MWL 2021: New roles and responsibilities

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


Learning in the modern workplace is everyone’s responsibility – not just L&D but the manager and the individuals themselves. However, their roles and responsibilities will overlap as illustrated on this diagram below – and explained below.

INDIVIDUALS will need to take responsibility for their own continuous self-improvement, learning and development to stay relevant in their jobs – and not rely on being spoon fed by their organisations. Having personal and relevant learning experiences will be important, rather than relying on a one-size-fits all, sheep dip approach to training.

MANAGERS will need to take (much more) responsibility for the growth and development of their people in their daily working lives – and not just pass this off to their L&D department. It means valuing non-training ways of learning, adopting modern learning practices themselves, and encouraging the sharing of knowledge and experiences in their teams.

L&D’s role will no longer be just designing, delivering and managing training but enabling and supporting learning in all these ways. After all they can no longer provide and manage everything everyone needs to learn to do their job and prepare them and the organisation for the future. Their work will need to be more about enabling and supporting a continuous learning culture and mindset in the organisation. They can do that in the 3 ways already identified in A new approach to workplace learning  


Further detail is provided below:


Inspiring modern managers & fostering modern workers

The workplace is a vibrant learning environment, but even when work takes place remotely this can still be the case. However, both managers and workers will need to think differently about how they can extract the learning from daily work. Managers are the key to building a successful continuous learning environment at work, so they will need help to take more responsibility for the growth and development of their team, and become of a coach than a boss – and that includes providing timely feedback and guidance.

Today’s workers look for a positive work environment and growth opportunities. However, in order to thrive in the modern workplace, they will need to become more self-sufficient and self-reliant. This includes trying to solve their own performance problems, and manage their manager – also known as managing up!

Encouraging reflective practices

When it comes to learning from the daily work, this is something that is not always apparent to individuals. And yet, we know it happens in many different, subtle ways during the working day.  However, in order to become more aware of their daily learning experiences, individuals are recommend to take some time to reflect on what they have done each day. Reflective practice requires more than just having a quick think about the day, so one way is to help them set up a work diary to record and reflect on their everyday work experiences – and then share anything significant with their colleagues.

Supporting knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing is a key aspect of work today and something that managers will need to understand and value. Although knowledge sharing doesn’t require any social tools to take place, social technologies (like Microsoft Teams, Yammer and Slack) can make the process of sharing much easier. Although many teams are, undoubtedly, now making greater use of their online social platforms for remote work, managers need to recognise that these very same platforms can be used to share knowledge and experiences within the team. So there is a great opportunity to work with managers and their teams to help them get more out of their enterprise collaboration platforms. T


Encouraging a daily self-learning habit and build modern learning skills

As we have seen reading is the most frequent pro-active earning activity and is one of the easiest ways to learn on daily basis – as is watching videos and listening podcasts is too as is interacting with your network. So encouraging your people to something like this – even for just 20-30 minutes a day will help them establish a daily self-learning habit. Your role will then be to help them understand the myriad of opportunities open to them on the Web (if they are not already aware of this) as well as help to develop their modern learning skills so that are not overwhelmed by it all and can make sense of what they find, as well as share the gems their discover with their team and colleagues.

Adopting a formal process of self-development

However, your organisation might prefer to adopt a more formal process of self-development. Empowering individuals to make decisions about their own professional goals and how they can address them themselves brings substantial benefits as Dan Pink explains in Drive:

“Human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives. The opposite of autonomy is control. And since they sit at different poles of the behavioral compass, they point us to different destinations. Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”

Adopting a formal process of continuous self-development also means that individuals can take advantage of a much wider range of learning methods that require a longer time commitment than those used for daily self-learning like courses and conferences to achieve their professional goals.


When it comes to modern training there is much more that can be done to ensure that training is valued much more – by making it more reflective of the ways people prefer to learn and is integrated as much as possible in the workflow.  Here are some examples

Creating flexible resources

When it comes to content, focus on creating resources quickly and in short and simple formats rather than on long-winded courses. Ensure that  they can be used flexibly – for JIT learning or for performance support. Then host your resources as close to workflow as possible, e.g. on your intranet.  Apply the principles of modern content design and make the most of your Office tools like Word and PowerPoint – as there’s a lot you can do with them.

Delivering micro-training

If you want to help learning to become a short, regular activity not an infrequent, time-consuming one, micro-training (aka micro-learning) is a useful approach to do this – providing a little bit of something – a new technique, tip, idea, resource, etc – on a daily (if not very regular) basis. Don’t overlook basic tools to do this either like email or chat apps like WhatsApp for targeted training in micro-formats.

Curating learning opportunities

Remember, you don’t have to create all this content and experiences yourself;  curating relevant resources and activities from the Web is not only a valuable way to help busy workers build a daily learning habit, it is also a way to supporting individual’s self-development initiatives.

Running effective live virtual sessions

Live virtual training has clearly taken off this year – out of necessity –  as L&D scrambled to deliver their offerings online. However, many workers ended up with “Zoom fatigue” as they spent many hours in their day moving from web meeting to web training and back to web meeting. So, if there is a need for some live virtual training session, then it needs to be as short and interactive as possible. It’s better to run a number of short sessions than one long one.

Facilitating group learning experiences

When it comes to training a group of people then it doesn’t have to be done synchronously. Consider facilitating a series of short, interactive and collaborative (asynchronous) sessions over a period of time. Ideally host them in a group space on your organisation’s social collaboration platform (like Teams or Slack), as this means learning is truly integrated into the workflow.

Designing hybrid learning

If, however, there is a need to provide to provide some complex training, then consider a hybrid learning approach. That is one that combines the flexibility of self-paced online learning with highly engaging live experiences (created or curated). In fact if you are redesigning your learning programmes to ensure they are appropriate for today’s new working circumstances, then consider some modern formats to hybrid learning design like learning campaigns and learning challenges.

Building a learning hub

Finally, open up all your learning opportunities to your people. Rather than keeping all your own learning initiatives” locked up in your LMS or other closed platform, open up access to a full range of learning opportunities – internal/external, formal/informal, individual/social, etc. Aggregate them on a learning hub and provide appropriate signposts and navigation for those who need help to find things of relevance and value.

In this way the role of L&D becomes more impactful and more relevant to learning in the modern workplace. To be successful, however, it wilmean establishing a new relationship with the business – as explained on the next page.

MWL 2021: A new relationship with the business

Last updated: April 15, 2021 at 10:37 am