Do we need “career coaches” rather than trainers?

My Internet Time Alliance colleagues and I constantly talk about the need for continuous learning and how we all need to direct and manage our own learning – here’s one of my articles that I wrote in 2007. So I enjoyed the recent article in the Washington Post by Joyce E. A. Russell (that included a nice little cartoon) and which made the point very clearly about the need for continual learning.

“With today’s more complex business environment, learning is not just a nice thing to do — it is essential for staying on top of things. Especially during times of recession, it is important for people to learn new skills and enhance their marketability.

None of us can afford to remain stagnant in our knowledge. Organizations need to ensure that individuals keep learning. To do this, they must create a culture of self-directed learners who are excited about learning and incentivized to advance knowledge and skills.”

Bu how do organisations actually achieve this? How do they “create a culture of self-directed learners”?

I am sure that many readers of this post are already proficient self-starters/self-learners/self-directed/self-managed learners – whatever you want to call them. But it is clear that there are also very many others in organisations who are not.

I think this has probably got a lot to do with the fact that many of them have become used to being “spoonfed” at school – and have now become over-reliant on training as the only way of upskilling in organisations. But it is probably also true to say that providing training/e-learning in itself simply reinforces and perpetuates the “directed” approach to learning.

It has been very easy for organisations to fall into the “one size fits all” training trap (for economic and other reasons), but some organisations (see here for example) are beginning to recognize that they now need to think in terms of a “one size fits one” approach. And this also involves helping people with their individual learning needs – through advice and and support- rather than just through training en masse.

The WaPo article appeared in the “Career Coach” column, and perhaps that would make a good name for a new organisational role that focuses on helping individuals develop “a continual learning development plan and identify personal and professional goals and a realistic timeline for achieving those goals”.


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Jane Hart

Founder at C4LPT
Jane Hart is an independent workplace learning advisor, writer and international speaker. She is the Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies. Her recent book Modern Workplace Learning: A Resource Book for L&D is now available, which she supports with a range of online workshops. Find out more about Jane at