly Monthly 2-3 times
a year
Rarely Never Learning purpose
Email  479 91  5  1  0 11 2  KUPTD-inside
In person conversations  466 83  9 2 3 3 0  KUPTD-inside
Read blog posts/online articles  453 65 27 6 1 0 1  KUPTD-outside
Search the Social Web (using Google
or another search engine)
 444 61 28 7 3 0 1  Solve problems
Connect with others in public social networks
or in private groups or communities
 430 65 19 6 3 5 2  KUPTD-outside
Telephone calls  425 52 34 7 2 4 1  KUPTD-inside
Ask colleagues in your own organisation for help  383 27  46 17 3 7 0 Solve problems
Team meetings  361 10  54 25 10 0 1 KUPTD-inside
Watch videos or view presentation slides  345 13  40 31 11 5 0 KUPTD-outside
Read industry/professional magazines  292 27  46 17 3 7 0 KUPTD-outside
Search the organisational intranet
(e.g. for a job aid or company document))
 284 14  30 17 14 15 10 Solve problems
Ask colleagues in your external networks for help  275 5 25 31 21 15 3 Solve problems
Participate in an enterprise social network/
collaboration platform
 256 33 9 11 1 20 26 KUPTD-inside
Company briefings  240 3 15 30 30 15 7 KUPTD-inside
Live chats/instant messages/Skype chats  235 22  14 14 4 1 27 KUPTD-inside
Participate in a private online team space  207 15  17 10 9 16 33 KUPTD-inside
Attend webinars  197 1  6 24 38 20 11 KUPTD-outside
Search the organisational LMS/
learning platform (i.e. for a course)
 168 7  13 12 13 19 36 Solve problems
Participate in a training webinar  164 0  3 18 35 28 16 Formal learning
Go to in-person professional networking events  159 0  1 15 38 34 12 KUPTD-outside
Go on a face-to-face training course or workshop  154 0  2 6 41 46 5 Formal learning
Take an self-paced online course 147 1 1 10 34 40 14 Formal learning
Go to face-to-face conferences  145 0 1 4 38 53 4 KUPTD-outside
Attend online conferences  145 1 1 10 34 42 15 KUPTD-outside
SMS  145 6  16 3 3 36 36 KUPTD-inside
Use a coach (in person or online)  121 2 2 12 16 35 33 Formal learning
Take a scheduled online course
(alongside other people)
116 2 3 3 22 41 29 Formal learning
Use a simulation or immersive learning solution 75 1 0 5 10 35 49 Formal learning

Looking at this ranked list, what stands out for me is the fact that people are taking formal training as infrequently as going to a conference – near the bottom of the list. But it also shows me that they are learning much more regularly — in fact continuously — in many more informal ways.

Taken together with the results  from my previous survey, which showed that training was considered to be the least important way of learning in the workplace, I think this provides useful evidence for those trying to bring about change in their L&D departments, and might help them to see where they should be focusing  their activities to have more impact in the business.

However, it is also clear that for many organisations, moving forward is not as easy it might sound, as it requires surmounting a number of mindset obstacles to do so. I’ll talk  about that in a subsequent post.