Stop referring to your people as “learners”

At school and college where education is the core business, we refer to individuals as “students” or “learners” because they go to school to learn. In the workplace however, work is the core business, and people go to work to work, so we refer to them as “employees”, “workers” or “staff”.

Hence whenever we refer to employees as “learners”, this suggests that learning is a separate, educational-like activity. And yet we know learning is an integral part of work – and happens all the time – sometimes with direction, guidance and/or support from managers and L&D – as required depending on the type of intervention.

It’s just become too easy to talk about “learners” since we have always done it, but perhaps it’s time to stop doing it.

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.”

So why do we continue to use the word “learner”, asks Andrew Jacob.

“Is it to demonstrate our expertise?”

So what should we call them?

In the context of a specific training activity, it may be acceptable to call people “trainees” (or even “learners”), but the use of the word “learner” to refer to people generally in the organisation is not appropriate. First, it simply reinforces the message that “learning=schooling” and that L&D’s role is to school people, but, more importantly, as the role of L&D in the modern workplace expands from purely training to helping and supporting people to do their current jobs as well as improve and develop in many different ways, it is much more appropriate to refer to them as “colleagues”, “employees”, “workers” or simply “people” – just like everyone else does! This is actually the one small – but key – action that can start to make a difference and demonstrate your commitment to providing an enabling and supporting L&D service

Last updated: February 25, 2020 at 13:15 pm