learn at work, by Jane Hart

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1 – How do YOU learn at work?

One of the early tasks that the learning professionals in my L&D Challenge undertake is to consider how they themselves learn at work. It is clear from what they share with the group that

  • they learn in a multitude of ways – and that very little of it happens through conventional training
  • it happens both inside and outside the workplace, and
  • it is a continuous, ongoing process not a series of intermittent events.

I’ve plotted some of the key ways on the diagram below to show how most learning happens in the outer rings (not the inner circle).

But it is not just those who are undertaking the Challenge who are learning very differently, it is also very clear from the results of my 9 year Top 100 Tools for Learning survey that this has been the case for many people for sometime now. Furthermore the results of my Learning in the Workplace Survey (which has now been taken by over 5,000 people worldwide) show that they rank conventional training and e-learning as the least valued way of learning at work.

So how can a L&D department provide a modern-day service to reflect the way that a large proportion of their people are now learning and addressing their own performance problems – rather than simply being a course factory? How can they extend their reach (out from a training-centric view of learning) and add value to all these different ways – without trying to control the whole process in traditional ways? What new activities will this entail – and what new skills will they need?

2 – Supporting all the ways people learn at work

In my previous post I showed how people learn at work in a multitude of ways. In this post I want to show how organisations are supporting learning more widely across the organisation. Here is a summary of initiatives plotted onto my previous diagram (see below), and beneath it brief descriptions of the initiatives highlighted.

 

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(1) This group of initiatives are an evolution of conventional classroom training and e-learning. However, they differ in as much as they are more in tune with the way people learn for themselves.

  • Enabling flexible (and social) internal content. This involves creating content for on demand use, in short, popular micro-formats, like video and animation, and ensuring their accessibility across a wide range of devices (ie the “courses to resources” model). It also involves encouraging the sharing of social (aka employee-generated) content.
  • Curating external content and learning opportunities: This involves the selection of relevant and valid Web-based resources in different formats (e.g. YouTube videos, podcasts, articles, MOOCs, etc), and then linking to them (and or embedding them) on internal portals, or else providing a regular knowledge flow of curated resources to interested parties.
  • Facilitating collaborative classrooms: This involves the use of the flipped classroom model, so that the content is provided in advance, and the classroom becomes an interactive, participative and collaborative, performance-focused, technology-supported session based around real-world activities.
  • Running learning challenges and campaigns:  These are defined packages of activities and/or resources and events that are released over a period of time, which may include any of the activities described in this section and in (2) below.

(2) This group of initiatives involves organising and facilitating a range of new learning and networking activities.

  • Facilitating discussions: This involves providing opportunities for teams and groups to have open conversations on topics of interest to create a collective understanding, as well as to share ideas and insights and discuss the issues involved. These discussion make use of more modern formats like roundtables, fishbowls, world cafes or knowledge cafes.
  • Facilitating innovation workshops and hackerthons: These provide opportunities for groups to brainstorm and prioritise ideas to innovate around business, process or technology issues, or even to build new products or other artefacts.
  • Building and supporting communities: This involves setting up or supporting cross-organisational groups where people not only build connections but have ongoing interactions in order to learn from one another and/or to improve their professional and work practices.
  • Offering a learning concierge service: This is a service that provides bespoke advice and guidance to individuals looking to solve professional learning and/or performance problems.
  • Coordinating informal (learning) events: This involves bringing people together to share their projects and passions with others in a casual, relaxed environment, like a learning lounge.
  • Organising company networking events: This involves running events to foster new connections between employees. These networking events might take on different formats, eg include activities like lightning talks, speed geeking or speed networking.
  • Orchestrating large-scale learning and networking events: This involves organising events like (un)conferences, retreats and roadshows, which may incorporate (m)any of the different activities already mentioned in this section.

(3) This group of initiatives is the new work of L&D. It involves helping the whole organisation adopt a culture of continuous, self-organised and self-managed learning

  • Supporting manager-led people development: This involves helping managers recognise that they have a new responsibility for developing their people, and supporting them to do this in a variety of ways, eg through coaching or stretch assignments, etc.
  • Helping individuals learn from daily work: This involves helping individuals take time during the day to reflect on (and learn from) their daily work experiences, eg through work journalling, and then share relevant experiences with others in their social groups.
  • Developing independent learners: This involves helping individuals organise and manage their own professional learning, aligned to organisational objectives, as well as make use of non-conventional, external learning opportunities (e.g. professional networking, social mentoring, etc) to do so.
  • Helping teams with collaborative work: This involves helping work and project teams share their knowledge and experiences effectively, as well as adopt practices like working out loud, so that they can learn continuously from one another, underpinned by new enterprise social technologies.

Although some people will be happy (and quick) to adopt a self-organised, self-managed approach to workplace learning and need very little support to do so, others will require quite a bit of guidance to move away from a reliance on top-down (organised and managed) training initiatives. This guidance is therefore best provided by offering a variety of activities (from 1 and 2 above), which individuals can then select to “personalise” their own learning experience.

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