MWL in practice

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

<< INTRODUCTION TO MODERN WORKPLACE LEARNING


So  what does that MWL mean  in practice? It means thinking about organisational learning and development in  much broader ways. In the graphic and in the text below I highlight some of these aspects, all of which are covered in the further sections of this resource. In the graphic the activities of the individual, their manager and L&D are colour coded so you can see the difference.

DOING: Learning from the daily work

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! However, managers will also need to understand that in the modern workplace their role is more of a coach than a boss, and they are there to provide an environment conducive to continuous learning by fostering flexibility and freedom in the workplace as well as adopting a growth mindset.

This will certainly be a new way of working for many managers who are used to simply direct their people, so a key aspect of the work of the L&D will be to  inspire modern managers. This won’t mean putting them on a management course but taking time to sit with them and consider a number of issues about what motivates today’s workers and how they can help them to grow and develop and how they might (28) support their coaching activities.

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, as Dewey tells us “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” So  in order to become more aware of their daily learning experiences, individuals might take some time (29) to reflect on what they have done each day.  Of course, this needs to be  encouraged and supported by managers, but  L&D have a role to play here.

Reflective practice is  a learned process, so one approach might be to help  set up a (31) work journal (perhaps using a digital notebook) to record their reflections –  not just from the daily work, but from interactions with others, or even to record the gems they have encountered in their discoveries. These journals might even morph into a personal portfolio which are a more appropriate way for individuals to evidence their own achievements (rather than just their learning) and are also highly portable.

DISCOURSE: Social and collaborative learning

Individuals  should ask be encouraged to  ask for help and advice from their work colleagues As well as share their own knowledge and experiences with their team. Knowledge sharing is a key aspect of work today and something that managers will need to understand, value and support. Knowledge sharing takes advantage of an organisation’s most valuable asset – the collective expertise of its employees and partners

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 for L&D to work with managers and their teams to help them get more out of their enterprise collaboration platforms so that they use them to (20)  share effectively, work out loud and support one another.

This might be done in a number of ways from facilitating group learning sessions – which might be either synchronous or asynchronous to coordinating more informal learning sessions (like lunch & learns or book clubs), as well as supporting communities of practice.

DIDACTICS: Modern training practices

Where it comes to company training, clearly one of the key things for an individual to do is to prepare adequately for it so that they can get the most out of it, and then consciously try to put what they have learned into practice. But of course it is a key role of the manager to  support training transfer to ensure that there is full benefit from that training. However it is L&D’s responsibility to ensure that any necessary training they provide is done n the most appropriate and relevant way for the people concerned. We have seen how training is the least valued way of learning at work so it will be important to ensure that it is time well spent. This might mean

  • a shift from long courses to short resources that can be created quickly in simple formats,, and which can be used on demand for JIT learning or performance support
  • a shift from classroom training to virtual training – although simply converting classroom training into virtual training leads to many other problems, so it is important that these sessions are as short and as interactive as possible.
  • a shift from one off events to ongoing learning campaigns – which offer a series of resources and activities delivered over an extended period of time

DISCOVERY: Self-learning and self-development

But in order to move from a one-size fits all approach to training, then it’s time for individuals to take responsibility for their own self-development. In fact empowering individuals to make decisions about their own professional goals – aligned with business goals- and how they can address them themselves brings substantial benefits to both sides. This won’t just mean taking endless courses – but making good use of informal learning opportunities.  One way to do this is for individuals to build a daily self-learning habit so that they spend say 20-30 minutes do something for themselves. As we saw earlier reading is the most frequent learning activity and is therefore one of the easiest ways to learn on daily basis – as is watching videos and listening podcasts – and is the key to establishing a continuous learning culture.

Of course this means managers need to recognise the value and benefits of continuous self-learning and ideally provide some time for self-learning. In which case some managers prefer to adopt a more (7) formal process of self-development so that time spent on self-development is recorded and accounted for.

L&D might support this in a number of ways, e.g. by curating a range of learning opportunities of relevance to their people. This might be introducing a formal learning platform – but might also be find other Web-based content, or  by exposing individuals to the myriad opportunities open to them on the Web  that they might not otherwise have been aware of.  But one significant part of L&D’s role will be help them to build their modern learning skills so they get the most out of their use of their Web. New skills like effective searching, curation, dealing with information overload, as well as “joining the dots” between the many pieces of content they will discover to see patterns and learn from them.

It will also be important for managers to foster learnability. Learnability (or learning agility) is the capacity to keep learning and developing new skills and expertise, even if they are not obviously linked to one’s current job. Learnability (or learning agility) is one of the key skills of the employee economy. One of the ways for a manager to do this, is to ensure learning is centre-stage. So this might mean that, in every meeting or in one-on-one conversation, they make a point of asking: “What have you learned today?”

But it will also be important for managers to lead the way This will mean showing their people how they are continuously learning for themselves but, more importantly what they are achieving because of this. And the same goes for L&D too – they will need to be role models for this new way of learning – it’s not about do as I say but do as I do.


So here are the key roles are reponsibilities of Individuals, managers and L&D in the modern workplace. You can find out much more about them in the following sections of this MWL 2021 resource.


Last updated: August 20, 2021 at 12:35 pm