It is now very clear that in many organisations L&D and employees view workplace learning very differently. Currently, it tends to look something like this:
L&D focus all their attention on creating and managing classroom training and/or e-learning. For them this is what workplace learning is all about – making sure people use the stuff they provide for them. The technologies they employ underpin this approach: e-learning authoring tools to create templated content, and a LMS to store all the usage data.
Employees, however, have a very different view on learning (as my own 10 year longitudinal study has shown, and others now too). Classroom training and e-learning is largely seen as something to be avoided, or at best endured. Employees prefer to just Google for things when they need them, and are happy to sort out their own training solutions, e.g. by watching YouTube videos. They also connect with others outside their organisation in a variety of social channels to hear about what they are up to. L&D often ignore the fact this is happening, or else try to get people to record these activities in their corporate systems, to make it seem they have it “under control”.
Additionally, many employees realise that they actually learn most about how to do their job by just doing their job; by dealing with everyday problems and working alongside their colleagues, from whom they learn the most – often without realising it. Researchers have suggested that this type of learning counts for upwards of 70% of how people learn at work, but many L&D professionals resent this fact because it suggests the way most people learn at at work happens without their involvement or their control.
In summary then, employees are now well ahead of the game! “Learning” for them is something they just do as part of everyday work, and they are not enthused by “learning solutions” that are thrust upon that don’t fit well with the way they now work. There is currently a jarring disconnect between these two views of workplace learning!
Modern views about workplace learning are very different – rather than forcing employees to do things in the traditional ways that L&D can manage and control, L&D practices now move in line with employee working and learning patterns.
Whilst L&D believes that there is still a need for some form of top-down training and that conventional ways of classroom and e-learning need to be updated, they are not simply interested in putting “lipstick on the pig“, i.e. adding in the latest technology or trend. They realise that what they themselves might regard as engaging and appealing may well not be the case for the end users! So they therefore work with employees to organise learning experiences that best meet the ways these people like to learn at work. It’s not one size fits all, but customised approaches for the problems and individuals concerned.
L&D also encourage and support independent personal learning. They recognise they can’t organise everything everyone needs, and people need to have the flexibility to do things in the ways that suit them personally. They don’t trying to organise and manage what people do – but focus on building and developing the new digital learning and PKM (personal knowledge management) skills that every employee will need to survive and flourish in the networked world.
L&D also play a part in encouraging and supporting managers and their teams to use enterprise social platforms, so that they can share knowledge and work experiences more widely and more easily, and in this way they enable the true social learning to come from social collaboration.
In summary, modern workplace learning takes place more through work than in a separate space or time, and dedicated learning technologies are being replaced by both consumer technologies and enterprise working technologies to ensure that learning is seen as an integral part of daily work.