An Introduction to Modern Workplace Learning in 2018 (free e-book)

A new series of 3 e-books is now available to download. These e-books include some (updated) content from Jane Hart’s previous books as well as new material.

Part 1 is embedded below. You can download the PDF using the Download link beneath it.  Part 2 (Designing, Developing and Managing Modern Training Experiences) and Part 3 (Supporting Continuous Independent Learning) are available individually or collectively (as Modern Workplace Learning 2018).
Click here to find out more.

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Jane Hart’s favourite 30 posts of 2017

Jane Hart has chosen her favourite 30  posts and articles that have been featured in the MWL Newsletter this year. These are listed in chronological order below.


“Organizations have been trying for years to increase employee adoption of tools — and make work fun in the process — by incorporating gamification into the work environment. Gamification hasn’t increased employee engagement and motivation the way organizations hoped it would. This is especially true with information workers, where gamification efforts fell flat.”


The only thing holding companies back from learning at the speed of change is their organizational culture which, for many, is a barrier to learning. Most companies have a training culture, not a learning culture. This emphasis on formal training is a barrier to learning and change.”

[3]   …BUT SOME MANAGERS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS – Mark Britz, 23 February 2017

“Operations managers have learned through experience too that they can impact performance without L&D .. Sorry L&D, this won’t change with evermore new and flashy technology and approaches, more course offerings, mobile learning, microlearning, or games and gamification. These are mostly seen as add-ons in the corporate world, more push into the world of work but not of the world of work.The only way to shift course and have organizational learning be on par with other functions and departments is to become more a function of the work and become primarily department-less.”

[4]   L&D SHOULD SUPPORT PEOPLE LIKE A SPORTS TEAM – ALL DAY, EVERY DAY– Dennis Callahan, 24 February 2017

“If you’re in L&D and not a full-time facilitator or instructor,
 you probably spend most of your time with managers and SME’s, not individuals who need the skills you’re helping to build. As we shift to more focus more on individual learning, we will see more L&D people working with individuals and teams rather than SMEs and managers. L&D will continue to be connected with managers and senior leaders but will play a bigger role in the lives of employees.”

[5]  HOW TO MANAGE SELF-MOTIVATED,  INTELLIGENT WORKERS – David Tuffley, Conversation, 27 February 2017

“Knowledge workers dislike being micro-managed. They value independence and work best when given the tools they need, the authority to make decisions and the space to get on with the job.’`

[6]  THE CORPORATE IMPLICATIONS OF LONGER LIFE – MIT Sloan Management Review, 1 March 2017

“As working lives become longer, the need for lifelong learning will increase. As working lives become multistaged and the sequence of those stages becomes more customized, individuals will take an interest in skills with value that extends beyond the current employer and sector. This will weaken the one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development. Instead, there will be a growing need for more decentralized and flexible approaches to learning, curated more by individuals than by employers. Skills and knowledge that are portable and externally accredited will be particularly valuable. Longevity will force a shift in responsibility for lifelong learning toward the individual.”


“You won’t necessarily find these people where you think, and there’s a strong possibility many aren’t in your current emerging/future leaders program. Such programs often still operate with old identification and skills frameworks — what we previously assumed were good leadership skills, such as command-and-control decision making.”

[8]  SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING – Jane Bozarth, Learning Solutions Magazine, 7 March 2017

“Recognize that, for whatever reason, motivated adults can do fine at setting learning goals, choosing resources, and evaluating their outcomes. As ever, building in time and space for employees to occasionally pursue their own learning can serve as a great motivator and benefit.”


“We can’t and don’t transfer knowledge between people. We transfer information. A subtle but important distinction.”

[10]  THE UNCERTAIN FUTURE OF TRAINING  – Harold Jarche, 8 May 2017

“The future of training is a refocus on learning. Learning is not something we can do for others. But there will always be a need to help others become better learners. Modelling with our own practices is that way. Removing barriers to learning is another role for the now-defunct training department. Many organizations block access to resources. Some do not promote time and space for reflection. There is little accommodation to actually learn lessons from our collective actions. Increasing the speed of organizational learning should be the new focus. Promoting self-directed learning, supporting social learning, and removing barriers to learning should replace course development and delivery.”


“It’s funny that our recently surveyed learners told us to STOP forcing E-Learning on them when I just read someplace that E-Learning is on the rise as the solution of choice. The bastion of L&D and the E-Learning vendors are sold on e-learning as the answer it seems. Either our recently on-boarded performers (learners) that we surveyed at the Point-of-Work are whacked, or the folks who are supposed to be on the bleeding edge of developing effective learning solutions are smoking something.”


“If your training programs are as uninspiring, un-motivating and out-of-touch as a lot of companies, you’re driving away your best people because they aren’t getting adequate opportunities to develop.”

[13] THE MISSING HALF OF TRAINING  – Harold Jarche, 10 May 2017

“Training does not end for military personnel once they have finished their formal qualifications. Nor should it end for civilians, but it does — until the next course. As a result of this pervasive mindset, the scam of compliance training was developed. It is premised on the assumption that a formal course will change behaviour. As a result, workers are forced to take compliance training, so that in the event of a disaster, management can say that people were trained, and the organization has no further responsibility. The training industry is fully compliant in this charade.”


“Sadly L&D continues to rest on its laurels, its golden era behind it and yet only capable of doing what they know best with the tools they know best vs. what is needed most. The industry has taken a page right out of big pharma’s playbook; convince people there’s a widespread illness and provide the cure.”


“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.”


“If you want to excite someone about what you’re sharing, you need to switch the mentality from “teaching” to “learning.” It’s a minor word difference, but it has massive implications.  Talent development is about thinking bottom-up, instead of top-down  … If you come to them with an opportunity to expand their skill set while exploring their interests, instead of a requirement to attend a mandatory management training, you’ll have a much more engaged audience.”

[17] THE ENIGMA OF SOCIAL LEARNING  – Helen Blunden, Activate Learning Solutions, June 2017

“Learning and Development don’t really understand what social learning is and the business doesn’t care much about it … In my observations and experience, this is because corporate Learning and Development teams may be unaware of what social learning really is about and be under the mistaken belief that it’s another way to push content or their new systems onto their time-poor employees without understanding the motivations behind workplace collaboration and knowledge sharing;  and also not role modelling these behaviours themselves.”


“Companies today need learners. In the Agricultural Economy, a strong back was enough. In the Industrial Economy, a set of good hands was enough. But in the Knowledge Economy, companies need people who can develop their minds. The Knowledge Economy needs people who are self-directed learners, who know how to get the information and skills they need when and where they need them, who can think critically in terms of evaluating the accuracy and usefulness of this information, and who can learn from both successes and failures”


“For companies, investing in worker skills makes sense too – it promotes flexibility and creativity, problem-solving, teamwork and an increased sense of agency among staff, making them happier and more productive. These are, of course, exactly the traits needed as companies face of the challenges of the latest industrial revolution.”

[20]  L&D TUNEUP  – Clark Quinn, Learnlets, 8 August 2017

“And that’s the thing: L&D is too often still operating in the old, mechanical, model. We have the view of a hierarchical model where a few plan and prepare and train folks to execute. We stick with face-to-face training or maybe elearning, putting everything in the head, when science shows that we often function better from information in the world or even in other people’s heads!  And this old approach no longer works.”


“Although organizations spend more than $24 billion annually on leadership development, many leaders who have attended leadership programs struggle to implement what they’ve learned. It’s not because the programs are bad but because leadership is best learned from experience.”

[22] SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING CAN ONLY WORK IF …   – JD Dillon, Learning Solutions Magazine, 15 August 2017

“Employees will take it upon themselves to solve problems and develop their skills regardless of support they receive from L&D. We must accept this as the not-so-new normal and adjust our strategies accordingly. We must let go of our implausible ownership of the learning process and instead enable autonomous learning through clear expectations, consistent feedback, and accessible resources. People have always self-directed their learning. L&D just hasn’t always been there to help out.”

[23]  JUST GET STARTED  – Mike Taylor, 21 August 2017

“Anyone, anywhere can surface, spread, and sustain learning in the workplace. It doesn’t require any complex platforms nor any expensive tools. Look around at what you have and use that. Sure, there are lots of fancy options for micro-learning and curation you can buy. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – you don’t need them.”

[24] WHO OWNS THE “OTHER 95%”?   – Gary Wise, 25 August 2017

“If “no training” turns out to be the solution why should L&D spend valuable resources to discover they do not need to build a training solution? If that question surfaces, we are in deeper doo-dah than we realize. Consider this question – Would it be a problem if L&D never developed another course? If the answer is “YES!” then you’re not alone. That’s where we are. But is it where we should be?”


“Peter Drucker said: “Knowledge Workers are people who know more about what they are doing than their boss does.”

Barry Appelman: “Do not keep smart people on a tight leash”.

Simon Sinek: “When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders.”

[26]  21ST CENTURY TALENT SPOTTING  – Harvard Business Review, 6 November 2017

“Jobs are changing rapidly, and the question now is not whether people have the right skills; it’s whether they have the potential to learn new ones.”

[27]  CULTIVATING THE NEXT GENERATION OF TALENT  – Fast Company, 16 November 2017

“And while organizations can make training and other learning opportunities available, employees must focus on intangibles, too. “How can you be a continuous learner?” asks PwC’s Puthiyamadam. “Are you a true collaborator? Do you know how to use social capabilities to solve problems? If you don’t have that mindset, it doesn’t matter what training you take.”

[28]  WHY GROUPING YOUR WORKFORCE BY GENERATION IS A MISTAKE –  Julie Chakraverty, Forbes, 22 November 2017

“Employers who categorize employees by generation are potentially dismissing employees’ abilities or skills because of their age. Judging employees by generation needs to stop – the broad brushstroke approach doesn’t work in the workplace as employees expect (and deserve) to be treated as individuals, not as a group with assumed commonalities driven by their date of birth.”

[29] MASTERING THE LEARNING PYRAMID  – John Hagel, 28 November 2017

“We’re focusing on the wrong thing. Focusing on skills betrays a static view of the world. The assumption is that if we acquire certain skills, we will be protected from the onslaught of the robots and the rapidly changing world around us. It ignores the fact that the average half-life of a skill is now about five years and continuing to shrink.

It’s precisely that static view of the world that is our biggest barrier. We need to find ways to prepare ourselves for a world where learning is a lifetime endeavor. The question then becomes: what will help us to learn faster so that we can quickly acquire whatever skills are required in the moment?”


“Organisational Development is a function that is perfectly placed to meet the needs of the new emerging organisation. As a future focused profession, OD is best placed to design organisational agility, enable organisational capacity and capability and build purposeful culture.”

The 10 most popular articles in the MWL Magazine in 2017

The MWL Magazine has been online since 13 January 2017, and since that time 50 articles have been published. Here are the 10 most popular articles in terms of numbers of page views.

  1. A Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit for 2018
    Jane Hart, 7 November 2017
    Based on the Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning 2017, here is an infographic and description of the Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit 2018.
  2. The case for the new role of a Modern Learning Advisor
    Jane Hart, 25 July 2017
    The role of the Modern Learning Advisor is about building and supporting self-reliant and self-sufficient modern professionals who make the most of, and learn from all kinds of experiences and opportunities to self-improve and self-develop. It’s not about designing, delivering or managing learning for them.
  3. 5 Stages of Workplace Learning (Revisited in 2017)
    Jane Hart, 18 April 2017
    This article takes a look at how workplace learning has changed over the last 10+ years and its future direction.
  4. Why organisations need to empower employee-led learning
    Jane Hart,  13 January 2017
    Organisations are no longer like they were 50 years ago; people are constantly moving around in their careers, and this is set to continue.  Individuals mostly want to learn what they need for their job, as and when they need it – and L&D can’t possibly provide everything everyone needs. What is more, people learn in many different ways – not just through organized L&D activities – but every day, inside and outside the workplace.
  5. Company training/e-learning is the least valued way of learning at work: what does this mean for L&D?
    Jane Hart, 23 February 2017
    Although there are a few interesting generational differences, these are certainly not significant enough to stereotype generational preferences – but there is one thing we need to keep sight of in all this – and that is everyone is different.  But it is also clear from the results that informal, social as well as self-organized approaches are now the preferred means of learning for many, so this would suggest the need for L&D to adopt a new set of workplace learning practices.
  6. Four myths of Social Learning
    Helen Blunden, 26 January 2017
    In the last couple of years, Helen has spoken to many corporate Learning and Development practitioners about how they may support and enable opportunities for their workforce to learn collaboratively with each other in and during the flow of their everyday work. That is, “social learning’. During these conversations, she noticed that there were some myths about social learning that she would like to dispel.
  7. 10 Myths about Modern Workplace Learning
    Jane Hart,  5 September 2017
    Inspired by TeachThought’s  22 myths in modern academic learning, here are 10 misconceptions about Modern Workplace Learning (MWL).
  8. The role of L&D in 2018
    Jane Hart, 30 October 2017
    Jane is frequently asked for her thoughts on the role of L&D in the future. Here is her take on the important work required for the short-term future.
  9. Continuous, Curated Learning: The Business Case
    Stephen Walsh, 30 January 2017
    We need curated content to help us stay sharp and continuously learn. But who’s going to find and filter this content? Most people don’t have the time to do it for themselves every day.  The modern learning professional is ideally placed drive this change in the organisation. If you need to convince stakeholders (or yourself) that this is the right shift for L&D, here are 14 reasons.
  10. 5 Factors driving Modern Workplace Learning
    Jane Hart, 13 February 2017
    “If you were an employee on Henry Ford’s assembly line in Detroit in the 1920s, you received a high degree of training and preparation before you ever set foot in the factory. You learned what your role was, and were given all the tools you needed to accomplish your job from Day One. From then on, your role never changed—you did your part to move a product forward along the assembly line, from the day you began until the day you retired, 40 or 50 years later. Since those days, the business world has transformed .. but the workforce training process hasn’t kept up with the pace of change.” This quote from Karl Mehta summarizes the situation pretty accurately, so this means we need to adopt new practices to support learning in today’s workplace. This article looks at 5 factors that are impacting the workplace and driving a new approach to workplace learning.


From training delivery to continuous learning

Companies clearly have a responsibility to provide training and opportunities for their people,  and many L&D departments have already made efforts in modernising their training initiatives to make them more relevant for today’s workforce.  Others have gone further and are now providing a wider range of learning opportunities and resources for on demand use. But in an agile organisation – where things are changing very fast – continuous learning now becomes an imperative.

However, supporting continuous learning in an organisation requires a completely different mindset and approach, so the following table highlights some of the key differences as well as L&D’s role in it.

 rationale  “We need to make sure our people are competent and compliant.”  “We want to offer our people a range of flexible resources to use as they wish.” We want to help our people to self-improve and self-develop.”
 model  delivery  self-service  self-reliance
 L&D role  providing (intermittent) training  providing  resources to help with ad hoc learning and performance problems helping individuals get the most out of their daily work and take control of their careers
 developing content  building modern professional skills
 courses  resources

 tools/ platforms

learning platform
 portal  self-selected tools
and services

Although there will continue to be a need for L&D to provide modern training and on demand learning – there will be an increasing necessity to help individuals become much more self-reliant in terms of their own continuous self-improvement and self-development. Whereas some organizations might be concerned by this, in fact, by helping individuals prepare for their own futures means they are more likely to stay in an organisation. This is also what will make the difference in how future-ready organisations learn, grow and thrive.

How to enable and support continuous independent learning

Although for many people continuously learning from a multitude of sources both for, through and at work is a natural way of life for them, there are others who think that workplace learning is all about being trained. So, when it comes to continuous independent learning, the first step will involve preparing the ground and helping both managers and employees acquire a new mindset about what it means to learn continuously at work, and how the learning function can help them.

Futhermore, whilst it will be important to have central training records for compliance and regulatory purposes, it doesn’t mean trying to achieve the impossible task of tracking everyone’s learning. Rather, it means helping individuals to organise and manage their own learning and development – using their own personally-selected tools – and maintaining a record of their own achievements that they can take with them throughout their career.

This new approach requires a new learning professional role that I call a Modern Learning Advisor, whose work is to build and support self-reliant and self-sufficient modern professionals who can make the most of, and learn from all kinds of experiences and opportunities to self-improve and self-develop.

Want to find out more? Our next workshop  Enabling & Supporting Continuous Independent Learning (running 15 January – 2 March 2018) covers the following topics:

  1. Changing mindsets: Preparing individuals and managers for continuous independent learning
  2. Helping managers enable and support continuous independent learning
  3. Helping individuals learn from their daily work
  4. Helping individuals become modern professional learners
  5. Helping individuals manage their professional self-development
  6. Helping individuals share what they learn
  7. Putting in place a Learning Concierge/Help Desk service for ongoing support.


A Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit for 2018

Based on the Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning 2017 list, here is the Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit 2018.

These are the key tools it contains . Of course you won’t have to have them all – but perhaps at least one or two from each category.

Want to find out how Modern Professionals are using these tools?

Sign up for this resource: How to become a Modern Professional Learner


Here are some of those who have shared their own versions of the Modern Professional Learner’s Toolkit:

The role of L&D in 2018

I am frequently asked for my thoughts on the role of L&D in the future. Here is my take on the important work required for the short-term future.

The work of the Learning & Development Department (aka Training Department) has been evolving over the last 20 years, and has moved through a number of identifiable stages.

The original approach to workplace learning was to take people away from their day job and train them in a separate classroom – just like at school (Stage 1).  However,  with the birth of the Web in the early 1990’s we saw the emergence of web-based learning, and at the time of the dot com boom in 2000, the first use of the term e-learning appeared (Stage 2).  For many organisations this meant packaging up their classroom PowerPoint training materials into online courses, and managing it all in an LMS.  However, as it became apparent that individuals were unhappy about sitting at their desks ploughing their way through screen after screen of e-learning, many opted for a mix of training formats and media, resulting in a  blended learning approach (Stage 3). With the rise of social networks and the evolution of the Web into the Social Web, many have now introduced social media into their online courses, and adopted a formal social learning approach to their training (Stage 4).

However, others have recognised  that the real social learning in the workplace takes place as employees share their knowledge and experiences with one another as part of daily work, and this marks a significant tipping point in the understanding of workplace learning, that takes us into Stage 5 (modern workplace learning). This stage is identified not by a new set of tools to design, deliver and manage training,  but a change in the mindset about how learning happens at work and the new role of L&D in it.  This change has been influenced by a number of factors including changing learning habits and the changing world of work.

Changing learning habits

It is very clear from my own research around the Top Tools for Learning survey that many individuals have now become Modern Professional Learners.  They are not just using a much wider range of tools to learn, but they also learn in many different places: on the job, outside work, as well as in formal education and training, and in many different ways: through different types of content, events, people and experiences, as the chart below shows.What is more, it is also clear that many individuals find more value in their own continuous, self-organised learning activities (like daily work experiences, knowledge sharing with teams as well as through web resources) rather than in intermittent, organised training or e-learning initiatives.

The response to this fact is often that training and e-learning need to be improved. Of course, companies do have a responsibility to provide training and opportunities for organisational learning, and there is a lot that can be done to modernise learning initiatives, in order to offer relevant, flexible and appropriate learning experiences for today’s workforce – through the creation or curation of modern learning experiences (as highlighted on the image below).Changing world of work

It is for this reason that I offer the 7-week online workshop: Designing, Delivering and Managing Modern Learning Experiences for the Workplace which considers the following:

  1. Modern design (and assessment) processes
  2. Modern classroom experiences
  3. Modern content design
  4. Modern experiential learning
  5. Modern social learning
  6. Modern learning campaigns
  7. Modern learning management and learner support

You can sign up HERE.

However, focusing on the design and delivery of new learning experiences is no longer enough in the modern workplace. The world of work is changing fast.

  • The fast pace of change means that jobs are changing rapidly and new skills are required to execute them.
  • Information is exploding at a phenomenal rate, and knowledge now has a very short shelf-life.
  • Individuals are also living longer, so the traditional “job for life“ model has disappeared; people now have “a life of jobs”.

All this means L&D is no longer in a position to provide everything everyone needs to do their jobs and keep up with the changing workplace; they actually need individuals to take on (more) responsibility of learning for themselves.

But it’s not about directing people to be self-directed! It’s not about curating lots of resources and saying: “Here you are, get on with it!”

It’s about building a new organisational learning mindset that empowers, enables and supports modern professional learners. One where managers are responsible for the growth of their team members, and individuals are responsible for their own self-improvement and self-development.

To do this, L&D departments will need to offer a broader service that includes encouraging, enabling, guiding, facilitating and supporting all the ways people learn at, for and through work. Although some might question why companies should help individuals to prepare for their own futures, doing so actually not only means they are more likely to stay in the organisation, but is also a win-win since both organisation and individual benefit from the new knowledge, skills and experience gained.

In fact, some organisation now value “learning agility” or “learnability” – which is defined as the capacity to keep learning and developing new skills and expertise, even if they are not obviously linked to one’s current job – rather than just competency.

In a Harvard Business review article, It’s the company’s job to help people learn, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Mara Swan make the following three recommendations for managers to foster learnability in the workplace:

  • Recruit for it: Focus on recruiting employees who are curious and inquisitive and who are genuinely interested in acquiring new knowledge.
  • Nurture it:  Encourage the behavior by doing it yourselves.
  • Reward it. It is not enough to hire curious people and hope they display  learnability. You need to reward them for doing so.

Although for many people, being “curious and inquisitive and genuinely interested in acquiring new knowledge” is a natural part of who they are, there are others who think that workplace learning is all about being trained. So, the first step will involve L&D preparing the ground and helping both managers and employees acquire this new learning mindset. It will then mean enabling and supporting independent, continuous modern professional learning in a number of new ways:

This new approach is very different work from the traditional design/deliver/manage L&D roles, and necessitates a new role that I call a Modern Learning Advisor, whose work is to build and support self-reliant and self-sufficient modern professionals to make the most of, and learn from all kinds of experiences and opportunities to self-improve and self-develop.

For this reason, I offer the 7-week online workshop: Supporting Continuous Independent Learning in the Workplace which considers the following:

  1. Changing mindsets: Preparing individuals and managers for continuous independent learning
  2. Helping managers enable and support continuous independent learning
  3. Helping individuals learn from their daily work
  4. Helping individuals acquire (or hone) the skills of learning on the Web
  5. Helping individuals provide structure to their planned learning by managing their own professional development
  6. Helping individuals to share what they learn in their teams and across the organisation
  7. Putting in place a Learning Concierge/Help Desk service for ongoing support.

You can sign up HERE.

[Note; Individuals who take on the role of a Modern Learning Advisor will also need to be efficient modern professional learners themselves so they can role model the new behaviours and approaches. Hence the How to Become a Modern Professional Learner e-book is suitable for everyone.]

Those organizations already operating in Stage 5 (modern workplace learning) understand that although formal training will continue to be a necessary part of workplace learning, it is more important in today’s fast-moving workplace to support the continuous learning and performance improvement of teams and individuals. This is what will really make the difference to how the organisation as a whole learns, grows and thrives.

How to become a Modern Professional Learner

On 2 October 2017, I released the results of the 11th Annual Learning Tools survey in the form of the Top 200 Tools for Learning 2017 list. What has become very clear over the last 11 years is that many individuals are now using a wide selection of web-based resources, tools, and services to learn in new ways, and in doing so they have become highly independent continuous learners.

I call these individuals, Modern Professional Learners.

These Modern Professional Learners don’t just have a modern toolset for learning – i.e. they don’t just rely on educational or training tools, but they make use of a wide variety of everyday tools – they also have a new mindset about how and when learning happens for, at and through work, as well as a new learning skillset.

Modern Professionals learn for many different reasons – not just because they have to, to become competent and compliant in their organisation – but because they want to, for their own personal and professional reasons. Here are some of those reasons:

  • To acquire a new body of knowledge or a new skill
  • To solve a performance problem
  • To improve the work they currently do
  • To keep up to date with what’s happening in their industry or professional
  • To prepare for the future
  • For inspiration
  • To innovate (i.e. do or think differently)
  • For the joy of learning

For Modern Professional Learners, learning is not something that happens just in education or training, but happens in many different ways every day both at work and on the Web. Hence modern learning skills are not just about how to study or take a course online, but how to make the most of all the different experiences and opportunities they seek out and encounter.

For Modern Professional Learners, learning is not something that has to be organised for them, they mostly organise it for themselves, and recognise that it can also happen accidentally or serendipitously as a by-product of doing something else.

Modern Professional Learners understand that learning is ultimately their own responsibility, and appreciate that although their organisation will provide them with training, e-learning and other learning opportunities, it can’t possibly provide them with everything they need throughout their career. In other words, they realise it is up to them to take charge of their own self-improvement (for the now) and self-development (for the future).

So how do you become a Modern Professional Learner? This new resource will show you how.

Here you will find 100 Tasks based around  the 10 principles of Modern Professional Learning:

1 – Take responsibility for your own self-improvement, learning, and development: Tasks 1-4
2 – Spend some time reflecting on your daily work experiences: Tasks 5-7
3 – Address your own performance problems: Tasks 8-15
4 -Make the most of your manager: Tasks 16-18
5 – Learn from your team members: Tasks 19-26
6 – Build and maintain a diverse professional network: Tasks 27-50
7 – Make a point of learning something new every day: Tasks 51-69
8 – Keep up to date with what’s happening in your industry or profession: Tasks 70-85
9 – Manage your own professional development: Tasks 86-99
10 – Establish your own personal learning toolkit: Task 100

Each task should take you around 20-30 minutes to complete.  Of course, you don’t have to do them sequentially if you don’t want to, although there is a logical sequence to them, and later Tasks often refer back to previous ones.

When you have completed a Task, you can share your thoughts on it in the  Tasks section of the Support Forum. Your ideas and experiences will be useful to others, and you can learn from or be inspired by others, too. If you have any questions about the activities, then you can ask them in the Questions section of the Support Forum too.

Remember though, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to being a Modern Professional Learner, it will be up to you to find what works for you.

In the modern workplace there is no longer such a thing as a job for a life – only a life of jobs – so it’ll be up to everyone to continually update their knowledge, skills, and productivity, and become an independent modern professional learner. Are you ready for the new world of work? Are you ready to help the people in your organisation become Modern Professional Learners?

If you want to get hold of a personal copy of the e-book, then you can purchase it for £25 by clicking the Buy Now button below.


“I just purchased the book and it is an amazing resource! Even the experienced self-directed learner will find new tips and tricks and be able to help others.” Jeffrey Stolz

Disruption Debate: Be open with change

As part of Totara’s ongoing Disruption Debate series, Lars Hyland has been speaking to thought leaders and experts from the L&D world.  A few weeks ago he talked to me, and this is the summary of that conversation that appears on their website here.

“L&D departments today are trying to build everything and do everything for everyone, but the world is moving so fast that that’s become an impossible activity.

Throughout our Disruption Debates so far, the accelerating rate of change in the world has been a persistent theme. The thought leaders we’ve spoken to have consistently commented on the fact that L&D professionals must adapt to keep up, and that the role of L&D teams is changing rapidly. Jane believes that people in the industry must accept the fact that we can’t do everything, and that our roles should focus on equipping employees with the skills they need to become ‘modern professional learners’.

“Leadership must accept that they can’t provide everything, and they shouldn’t see this as a failing. Instead, we should focus on providing the core essentials and getting those right. As well as this, we are responsible for helping people become more self-reliant and self-sufficient. Learning new skills involves much more than just taking courses. There is a wide variety of ways in which people learn, and we must make the most of those opportunities and experiences. L&D should be redefined as an enabling and supporting service – not just designing, delivering and managing.”

The value of continuous learning

We talk a lot about lifelong learning, but in the workplace, continuous, independent learning is becoming increasingly important.”

Jane believes that L&D professionals need to break free from their traditional roles and relinquish some responsibility – instead of spoon-feeding employees, we should be helping people do things for themselves. This, Jane says, requires a key mindset change in the learning community, where typically the L&D department has seen itself as the sole provider of courses and training opportunities.

Lars agrees with this, adding: A lot of L&D departments are under the illusion that they’ve been controlling everything people are learning, but a lot of learning happens under the radar. By the time L&D do something, it’s already redundant. People want learning that is fundamentally easier to engage with, fuelling the trend around microlearning and smaller, sharper pieces of knowledge consumption.”

L&D professionals don’t have to be learning designers

In a similar vein, Jane continued with the idea that L&D professionals don’t actually have to be learning designers. “A lot of learning doesn’t have to be designed at all, or technology enabled. Learning means many different things, not just acquiring knowledge and skills in an instructional way – sometimes we’re not even aware of it, and very often it’s not planned.

So how should L&D be thinking about their roles instead? “We’re there to help people make the most of their workday experiences. People don’t want to be spoon-fed or have us breathing down their necks.”

Jane says that a key problem many L&D professionals encounter is getting swept up by the latest trends and forgetting about designing learning. A lot of vendors talk about technologies like VR, but if it’s not needed in the specific context of your organisation’s learning environment, it can have a negative effect as people get annoyed and frustrated with the unnecessary technology. To combat this, Jane said we should be thinking primarily about what fits in with learners’ working lives, not just using the latest technologies for the sake of it with an ‘L&D knows best’ approach.

Cutting through the noise

“The trouble is, we have so many technologies and tools now that we’re overwhelmed, and not thinking back to the real problem. Let’s forget about the technology – let’s think about solving problems,” said Jane. “Sometimes it’s not even a learning solution.. Don’t just design something because you think it will be fun or because you’ve been told it’s the next big thing. If technology is used right it can be fantastic, but if not it can cause more problems than you started with.”

Lars pointed out that part of our desire to use technology to solve every problem is related to individual’s use of personal technology. Everyone uses so much technology and so many devices in their personal lives that we can lose sight of the fact that not everything requires a technology-driven solution. “Through our personal use of technology, we’ve trained our attention spans to want things immediately, with a simple interface and short, frequent bursts of engagement. E-learning has gone through so many iterations and technology has evolved in so many ways, and today’s learners want learning that is personalised, contextualised and fits around them – it doesn’t necessarily matter how they get access to it.”

Again, this is about L&D not just thinking of themselves as being procurers of technologies or people who design courses – this is about getting L&D professionals thinking more about the underlying learning requirement. As Jane points out, people have lost confidence in training, and think of it as something to endure rather than something to enjoy. It’s up to us to change attitudes and get people excited about learning, and that often means taking a step back from the technology and taking the time to understand the real underlying challenges.

The two types of L&D professional

Jane said that there are two types of L&D professional:

  1. Those who want to change things – they are continuously engaging in informal learning themselves, immersing themselves in what other people are talking about, looking for sounding boards, taking risks and opting for a more intuitive approach.
  2. Those who want to catch up – they prefer to play it safe, wait for other people to try things and copy what works and take a more traditional approach to their own learning, choosing to attend conferences and read industry magazines for ideas.

“Of course, some people fall in between these two categories,” said Jane, “but broadly these are the two main types of L&D professional I see. Often it’s those who come into L&D from outside the industry who are more likely to want to push ahead and think outside the box – they won’t have the same legacy thinking as people who have been doing it for years. And partly, it depends on how much support someone has in the organisation, and whether or not they’re in a position to take initiative with new ideas – who is backing them? Do they have the budget? Do they have buy-in from the right people?”

“L&D teams tend to be in a difficult place – we need to make sure people think of it as more of a strategic role rather than just taking orders from managers. Sometimes I don’t see a lot of desperation to change in L&D – often people want to keep doing things in the same way and don’t consider updating their own skills.”

Lars believes that this is a symptom of tactical, rather than strategic thinking in L&D. “Learning professionals are often so busy reacting to things – a big change programme, a product launch, a new management team – that they don’t have the luxury of time to proactively reflect on the deeper challenges. Sometimes it takes a braver, more maverick character to take risks and prove that things can be done differently, and that’s an attitude that needs to be brought to a wider constituency for broader levelling-up of L&D.”

A new attitude

So what can we do to break the cycle and focus on building our own skills? Jane has already seen attitudes changing.

“In the last few years, people have started to become more open, and are getting braver about making changes. Even if it’s just attending an online workshop, it shows that people are chipping away at gaining new skills in their own small ways. At the moment, there’s more talk than action, but what’s important is that there is some action – it’s just happening in invisible pockets and people are trying new things surreptitiously in case they don’t work.”

Is the answer, then, being more vocal about what we’re trying, even if it’s not working? Jane believes that people often stay quiet about trying new things in case they fail and can’t secure budget for the next thing they want to try – but failure should never be feared, as it’s this that helps us get closer to what actually works.

“The L&D community should be open to everything,” said Jane, “Don’t have a closed mind and think things need to be done how they’ve always been done. There will always be a bit of trial and error involved in L&D. Try a pilot to see if something works – you can’t fail, because the pilot shows if it does or doesn’t work on a small scale. We need a more adaptable, agile mindset. If you’ve got that, then everything else will fall into place.”

What did you think of my take on the debate? You can get involved on social media using #DisruptionDebate.

10 Myths about Modern Workplace Learning

Inspired by TeachThought’s  22 myths in modern academic learning, here are 10 misconceptions about Modern Workplace Learning (MWL).  More to come in another post.

  1. MWL simply means modernising training.
    No. It is much more than modern training. It means a modern approach to learning at work – recognising and valuing all the ways that people learn at, through and for work – not just in training, but as they do their daily jobs as well as on the Web. MWL means a new organisational learning mindset.
  2. MWL is all about using new trends and technologies to design and deliver modern learning experiences, e.g.
  • moving training from the classroom to e-learning – so everything is online
  • using social learning – making people discuss things with one another in courses
  • using mobile learning – turning e-courses into mobile courses
  • using micro learning – chunking courses up into small pieces
  • using virtual reality, augmented reality or mixed reality

No. Whilst all these trends and technologies have their place, it is not just about using the latest technology in training, but rather helping to find the right solution for a problem. This might be some sort of training, but there might well be another more appropriate non-training solution.

  1. MWL is all about the learner.
    No. People don’t go to work to (e-)learn; they go to work. So, they are primarily employees or workers (rather than learners), but ultimately individuals with different needs and interests. The term “learner” conjures up images of sitting in a classroom or at the desktop ploughing through an e-learning course! In the workplace, it is better to think in terms of the “modern professional” or “modern employee” rather than the “modern learner”.
  2. MWL means providing personalised learning for every individual.
    No. It’s about helping individuals to develop their own personal learning strategies that suit them and their needs.
  3. MWL is all about learning.
    No. MWL is a much wider concept. It’s about (new and improved) performance, individual and team growth, and professional career development.
  4. MWL is all about ensuring individuals can do today’s jobs.
    No. It is also about preparing for the future. It is not just about providing modern courses or resources for individuals to do their current work, but building and supporting a new skillset for the modern workplace.
  5. MWL means using gamification to improve engagement (and learning) at work.
    No. Gamification doesn’t necessarily result in engagement nor learning. People only learn when they are motivated and have a purpose to do so – and the greatest motivation and purpose is to keep themselves marketable and employable.
  6. L&D is responsible for MWL.
    No. Everyone is responsible for what they learn. L&D might take responsibility for designing and delivering modern learning experiences (where required), but managers are responsible for the growth of their team members, and individuals are responsible for their own self-improvement and self-development.
  7. MWL means tracking everything everyone learns in a central learning platform.
    No. Whilst it will be important to have central records for compliance and regulatory purposes, it doesn’t mean trying to achieve the impossible task of tracking everyone’s learning. Rather, it means helping individuals to manage their own learning and development – using their own personally-selected tools – and maintain a record of their own achievements that they can take with them throughout their career.
  8. MWL means there is no role for L&D in the future workplace.
    No. But the profession now needs to adapt to the new world of workplace learning – one where it is no longer solely about L&D directing and managing training. Instead L&D needs to provide a broader service that includes encouraging, enabling, guiding, facilitating and supporting all the ways people learn at, for and through – as and when it is needed.

A comparison of organised and self-organised learning in the workplace

What is the difference between L&D organised and managed learning AND self-organised and self-managed learning? In the graphic below I have plotted some of the activities of both approaches to learning in the workplace.

Although most interest still focuses on the top half of the graphic – ie providing services and tools for L&D to organise (ie design and deliver) as well as manage learning in the workplace, there is growing interest in supporting self-organised learning at work.  So, what does this mean for L&D?  Well, it is much more that just providing a library of self-service courses and resources, and managing usage in a LMS! It means a new mindset, new activities and new skills – for both L&D and the entire organisation.

For L&D it’s all about enabling and supporting a continuous independent approach to self-improvement and self-development. So, if you would like to find out more about what this means, come and join the next online workshop where we will be looking at:

  1. Changing mindsets: Preparing individuals and managers for continuous independent learning
  2. Helping managers enable and support continuous independent learning
  3. Helping individuals learn from their daily work
  4. Helping individuals acquire (or hone) the skills for learning on the Web
  5. Helping individuals provide structure to their planned learning by managing their own professional self-development