The need for a new approach to workplace learning

This is a page of the first FREE section of the MWL 2021 resource. You can purchase access to the full resource HERE


What do the results of these 3 surveys tell us about a new approach to workplace learning. Let’s review them here. We’ve identified that …

  1. that people learn in a number of different ways (not just through training or studying): 34% from DISCOVERY, 31% from DOING, 21% from DISCOURSE and 14% from DIDACTICS
  2. that people learn most frequently (daily/weekly) from DISCOVERY, DISCOURSE and DOING, and less frequently (monthly/quarterly/yearly) from DIDACTICS
  3. that people value what they learn from DISCOVERY, DISCOURSE and DOING more than they learn from DIDACTICS.

The graphic below shows how the frequency of learning has a high correlation with the value placed on it.

DIDACTICS is therefore  the least frequent AND the least valued ways of learning – and yet the role of the L&D function mostly focuses entirely on this approach to learning. It is therefore very clear that there is a need for a new approach to workplace learning. It is not enough just to digitise the training experience, it requires a new organisational learning culture or mindset about workplace learning. I call this Modern Workplace Learning (MWL).

3 key principles of Modern Workplace Learning

ONE – In the workplace the primary role of an employee is a “worker” rather than a “learner”. So, what’s wrong with calling them learners? Marc Rosenberg explains …

“Because that’s not who they really are!

CEOs don’t refer to their employees as learners. Customers don’t call their sales reps learners (and sales reps don’t call their customers learners). Front-line supervisors don’t gather their people together and begin meetings with “I want to thank all you learners for coming.”

Calling your people “learners” also reinforces traditional thinking about. Hence in the context of the today’s workplace it is more appropriate should refer to them as modern workers rather than modern learners..

TWO – Training is not a synonym of learning. Learning is not a product nor a commodity; it is an internal process, so, in other words:

  • You can’t design learning  – you can design training, a course, or content – but that’s not designing learning
  • You can’t deliver learning – you can deliver training or a course – but that’s not delivering learning
  • You can’t transfer learning – you can (try to) transfer knowledge – but that’s not transferring learning
  • You can’t manage learning – you can manage participation on a training course or access to some online content – but that’s not managing learning. The only person who manages learning is the individual him/herself.

This is not just a case of semantics or being pedantic; euphemisms really don’t help. In fact the misuse of the word “learning” doesn’t just cause confusion, it also perpetuates the idea that “learning” is only something that can be put into someone’s head (in some sort of formal, designed, “packaged” way), when we have seen that most “learning” happens in informal and non-designed ways as people use the Web or carry out their daily work. This latter type of “learning” is just as important, in fact, as has been shown is considered much more valuable than the former. Hence Modern Workplace Learning is more than modern training.

THREE –  MWL is therefore about enabling and supporting all the 4 D’s of learning; DISCOVERY, DOING, DISCOURSE & DIDACTICS.

It’s also clear that when it comes to Modern Workplace Learning, everyone is responsible for learning at work – not just L&D but the manager and individuals themselves. L&D’s role therefore will be to enable and support all the ways of learning at work. We’ll look at this in more detail on the next page.

⇒   MWL 2021: New roles and responsibilities

Last updated: May 29, 2021 at 12:32 pm