New Era of Workplace Learning

Inside Learning Technologies Magazine published a great article about the new era of workplace learning that addresses the fourth hot trend in human capital.  This points the way for organizations who are ready to open their human capital to creative learning opportunities through technology and customization.  I have summarized and edited the article by Jane Hart below:

1 – Encourage and support individuals’ and teams’ self-sufficiency to address their own learning and performance problems.

This does mean relinquishing control and trusting people to address their own learning needs in order to do their jobs. But autonomy is a powerful motivator, as Dan Pink has pointed out in his latest book, Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us:

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement … A sense of autonomy has a powerful effect on individual performance and attitude. According to a cluster of recent behavioral studies, autonomous motivation promotes greater conceptual understand, better grades, enhanced persistence at school and in sporting activities, higher productivity, less burnout and greater levels of psychological well-being.”

Self-sufficiency (or self-directedness) will become an important factor for organizational competitiveness, as an article in CLO magazine, Agile Learning, Thriving in the New Economy, states:

“As competitive environments increase in speed, complexity and volatility, organizations and individuals are compelled toward a dynamic learning mindset. Dynamic learning is defined as rapid, adaptive, collaborative and self-directed learning at the moment of need. “Organiztions will need to encourage autonomy and self-sufficiency, rather than to control and monitor learning activity.

2 – Help develop autonomous workers

Although it is clear that many people are naturally autonomous, self-directed learners/workers who are already making good use of social media tools, it is true that others will need help to become independent and competent enough to address their own business and performance problems. Learning and development programs will have a big part to play in helping some workers acquire a new set of literacies, in order to make responsible, safe and effective use of the new social tools.

4 – Rethink the use of learning tools and system

Although traditional learning systems will still have a place to track and monitor learning in formal courses, particularly compliance and regulatory training, they won’t be appropriate for social (workflow) learning, here learning needs to be integrated into the workflow and not vice versa.

Some organizations may undoubtedly wish to implement their own, behind the firewall, social platforms to power enterprise communities and collaborative practices in a private and secure way, but these should not be the only tools available to workers. Many individuals will still need to have access to the Social Web, e.g. for connecting with others outside the organization, and some may wish to use their own tools. Despite the concern that some organizations have about consumer tools, a recent GigaOm article, Are “Consumer” Collaboration Tools Good Enough for the Enterprise?, stated that many are becoming more enterprise-friendly, but furthermore …

“Businesses cannot ignore the benefits such tools undoubtedly bring to the workplace, and trying to block their use will likely be a futile exercise that will only lead to disgruntled employees”

5 – Help to develop an open, enabling culture for working and learning

All the above is clearly part of a bigger picture, which implies the need for a wider change in terms of management style. Michael Lascette, in a posting, The Social Employee Manifesto writes:

“Old approaches to managing employees, with their roots in the industrial society are not adequate for hyper-connected, socially aware employees. We need a new paradigm for getting things done and for empowering a new breed of employee that does not function well in a hierarchal, top down, highly controlled environment.”

It is clear that formal training is not going disappear overnight, but it is also becoming apparent that we are at the beginning of a fundamental shift in the way that both learning and working is happening in organizations. The first step on the path will be to become immersed in the new social media tools that are underpinning this change. Social Learning is not something you just talk or read about; it’s something you do.


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