Empowering Employee-Led Learning

woman-1353803_640Over the last 10 years (since I’ve been running my Top 100 Tools for Learning survey) I’ve written lots of posts and articles about how the way the Web is changing the way we learn. And recently there have been a number of other studies that have concurred with my findings!

One of my own recent posts considered the individual’s perspective of workplace learning and how L&D departments can learn from this to modernize their own practices.

By use of the term, Modern Workplace Learning (MWL), I’ve always been very clear that this doesn’t JUST mean modernizing training to bring it more in line with the way that people are choosing to learn for themselves, but about doing some very different things. In particular, with respect to social learning, that this doesn’t mean making people interact with one another online, but helping to build social teams and groups, facilitative collaborative problem solving and innovation, and foster connections across the whole business.

However, there is a much bigger – and much more significant – aspect of Modern Workplace Learning that I think needs more prominence – and that is promoting and supporting employe-led learning (ELL).

By ELL I don’t just mean offering a self-service selection of courses and resources for employees to choose from – although that might be part of it, I mean empowering individuals to organise and manage their own personal and professional learning to improve their own knowledge, skills and ultimately their performance in the workplace, in the way that best suits them.

Why is ELL necessary?

  • We need to stop treating employees like school children and spoon-feeding them with all the training they need to do, in exactly the way we prescribe for them – but instead treat them like the intelligent adults they are!!
  • We need to stop treating employees as if they are all the same and providing then with a one size fits all training solution – but instead treat them like individuals, and help them to have personal (i.e. personally constructed, relevant and appropriate) learning experiences that fit their own needs.

ELL is about empowering them to make their own choices, but it is also about ensuring they take personal responsibility for what they choose to do and how they do it.

So what does it mean to support ELL?

  • It means working with individuals to identify their own personal development goals – ie what they need/want to do (or do better) in their existing jobs or to prepare for the future – which will undoubtedly be aligned with business goals.
  • It means helping them to identify what internal or external, formal or informal, resources, activities or people they can make use of – to achieve their goals .
  • It means ensuring they have time in their busy working days to focus on achieving these personal goals because ultimately this will help the business.
  • It means helping them to evidence what they can do as a result (i.e their new performance) rather than evidence what they have learned – in their personally-owned professional portfolios (rather than in a enterprise LMS) – to ensure they own their own learning – as well as sharing results with their team or organisation.

Some organisations are already supporting employee-led learning approaches in this way, whilst for others it provokes a range of reactions. One comment I hear from time to time is “We can’t let people organise their own learning, they might learn the wrong things”. Clearly those people believe L&D knows best, so aren’t quite ready for EEL in their organisation!!!

But, if you are interested and want to find out more, then come and join my MWL Challenge (running 2 September – 25 November) where this will be one of the key topics we’ll be looking at.

4 Comments

  1. Becky Willis

    Agree! I think it important for L&D to provide guidance of a flow and examples of how to build a flow made up of different modalities.
    This is a new role for Learning with curation olaying a part.

    1. Not just curating options – L&D will need to become advisors and appreciate that people can learn from many different experiences – formal, informal, content and people. L&D will need to be proficient professional learners before they can take on this role effectively.

  2. Neha Gupta

    Really nice concept. However, I have one concern.
    In an organization where L&D is trying to adapt to modern workplace learning or is giving an option of EEL to its employees, how do we handle employee reluctance at the same place? A lot of people prefer following the traditional concept of training, i.e. I have a training need and someone should come and teach me on that. How do we get rid of this attitude so that we can promote MWL or EEL?

    1. I think these two approaches will need to go hand-in-hand for the time being; but it is an option that many professionals prefer. It’s about building a new mindset about taking ownership of learning.

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