The Learning in the Workplace Survey has now been taken by over 600 people, and although it is still open if you want to cast your vote, I am going to release some interim findings here today as the pattern of results has been pretty stable for some time now.
The survey asked respondents to rate the importance (value/usefulness) of 10 different ways of learning for themselves. The red figures are where the most responses have been received.
||VIP + Essential
|Self-directed study of external courses
|Internal company documents
|Internal job aids
|Collaborative working within your team
|General conversations and meetings with people
|Personal & professional networks and communities
|External blog and news feeds
|Content curated from external sources
|Web search for resources (eg Google)
In the last column, I’ve aggregated the Very Important and Essential scores and highlighted in blue the top 5 rated ways of learning in the workplace. This shows …
- that company training/e-learning is the lowest rated way to learn at work , and
- that workers find other (self-organised and self-managed) ways of learning at work far more valuable – with team collaboration being the highest rated.
Who has responded to this survey?
- Country: 46 countries (incl USA (28%), Australia (12%), Canada (8%), UK (22%), New Zealand and other countries in Europe, South America and Asia)
- Industry: 42% edu-related; 58% non-edu related (incl 12% technology, 9% Government, 9% financial services, 4% healthcare)
- Organisation size: 61% from orgs with more than 250 people, evenly split between other org sizes
- Function: 45% HR/L&D, 65% from all other functions (incl 12% IT, 4% Sales & Marketing)
- Job type: Non-managerial/other: 53%, line managers: 9%; middle: 20%, senior 18%
- Age: <30 : 6%, 31-40 : 28%, 41-50 36%, 51-60 : 24%; 60+ : 7%
- Sex: Male: 42%; Female : 58%
The general pattern of results holds good for most industries, job functions, job roles and age group. Note, for instance that
- 68% of those working in HR/L&D also consider training/e-learning to be of little or no value for them in the workplace.
However, a preliminary analysis of the results has uncovered some other interesting aspects of how people like to learn at work, which I will reveal in a full report on the data later.
Nevertheless as a whole, these survey results are yet another piece of evidence that show how workers are continuing to organise and manage their own learning in many different ways – and in doing so are bypassing the L&D Department. What’s more a comparison with the 2012 Learning in the Workplace survey results shows that this is a continuing trend.
Want to find out more? If so, you might be interested in my upcoming book, The Workplace Learning Revolution, which will provide more evidence how learning is changing in the workplace, and some guidance on how to support these new ways of learning at work.
UPDATE: Two follow up posts
- 5 characteristics of how Knowledge Workers like to learn at work
- Supporting continuous learning and performance improvement – a vital new area of work
What is the primary role of the learning professional in an organisation today?
- Is it to organise and manage what people learn?
- by designing, creating and delivering content (training/instruction/courses/resources)
- then tracking that people use it, and
- measuring success in terms of learning activity metrics (e.g. page accesses, quiz tests, course completions)
- Or is it to enable and support how people learn best?
- by understanding where individuals have the most valuable learning experiences (other than top-down, organised/managed instruction)
- then enhancing and supporting these other self-organised and self-managed approaches (e.g. as a part of work team collaboration, or independent professional learning and development), and
- helping them to measure success in terms of performance metrics (ie how it is helping them to do their job or do it better)
Many might say that both of these are important in today’s workplace, in which case the question is how much of the role should be about organising and managing what people learn compared to enabling and supporting how people learn?
Following my earlier post: ABC: 10 reasons not to create a course – and 10 other options, I have had a huge amount of interest in finding out more about the different ABC (Anything But Courses) options I mentioned. So in this post I am going to talk about a simple – and low-cost – training model that I recommend whenever there is a requirement for workers to demonstrate they have “learned” (that is read and understood) some content, and can apply it in the workplace.
This approach comprises THREE elements: (1) relevant assessment; (2) flexible content; and (3) timely support. Although the three elements are inter-related, they are independently accessible – and the emphasis is placed not on the content but on the assessment. Here’s some more detail about the three elements.
1 – Relevant Assessment
This is the key, and in fact the only required, element in the model, and is the means by which an individual demonstrates they can apply what they have learned. For this to happen, the assessment needs to be a valid test of application – not just a superficial understanding of terminology and concepts. Jane Bozarth makes this point clearly, in Design Assessment First , when she says an effective assessment is not ..
“… 25 badly written multiple-choice questions asking about things like fine points of a policy or seemingly random definitions or rarely occurring product failures”
A good example of a “relevant and valid” assessment is the Phishme simulation test which sends emails to users to find out whether they can identify a security risk, and offers individuals training immediately they “fall for the bait in the exercise”. But other relevant assessments might involve a role-playing/scenario activity – based around a case study similar to one likely to be encountered by the individual in their job. So it is worth spending time with the managers concerned in order to devise an appropriate, valid and relevant assessment that will demonstrate that individuals are really able to apply what they have read. Of course, this will need to be automated, but it is important to ensure that in doing so, it is not “dumbed down” and loses its effectiveness.
In addition, the individual needs to be able to take the assessment first (if they so wish), and if they pass it – they should not be required to work through any content. If they fail the assessment, however, they should then be referred to the relevant parts of the content before they re-take the assesssment.
2 – Flexible Content
Some individuals will undoubtedly want to start with the Content and work through it thoroughly, whilst others will only want to skim it, to refresh themselves, before they take the Assessment. So this is why the content needs to be in as flexible a format as possible – not a linear sequence of screens that they must work through.
If the content already exists, e.g. in the form of a Word document or PowerPoint presentation, then there is no need to spend time and money converting it into an online course – and in doing so adding gratuitous graphics or trivial interactions. Firstly, it annoys and irritates today’s busy Knowledge Workers (who will try and avoid the experience if they can), and secondly, it rarely adds any value to the content. The most that is needed is some help with post-production, e.g. adding a summary page to a Word document that highlights the key points, or helping to produce a narration for a presentation so that it makes more sense, or setting up and recording a webinar to capture the content, and enabling download of slides, if desired.
If the content doesn’t already exist, then it should be presented in the simplest – and most appropriate – way possible – suitable for the target audience. It might be a video or set of hyperlinked web pages. But the emphasis should still be on good information design rather than instructional design. Having said that, the content doesn’t have to be all online, it could be in the form of a face-to-face workshop – although, of course, this will limit its flexibility.
3 – Timely support
The third element is to provide Support for those who might have difficulty understanding any aspect of the content or the assessment, or who have failed the assessment and cannot make out why. Setting up a useful and support mechanism will be important. It might be the ability to email an expert or access a peer-supported forum or community. In the latter case there will also be a need to review questions asked, and collate FAQ. It may even involve adjusting the original content, if it becomes clear that some aspect is not that clear – which is another reason why the content needs to be as flexible and simple as possible – and not hardwired into a course which is impossible to modify and update.
There are a number of advantages of this basic training model:
- It can be used as a way of identifying those who need training – rather than requiring everyone to spend unnecessary time working through content they already know.
- It provides managers with relevant “real-world” assessment of application of knowledge.
- It doesn’t require an LMS – since accessing the content is optional, and the test will need to be set up using other more appropriate tools.
- It is a less costly approach – which means that money can be used for other more expensive options – where they are really needed and where they will have the most impact.
- It offers more autonomy and choice for today’s knowledge workers, and can be more easily be fitted into their workflow.
If we truly are going to shift the L&D function from a “packaging” role to one that enables, supports and “scaffolds” learning in the flow of daily work we are going to have to make some changes in the way we actually operate. We will need to make some operational changes if we are ever to reach the goal of the Connected L&D Department.
Dan Pontefract has recently published a book entitled, “Flat Army: Creating a Connected and Engaged Organization” where he explores the relationship between the principles of collaboration, participation and open leadership with new ways in which to learn and share.
Perhaps Flat Army, in part, can help you achieve the Connected L&D Department quest. And if such is the case, I’m giving away two free copies of the book.
To qualify, simply use the comment box below and tell me what new tool you think might help your own L&D Department become more connected as a team, and why. If you need some help identifying a tool, take a look at the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2012 List.
This opportunity closes on Friday 26 April and I’ll announce the winners on Friday 3 May.
My annual Top 100 Tools for Learning list has become a popular resource – if the Slideshare viewing stats are anything to go by. For instance the 2011 presentation has now been viewed over 800,000 times, and the 2012 has been viewed over 400,000 times. So since the New Year I have been working on a major new, supplementary resource, A Practical Guide to the Top 100 Tools for Learning.
This Guide describes the essential features of each of the 100 tools and explains how they can be used for personal productivity, professional learning and development, education and training, as well as for workforce collaboration.
The Guide is available both as continuously updated online resource and as a 342 page PDF to download.
For a small charge, an annual subscription to the Guide will let you:
- access the online version of the Guide for one year
- download all PDF versions of the Guide during the annual subscription period for your own personal use. This comprises:
- The beta edition – available NOW
- The first edition – available in June 2013.
- The second edition – available in October/November 2013 once the 2013 Top Tools list has been released.
To view the Guide Contents list and a sample section, as well as find out how to purchase an annual subscription, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE.