5 Stages of Workplace Learning (Revisited in 2017)

In this article I take a look at how workplace learning has changed over the last 10+ years and its future direction.

In May 2010 I posted a diagram I had created that showed what I considered to be the 5 stages of Workplace Learning. My late Internet Time Alliance (ITA) colleague, Jay Cross, later re-worked it so it looked like this.

5 Stages of Workplace Learning (2010)

In May 2010 I wrote that most organisations appeared to be in Stage 3 (Blended Learning) but that some were beginning to drift into Stage 4 (Social Learning). In December 2011 I wrote that it was now apparent that more organisations had moved into Stage 4 (Social Learning), and by March 2015 I believed that this stage had become mainstream – although it was clear that for many this was  simply about adding social functionality to the traditional (top-down) model of learning.

I also remarked back then that Stage 4 was likely to be an interim phase as the top-down model of workplace learning was becoming unsustainable, as it is no longer about taking on the impossible task of providing employees with everything they need to do their work, but rather helping to develop an individual that can survive in the new world of work.

This is what Stage 5 is all about, and I have now updated my diagram  to identify this Stage as Modern Workplace Learning – the key features of which are that

  • learning happens in many ways at, through and for work
  • the best person to manage their own self-improvement is the individual concerned
  • using their own personally selected tools

Stage 5 therefore means a move from a focus on knowledge transfer to a focus on empowering, enabling and supporting modern professional learners in many new ways  – something which it seems is of interest to a growing number of people, if my recent straw poll is anything to go by.

So how do you move into Stage 5? It doesn’t require new tools or technologies, but a new mindset – and a brand new approach for supporting modern professional learners .  So in my next article I’m going to start a 3 part series introducing my Blueprint for Supporting Modern Professional Learning. In the first part I provide a more detailed rationale for this new approach. In the second I outline the main activities involved for L&D, and in the third part I look at how a L&D team might move themselves forward as well as take their organisation forward.

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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 Learning in the Modern Workplace 2017 and How to become a Modern Professional Learner. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.