Modern Workplace Learning: the future of workplace learning

Although we can see that current workplaces are evolving away from providing traditional classroom training, there is still a big mismatch between how individuals learn for themselves and what they value, and the ways that organisations focus on and value.

Modern Workplace Learning (MWL) is therefore an approach that aims to bridge that gap.

The first thing to say is that MWL does require a new ORGANISATIONAL learning mindset. Here are 5 features of that new mindset.

ONE: MWL recognises that people learn in many different ways not just through being trained. In consequence, a much broader understanding of the term “learning” is required.  (See A word about the Learning word and The difference between formal and informal learning for more detail on this.)

In other words, workplace learning is not just about ensuring competence, compliance and conformance in today’s jobs but enabling and supporting individuals to learn in different ways for many different reasons – e.g. to solve performance problems, equip themselves with the knowledge and skills for the future, to keep up to date, or for inspiration.

TWO: Whilst some training will be required in the workplace, this does need to be done in more appealing ways for modern employees, however, it is far more important to ensure that if training is provided, it is the most appropriate solution to a problem, and then, and only then, ensure it is offered to the individuals concerned in a format that is relevant and meaningful for them. It will also need to be performance-focused and its success measured in terms of defined performance outcomes.

THREE: More importantly, MWL focuses on building a continuous learning environment.

  • This doesn’t mean individuals continuously taking courses – although studying can be part of an individual’s personal and professional continuous learning strategy.
  • It doesn’t mean continuously training people – although training may well be part of of an organisation’s continuous L&D strategy – but recognising that learning happens every day in some form or other – planned and unplanned, conscious and unconscious – both inside and outside work. Organisations now need to offer a range of continuous learning opportunities, but this involves much more than just implementing an online course library, as Shelley Osborne explains.

“It’s time for L&D and HR professionals to promote the value of continuous learning and move their teams away from the static programs that helped to breed the bad reputation of corporate training.”

So a continuous learning environment is a workplace where everyone is constantly acquiring new knowledge and skills in many different ways –  both planned and unplanned, formal and informal, at work and outside work

FOUR: Learning is an integral part of working; it is not a separate activity from work but one that happens in the workflow and as a result of work. With this in mind it is therefore best not to refer to your people as “learners: but rather as “workers”, “employees” or “colleagues”, For more on the rationale for this, see page Stop referring to your people as “learners”

For managers, it means valuing non-training ways of learning, adopting modern learning practices themselves, and encouraging the sharing of knowledge and experiences in their teams. In other words, managers need to invest more time and effort in growing and developing their own people.

FIVE: MWL is everyone’s responsibility: 

  • Individuals 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 – hence developing the skills for modern learning will be key. Having personal and relevant learning experiences will be important, rather than one-size-fits all, sheep dip approach to learning
  • Managers 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
  • L&D teams need to stop trying to “command and control” workplace learning. 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 supporting building, enabling and supporting this new organisational learning culture and mindset.

Changing the learning mindset will not mean imposing some top-down change management program, rather it will mean L&D doing things differently and doing different things. The new work of L&D is described on the next page.


⇒  MWL: New work for L&D


Last updated: October 3, 2019 at 12:42 pm