It’s time for a new model of workplace learning

The results of the Learning in the Workplace survey show that classroom training and e-learning are the least valued ways of learning at work. They are often also considered ineffective approaches to learning, as a number of reports in mainstream newspapers have shown. For example,  in Companies waste billions of dollars on ineffective corporate training, Roberta Holland writes.

“About $162 billion was spent in 2012 in the United States on corporate training—in what Harvard Business School Professor Michael Beer calls the “the great training robbery”. It’s a huge amount, and some of it works, and a lot of it doesn’t,” Beer says, citing the example of an oil company that built a $20 million safety training facility but still suffered several fatal accidents nonetheless … Some studies have shown that only 10% of corporate training is effective, he says.”

One thing is also clear, the current training model can no longer keep pace with the speed of business and the continuous nature of change. It takes time and effort to design, develop and deliver training content. Additionally, once a course, programme or curriculum has been developed there is often so much invested effort and cost that it’s unlikely to be changed (or discarded) as fast as it needs to be in order to keep pace with changing circumstances.

The education model on which the current training model is founded has remained largely the same for over 100 years, but it is evident it is no longer fit for purpose. Here are 3 further reasons why.

(1) It’s all about knowledge transfer ….

The focus of training and e-training (aka e-learning) is on designing and delivering content and dumping knowledge into people’s heads.

…. when learning happens everywhere in many different ways

As we have seen, people learn in many other ways than through traditional training or e-learning – and not just in other organised formal ways – but mostly in self-organised and non-organised informal ways,

(2) It uses a one-size-fits-all-approach …

(e-)Training is usually designed to meet the needs of a diverse group of people, so frequently neither the content nor the approach match the personal needs or preferences of individuals. The “sheep dip” approach that ensures everyone has the same learning experience is no longer appropriate.

….when learning is a personal experience

Everyone has different needs and preferences, and the most effective and valuable learning comes from the experiences that individuals chose for themselves. Whilst some training can designed with enough flexibility in to be personalisable, personal learning is organising one’s own learning in the ways that best suits the individual.

(3) Learning and development is the sole responsibility of L&D departments …

For over 100 years, the Training Department has been responsible for training people at work, such that managers don’t see learning and development as their responsibility and pass off their problems to the Training/L&D department. Consequently, many L&D departments have simply become “order-takers” for courses. But training is often not the best answer to a performance problem, as Ron Carucci points out in When companies should invest in training their employees — and when they shouldn’t, Ron Carucci.

“Training is useful at times but often fails, especially  when it is used to address problems that it can’t actually solve … Many well-intended leaders view training as a panacea to obvious learning opportunities or behavioral problems.”

… when learning and development is everyone’s responsibility (employees and managers)

It is up to everyone to take responsibility for their continuous improvement, learning and development – to identify and address their own performance problems and development needs. AND it is for BOTH managers and L&D to enable and support what their people do – providing as much guidance as required or desired. For instance, when it comes to addressing team performance problems, L&D can support managers to identify the root causes and appropriate solutions through a performance improvement consulting service.

In summary, although some training will still be required, focusing on training as the only way to support organisational learning and development is no longer enough, as Charles Jennings points out very clearly.

“Corporate learning and capability-building needs to grow up. For any organization trying to stay competitive, conventional training is no longer enough, or even the answer in many cases … For new people in their organization, structured courses are usually important, to get them started – but formal learning alone won’t get them to high performance.”

In other words, it is time for a new model of workplace learning fit for the 21st century workplace. So what does that look like?


A new model of workplace learning

Last updated: January 19, 2019 at 8:54 am

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