The Comet’s Tail of Workplace Learning Trends

I was recently asked what I thought have been the significant trends in workplace learning over the last 5 years. As I thought about it I visualised it as a comet with what I saw as the new trends blazing at the front (in the nucleus) and other workplace trends trailing back over the last 15 years or so. Here is the graphic I produced, and underneath it is a brief textual explanation.

Since the advent of e-learning and learning management systems (LMS) over 15 years ago as a way of AUTOMATING TRAINING, new trends over the last 10 years have mainly focused on ENHANCING E-LEARNING – and by that I mean enhancing the creation, delivery and management of  instructional, online content (e.g. rapid e-learninglive e-learninggamessimulations MOOCs,  etc).

Whereas newer trends like informal learning, social learning and even performance support have been seen by some as simply concepts that need to be designed into instructional practices and managed by LMS platforms, others have understood them as non-instructional (self-organized) workplace learning trends that need to be valued – and hence encouraged and  supported. In many ways these 3 trends are representative of a transitional stage in workplace learning – sitting between those that are focused on  improving instructional learning, and the new, trailblazing trends which are prompting organisations to re-think their whole approach to workplace learning by recognising that BOTH instructional as well as non-instructional  learning have an important part to play in IMPROVING PERFORMANCE. 

  • This has led to new workplace learning models being adopted, e.g. the 70:20:10 framework  – which rather than being a new blueprint for instructional design, in fact focuses on the fact that most workplace learning is non-directed and that any learning strategy needs to include support for it.
  • It means that performance consulting has become a key new activity – as a way of identifying solutions to performance problems rather than automatically assuming that training (or another instructional solution) is the answer.
  • It recognizes the importance of continuous knowledge sharing and collaboration within work teams and groups, and that new enterprise social networks (ESN) are becoming the hubs were most organizational learning happens –  and that this is bringing about a convergence of “learning” and “working” technologies into “performance” technologies. (But it also means that enterprise platforms like these offer new opportunities to host more modern and appealing online training which can be integrated into the workflow as never before.)
  • It also appreciates that individuals’ professional networks are valuable sources of knowledge outside the organization, and that personal knowledge management (PKM) skills are they key to seeking, sensing and sharing that knowledge with the organization.
  • But finally that success is measured in terms of performance improvement – not in terms of learning (or even social) activity. In other words, how has performance improved? –  not how active have individuals been or whether they have completed something (which says nothing about learning, and even less about performance).

These new workplace trends focusing on Improving Performance mean a fundamental shift in approach and practice for L&D, and this is the main reason why Harold and I set up The Connected Workplace Consultancy to help support workplace learning professionals through a range of workshops, coaching and independent advice.

UPDATE:  How the Top 100 Tools for Learning fit on the Comet’s Tail of Workplace Learning Trends

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