A Blueprint for supporting Modern Professional Learning: Part 2 Overview

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on supporting Modern Professional Learners. In Part 1 I looked at why a new model (or blueprint) is necessary, in Part 2 I look at what it means in practice for L&D professionals.

Overview of the Blueprint

At the heart of this model is a self-reliant, modern employee who addresses their own learning and performance problems, organizes and manages their own professional goals, continuously learns and keeps up to date, builds their own (personally-selected) learning toolkit and maintains their own digital portfolio.

The manager’s role is to enable and support his/her people (individually and collectively) as well as manage performance improvements, whilst L&D’s role becomes one of supporting employees, managers and their teams by guiding and supporting them in new ways.

in this article I am going to take a look BRIEFLY at 6 ways L&D can support employees and 6 ways L&D can support managers.

Supporting employees

  1. Prepare employees for modern professional learning: Many employees are already modern professional learners, but others will need help and support to understand what this means. In particular they will need to recognise the WIIFM (Whats In It For Me) for taking responsibility for their own learning in, at and through work – and that this is not just a cheap way of organisations training people! It will also involve helping employees to build their own personal learning toolkit, as well as maintaining their own digital portfolio, which they will own and manage personally (not in a central (learning) system) so that it is portable and they can take it with them to a new job.
  2. Create performance support resources: As individuals take responsibility for solving their own problems at work, there may be opportunities to provide more support resources. However, these need to be what employees actually need and in the format  they want, not what L&D thinks they need – otherwise they will remain as unused as old-style courses!
  3. Support self-organised and self-managed learning: L&D can have a role in helping (some) individuals set their own professional goals in line with organisational goals, help them identify the most appropriate resources (not just courses) to address them, as well as how to record their progress, and evidence (new) performance in their digital portfolio.
  4. Curate knowledge flows for continuous learning: As individuals recognise the importance of learning continuously – on a daily basis – there will be opportunities to curate useful content for them, i.e. to find the gems in the mass of information created every week. But once again this needs to be what THEY  want – not what L&D thinks they should have!
  5. Support knowledge sharing within teams:  As individuals are encouraged to share what they learn with one another in their teams, L&D can help to support the practice of healthy knowledge sharing  – ie not just sharing for sharing’s sake, but how to add value and avoid over-sharing.
  6. Coordinate networking events: L&D can also enable the practice of wider, knowledge sharing through company networking events – which might promote the dissemination of work projects, ideas and successes in a variety of corporate networking events, which will also service to foster connections across the organisation.

Supporting managers

Managers will have a new role supporting the continuous learning and development of their people – and no longer simply passing off requests for training to L&D. L&D’s role will therefore need to become one of trusted adviser working with managers and their team in the following ways.

  1. Help managers build a continuous learning culture: Managers are the key to this new model of learning, so L&D can help them to recruit for “learnability” (the desire to constantly learn new things) not just competence, as well as to nurture and reward learnability in their existing staff.  If they are serious about continuous learning, they will also want to provide “protected learning time” for their staff to enable them to self-improve as part of their daily work.
  2. Help managers develop their people: For managers, this doesn’t mean training their people themselves, but taking a more active part in supporting their ongoing learning development.  It means being more of a coach than a boss.  L&D can help to support this transition.
  3. Help managers encourage daily reflection:  Part of daily learning involves reflecting on daily work experiences.  By keeping a work journal employees can record and reflect on key moments, and share their significant experiences with their team. This is a new habit that L&D can help employees acquire.
  4. Help  managers with social leadership: Leading a social team might be a new experience for some managers, particularly in the age of social technologies. will mean helping them to build trust, honesty and transparency in their team. L&D can have a role in supporting this activity too.
  5. Facilitate collaborative problem-solving workshops: Rather than imposing a “learning solution” upon a team to address a manager-identified problem, L&D can use a performance consulting approach to help the team find their own solution to the problem.  This may or may not require some L&D-designed intervention, but if it does, it will be important to ensure that it is provided in the format the team wants (not what the L&D team think the team should have!!
  6. Design and deliver modern learning experiences where required: This brings us back to the traditional role of L&D (designing, delivering and managing interventions), but by using this model, fewer interventions will need to be created, and the ones that are provided should be what is REALLY needed and wanted, and in a format that best fits the team – and hence be appreciated and therefore adopted – and consequently lead to performance improvement (which is the metric by which success needs to be measured).

In Part 3 I take a look at the 5 steps you can take to help  your organisation move towards a Modern Professional Learning Support Model.

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Jane Hart

Jane Hart is the Director of the Centre for Modern Workplace Learning, which she set up to help organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops, private company sessions and/or 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. You can contact Jane at editor@ModernWorkplaceLearning.com.