From “knowledge worker” to “learning worker”: what this means for an organisation

Work is changing, and as a consequence Jacob Morgan believes that one of the principles of the future employee (see infographic to the left) will be the shift from being a “knowledge worker” to being a “learning worker”.

‘Knowledge is a commodity, to be the smartest person in the room all you need is a smartphone. What is far more valuable than knowledge is the ability to learn new things and apply those learnings to new scenarios and environments. This is what the employee of the future needs to focus on, “learning to learn.”’

So what does this mean for an organisation?

It means that it is no longer about knowing stuff; but continuously learning stuff – so there needs to be a shift from creating stuff (for “knowledge transfer”) to supporting the “learning worker” – not just by providing (e-)training opportunities but also by developing the new learning skills required to thrive in the organisation.

It means that continuous learning no longer comes from taking a series of (e-)training courses – but requires a new mindset where the individual is always open to new learning opportunities – wherever they might be, e.g. on the Web or through work-based experiences.

It means that continuous learning is a key ingredient of daily work, not separate from it – as Harold Jarche reminds us

“Work is learning and learning is the work”

It means that workplace learning is no longer the sole responsibility of the L&D department – as Harold also points out ..

“We have come to a point where organizations can no longer leave learning to their HR or training departments.”

It means that workplace learning is no longer just about providing designed learning initiatives but promoting self-organised learning – and that includes managers providing new opportunities for experiential learning so their people can develop on a continuous basis.

It means individuals learning and teaching at will – as Jacob Morgan explains

“The traditional way to learn and teach was largely guided and dictated by organizations who set out training programs, manuals, and set courses. Technology has connected employees and information together anywhere, anytime, and on any device. This means that learning and teaching can happen between employees without official corporate training programs or manuals. Have a question? Tap into the collective intelligence of your company. Want to show someone how to do something? Whip out your smartphone, film it, and upload it to your organization’s collaboration platform for your peers to see.”

It means a fundamental shift in the way organisations interpret the concept of “workplace learning”.

How is your organisation supporting the ‘learning worker”?

Note: These materials are part of the draft of my Modern Workplace Learning resource book

15 thoughts on “From “knowledge worker” to “learning worker”: what this means for an organisation

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  7. Larry Snyder

    Once again, a very stimulating blog post! Some of us have had the good fortune to attend elite private colleges or first-tier public institutions of higher learning. But most of us are products of both mass higher education and the new vocationalism. Therefore, we have had far less exposure to critical thinking, to the liberal arts, humanities, and aesthetic education. And so, at the zero point, we may be singularly unacquainted with “a mindset where the individual is always open to new learning opportunities.” If a shift in the direction of “learning to learn” is to distinguish itself from the training and educational vendor establishment, there is a need to collaborate – among stakeholders – with educational leaders in the workplace, and with general managers in their expanding educative roles. To integrate a foundational postsecondary educational philosophy and curriculum theory with the rough-and tumble world of work is not a childish task.

    1. Howard Johnson

      Larry; I agree with Jane’s post and also find your comment insightful. If we are to achieve a humanity and social science inspired practice, I believe we must also breakdown the humanity silos. Socrates saw the inherent value of philosophy for everyday practice, but too many in the humanities focus on traditional ivory tower mindsets.

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  11. Stephen J. Gill

    Jane, you have described a very significant shift that needs to take place in the way we think about learning in organizations. My colleague, David Grebow, talks about changing from “push learning” to “pull learning”. Rather than pushing content at workers through training and development programs, organizations need to help employees pull the knowledge and skills that they need when they need it. And, of course, it’s technology that allows us to do this more effectively now than in the past.

  12. Alam

    Great Initiative and absolutely in line with the contemporary learning landscape. Though digital collaboration is the new way of enhancing and extending employees’ knowledge and skills but Providing diverse opportunities to practice and implement the gained knowledge can help in the transition of ‘knowledge worker’ to ‘learning worker’, which is what we all should strive for, irrespective of the functions we work for. Learning and making the most of learning is everybody’s responsibility.

  13. Per-Fredrik Hagermark

    Great post about the key game changer to create a culture of learning. The tools and ways to acces learning are all very good. The power comes from having a mindset and culture where learning is part of the daily routine. It makes learning and development the responsibility of every person in an organisation. The L&D manager or team has the exciting challenge to be the catalyst and driver in building the strongest possible learning culture in the organisation. The individual, team or organisation that learns the most, will be the one who wins most often.

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