5 reasons to think differently about learning management in the modern workplace

This is an extract from my recent book, Modern Workplace Learning 2018

Whilst there might good reason to have some sort of LMS to track and manage your compliance and other mandatory training, here are some reasons to think differently about learning management.

(1) Many platforms can enable organizational learning

Learning doesn’t just take place in a learning management system. Individuals learn from everything they do as well as from the many other tools and platforms they interact with. So why not make use of a wider range of platforms to provide resources and learning opportunities for people to self-select. This will help to enable learning more widely in the organisation.

Furthermore, by storing resources in a LMS, you continue to reinforce the belief that learning is a separate activity from work, whereas, if you make more use of the platforms that underpin work, this will help your people realise that learning is an integral part of work.

So, why not host resources and curated opportunities on your intranet (or portal) – where people can quickly and easily find them without having to log in to another system, and use them in the way they want? If you employ lite-tracking methods (like numbers of hits) you can then easily identify popular resources, for as we have seen completion statistics are no longer required.

And when it comes to social learning (in all its forms), why not use your own Enterprise Social Network (or other social platform) to host social experiences – so that social learning is also seen an integral part of everyday work.

(2) Tracking everything everyone learns is an impossible activity

There is a tendency nowadays for L&D to want to track everything everyone learns – not just in training but by asking individuals to record everything they read and do themselves.

Whilst this might be a useful way of showing that individuals can comply with regulatory training requirements in different ways, it is a practical impossibility to track all learning that takes place in an organization.

In fact, what is recorded is only learning activity – which is not the same as learning. What is more, a lot of learning activity is not recorded; e.g. the learning that happens sub-consciously, as well as the learning that an individual forgets to record or even prefers not to record.

All this means is that an incomplete record of an individual’s learning activity is held.  And, if then, any analysis is done on this incomplete data, incorrect assumptions can easily be made about what people are learning and how they are performing.  Charles Jennings has this to say.

“The point is that activity data provides few if any insights into the effectiveness of learning and provides only limited insight into the efficiency of learning activities.”

(3) Tracking all learning is a fruitless activity

In an age when there is a focus on Big Data and being more analytical, L&D needs to remember, there is no such thing as Big Data in HR.

“As with most of “the next big thing” stories in business, big data is really important in some areas, and not so important in others. As a literal definition, HR does not actually have big data, or more precisely, almost never does. Most companies have thousands of employees, not millions, and the observations on those employees are still for the most part annual. In a company of this size, there is almost no reason for HR to use the special software and tools associated with big data.”

Furthermore, since, most learning nowadays takes place outside of internally organized (formal) learning interventions, both naturally whilst people do their jobs and interact with their colleagues, and more and more on the Web (in both planned and unplanned ways) do we need to monitor or track what everyone is doing or learning?

David Vance believes it is a fruitless activity.

“Much more thought is going to have to be given to what measures are really important for this new digital learning. Do we really need to know how many courses employees take outside the LMS? Do we really need to know how satisfied they were with each course or how much they learned? I don’t think so.”

(4) There needs to be a focus on performance management

Whilst it might be easy to measure learning activity, is it still relevant in the modern workplace?

It might be the case if that is how a regulator deems someone to be compliant (e.g. they have completed x hours of training), but in business terms it is irrelevant.

What needs to be measured is the impact that learning has had on an individual’s job or team performance. Whilst learning can be an indicator of new or improved performance, the only real indication of learning is evidence of new or changed performance.

That’s why it is important to have defined performance objectives, a valid performance assessment as well as realistic ways of evidencing achievement of those objectives (as shown in Chapter 2.8)

Managers, therefore, need to have a much closer connection with the growth and development of their people – not just in training but on a continuous basis.

But it also makes sense for people to take more responsibility for their own learning and development too.

(5) There needs to be a focus on personal learning management

A key aspect of Modern Workplace Learning is that individuals organize and manage their own continuous self-improvement and self-development – and this is an important part of nurturing learnability in the workplace.

Individuals might then be encouraged to record, reflect upon, and evidence their own learning and development in some sort of Digital Portfolio – which could be used for internal promotion or even to gain new employment in another company.

Whereas a number of individuals are using already apps like Evernote or OneNote to do this, PebblePad is a personal learning system that enables an individual to have a personal learning space.

Here they can record, reflect on and make sense of their learning experiences from formally-organized events, from daily work as well as from other resources. It also provides them with a portable Digital Portfolio which they can continue to use to build on their professional development as they move from job to job.

In conclusion, in the modern workplace we need to take a very different view of how and who manages learning and performance.

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Jane Hart

Jane Hart helps organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops and bespoke consultancy. She is the Editor of the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, and is the author of a number of books including Modern Workplace Learning 2018 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a Modern Professional Learner. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.