Big change vs Little change in workplace learning

changeThere’s been a lot of talk recently about the fact that the L&D function needs to change, and a lot has been written about what the future of workplace learning should look like.  I should know because I’ve written about it too!

I’ve also observed in the last few years how some organizations with enlightened learning leaders, who have intuitively recognized the need for change, have been able to flip a switch and move from old traditional training models to newer approaches to learning.  By that I don’t mean just moving from classroom to online courses, but adopting new approaches that value individual informal learning as well as knowledge sharing in teams as key elements of organizational learning. Whereas some of these so-called “early adopters” have often been described as taking “a leap of faith” in their actions, their organizations are clearly benefitting from these flexilble, new learning practices in a times of organisational upheaval.

However, I’ve also encountered many L&D professionals who don’t feel they are in a position to make such changes themselves.  They cite various reasons why this is the case, and most of them are due to the fact that (they believe) that they work in organizations that are still firmly fixated on old models of how people learn, with managers (and/or clients) who see little value in other ways of learning, and where they feel they need overwhelming evidence that deviation from these traditional practices will be successful.

I am frequently questioned therefore about how they can start the process of change inside their organizations – without causing big waves of dissension –  and my answer is to say that they need to change their company culture one step at a time, one conversation at time.  In other words:

  • to start small – and not try to change everything overnight – select small changes that will make a big difference
  • to pick the right battles – and not bang their head against a brick wall with managers and teams who are totally resistant to change
  • to describe their activities as “pilots” – and specify that the objectives are to find out how effecctive a new/different approach is for the organisaiton.  That way whatever the outcome, the project is successful!

So what are the small changes that will make a big difference? That is the topic of my next post.

2 thoughts on “Big change vs Little change in workplace learning

  1. Jan Salomons

    I also think it helps when organisatínal structures, especially communication structures are adjusted to support knowledge sharing, group and team learning as well as informal learning. Building feedback loops in daily processes does stimulate learning,but requires specific competencies from people and especially supervisors.

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