The fairy tale of self-directed workplace learning
Self-directed workplace learning sounds like a utopian vision. Especially, since management support and direction is one of the key factors in workplace learning according to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report. Talent developers name “increased manager involvement” as the #2 challenge they face.
Work and learn from anywhere
However, with co-workers able to work from anywhere, they can learn from anywhere too, anytime when it suits them. The delivery methods of training are changing and making learning even more accessible than before. This means that businesses are much more able to ‘push’ development opportunities at their workers (here’s your management direction). In turn, co-workers are expected to act upon these opportunities (here’s your self-direction).
Many organisations are reliant on traditional approaches such as registers (often in Excel) and feedback forms to track employee development. With the current possibilities of digital learning, and its management, the typical learning journey is no longer. At the same time, many organisations recognise the need to extend the traditional learning journey. They understand there are many different stages to a learning experience.
On the other hand, co-workers have to take much more responsibility for their own learning. They will also need to make sure that they are linking back to whichever system is enabling their development. This has little to do with self-directed workplace learning though.
A workshop today, for example, looks quite different from a few years ago. Nowadays, pre-reading will be sent electronically, supported by online questions to submit before the workshop has even started. Before, pre-reading would have been distributed prior to a face-to-face training session and most likely not reviewed again until the training itself. But again, there is little self-directed workplace learning going on here.
Challenge for organisations
The challenge for organisations is to provide digital learning solutions that promote collaboration, create shared experiences and foster stronger relationships within the business alongside self-study. So little self-directed workplace learning; the business has to provide strong input.
A healthy mixture of individual digital learning and face-to-face group learning is essential to a business’ ability to function as an entity. Otherwise, you will end up as a poorly connected collection of individuals working towards their own individual goals. In addition, driving employee engagement on any digital learning platform requires a tailored approach. Luckily, this is relatively easy to do with today’s digital possibilities. Content is key, however, and it should centre around the business-directed learning objectives. At the same time, only when a co-worker recognises his own challenges specific to his role in the business, will the content appeal to him.
To avoid a lack of connection, ensuring face time in addition to digital learning is a condition for engagement. Regular face-to-face group activities are essential to the success of a remote learning programme. But also, to the continued success of any business allowing its co-workers to work remotely.
Ultimately, workplace training is going to become much more intense and easier for organisations to get it out to their co-workers and to track their progress. Co-workers will self-direct when and where they do there training in which bite-size chunks. Training will blend with their routine, which in itself is a huge advantage, since adapting your routine to try to fit in learning is not going to work.
In conclusion, workplace learning is self-directed in the when and where, and the learner is increasingly responsible for his own development within a framework provided by the organisation.
If you can answer one of these learning questions with yes, this is for you
Learning as a strategy: the secret to organisational success?
The things you see in a high-impact learning organisation
Learning to learn; it’s a journey