What does Modern Workplace Learning mean in practice?

The following graphic illustrates what MWL means for the modern worker, the modern manager and the modern L&D team.  Each of these elements is explained briefly below and a link provided to the relevant section in the MWL 2020 where you can find more information:

Modern Worker

Every worker will need to become self reliant and self-sufficient, and get the most out of their daily work so they see each day as a learning experience. They will also need to take advantage of all the opportunities to grow and develop open to them both inside and outside their organization. In 3 – The modern worker we look more closely at the new role of the individual in the workplace.

Everyone will need to become a lifelong learner and think about developing a daily (or very regular) learning habit. This won’t mean taking a course every day but doing something for themselves everyday in some way or other to grow or develop in the way that suits them best. So, why not encourage your people to start investing a small amount of time each day in themselves. In 4 – Encourage a daily learning self-learning habit we look at how much time an individual might spend on some daily learning and what they might do, and how learning something new every day will build into a huge body of knowledge and skills over time.

Modern Manager

Managers are the key to success in building a successful continuous learning culture. So what can they do to support each individual in their team?

The first way is to foster learning agility – or learnability – that is the desire to be constantly learning, and the second way, if they truly recognise the importance of continuous learning will be to provide their people with time for self-learning. But to really inspire their team they will need to be role models and lead the way and show how they are constant learners themselves. In fact modern managers need to take a very different approach to managing their people in the modern workplace. A new type of leadership behaviour is required to engage and motivate employees (as shown in 2 – The modern manager).

Furthermore, if they really want to help people learn from their daily work, they will need to encourage reflective practices at work – both individual and collective (see 6 – Encourage reflective practices). Of course collective reflection is part of the bigger piece of supporting social learning and collaboration at work. This may happen through face-to-face interaction or through effective use of modern collaboration technologies (see 7 – Support social learning and collaboration).

Modern managers will also need to do more to develop their own people by identifying opportunities on the job for improvement and development – rather than simply pass this off to the L&D team (see 8 – Help managers with on the job development).

Modern L&D

So what then is the role of the L&D in all this?

The first thing is, of course, to support the managers in their new work. One of the best ways of doing this, is to sit down with each manager and understand their personal needs and collectively decide how you can best help them. It also means helping them solve performance problems in the best ways possible (see 12 – Facilitate problem solving and innovation) rather than just simply providing training on request.

It also means supporting the individual in new ways. In particular building the modern learning skills so they can develop an effective daily learning habit (see 4 – Encourage a daily learning self-learning habit).

However, not all organisations are ready to just give their people time for self-learning without understanding how that time is being used, so some might prefer to adopt a more formal process of continuous self-development (as described in 5 – Adopt a formal process of continuous self-development).  The role of L&D will then be more of a learning concierge or learning advisor rather than a learning manager.

But, of course, there are more traditional, content ways you can support continuous learning. This might include offering access to an online course platform (although that won’t be enough in itself), or perhaps providing a drip feed of daily micro-training – to help feed a daily learning habit, or even coordinating a calendar of useful and relevant internal and external events.  All these activities are described in 9 – Offer opportunities for continuous learning

It will also require a new approach to content development, that is, creating resources in flexible formats, for on demand use, for JIT learning or performance support – rather than monolithic, single purpose courses. And furthermore if you want these resources to be used they will need to be easily accessible (on the intranet) and not locked away in your LMS! (See 10 – Provide flexible resources for on demand use for more on this topic). Of course there will still be a need to deliver training – although this needs to be in a modern format suitable for today’s workforce (se 11 – Design modern approaches to classroom training).

In summary, providing content is just one way to support continuous learning, but it is not the only way. It will be much more important to establish a new culture of continuous learning and adopt new way of working with managers and individuals. But this won’t happen overnight; it will take time.  So there will be a number of steps to go through – which will give every one time to adjust to their new work and roles. That is the topic for the next page of this resource.


What are the 3 steps to building modern continuous learning culture?