Social Media as an “Other” in Social Learning

The first time Siri told me that she was not just my best friend but my BFF (best friend for life) I found myself bemused. Firstly, by Siri’s emphatic confident response, then by the notion of Siri as my highly esteemed confidant until a chance encounter with an intern forced me to reimagine what social media as a credible “other” could mean for social learning within organisations.

Most definitions of social learning within organisations are centred around how people within organisations learn from and with each other or one another. I have always assumed this to include information and knowledge sharing tools within the organisation.

So when my colleague, an intern asked me a question relating to my area of expertise then opted to search on google for an answer instead, my thoughts on who or what “other” meant changed.

Changing “each other” to “others” when exploring social learning at a strategic level within organisations allows organisations to include how people learn from other sources.

At present research shows that Google, YouTube and LinkedIn are the most significant “others” in learning within organisations. Bersin’s Research Bulletin, Meet the Modern Learner published in Nov 2014 also showed that 70% of modern learners turn to search engines for answers to on the job questions.

Does this make them a credible alternative to asking a colleague? Yes, and no depending on what is being learnt and the accessibility to an alternative source when the knowledge is required. Google, YouTube and LinkedIn provide information at the point of need. And The truth is most of us will sooner go to Google, YouTube or LinkedIn before we ask a friend or colleague because they offer a much easier ‘ask’. They are familiar, accessible, easy to use and requires little or no psychological risk to credibility or self-esteem to.  There is also the diversity of their multiple sources and content to either support or present an alternative view.

So what does this mean for learning within organisations? In social psychology context and the presence of an “other” are considered strong determinants of behaviour and outcomes. Search engines and social media are a significant “other” in learning within any organisation. Organisations now need to reimagine the content of search engines and social media sites as a significant and credible source of learning and knowledge within the organisation. And extend the scope of their social learning strategy to accommodate them.

One of the key areas that Google, YouTube and LinkedIn will continue to have a significant impact on social learning within organisations and practice is in the area of “just in time learning” and authenticating practice. This has its benefits but it is not without risk: information and learning from social media may fall outside agreed policy and practices within the organisation. This risk is arguably always present in varying degrees each time people within organisations apply learning from social media to their practice.

Encouraging the use of social media as a credible “other” encourages employees to see what they learn on social media as an acceptable part of their development journey. Things as simple as watching a YouTube video becomes an authenticated learning experience that will positively impact on the organisation’s learning culture.

Social media as an “other” way the organisation does learning can also ensure that the knowledge economy is set within a global context and validated as the wider context in which the organisation works and learns.

So where do organisations start? Looking at how individuals within the organisation use social media and as well as its part in existing processes, procedures and knowledge sharing tools is important. Weighing up its benefits and risk specific to the organisation and agreeing a position on governance all make a good starting point for a truly transformative social learning strategy.

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?

Get a copy of How to become a Modern Professional Learner.

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

The next workshop runs 6 November – 22 December 2017.  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.

The next workshop runs 15 January – 2 March 2018.  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 e-book will show you how.

In this e-book 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 as well as training, e.g, 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

What does the 6th annual Learning in the Workplace Survey say about the state – as well as the future – of L&D?

This year in the 6th Annual Learning in the Workplace survey, I asked respondents to rate the importance (value/usefulness) – of the following 12 ways of learning for, at or through work.

  • Classroom training
  • e-Learning (e.g. online courses for self-study)
  • Internal resources (documents, guides etc.,)
  • Knowledge sharing within your team
  • Daily work experiences (i.e. doing the day job)
  • Manager feedback and guidance
  • Coach or mentor feedback and guidance
  • Professional networks and communities
  • Conferences and professional events
  • Blogs and news feeds
  • Web resources (e.g. videos, podcasts, articles)
  • Web search (e.g. Google).

The results from over 5,000* people worldwide make for interesting reading. In the table below they are ranked by their combined  VI+Ess   scores.  The  red  figures  are where the most responses were received in each category.
(NI = Not important, QI=Quite Important, VI=Very Important, Ess=Essential)

Rank Results of the 6th Learning in the Workplace survey
(as at Tuesday 8 August 2017)
 1 Daily work experiences (ie doing the day job)  1  6 26  67 93
 2 Knowledge sharing within your team  1  9 30  60 90
 3 Web search (eg Google) 5 16 27 52 79
 4 Web resources (eg videos, podcasts, articles) 4 20 37 39 76
5 Manager feedback and guidance 7 19 39 35 74
 6 Professional networks and communities 4 24 41 31 72
7 Coach or mentor feedback and guidance 7 28 43 22 65
8 Internal resources (eg documents, guides, etc) 8 32 35 25 60
9 Blogs and news feeds 10 34 33 23 56
10 E-Learning (eg online courses for self-study) 20 39 25 16 41
 11 Conferences and other professional events 17 48 32 3 35
 12 Classroom training 28 41 19 12 31

The most interesting thing to note about these results is that the 4 most valued ways of learning – Daily work experiences, Knowledge sharing with teamsWeb search and the use of Web resources are all self-organised and self-managed “non-designed” forms of learning, whilst “designed” and “organised” forms of learning like Classroom training and E-Learning – both of which L&D traditionally has focused on – are the least valued ways of learning in the workplace.

All this seems to point to the fact that there needs to be some changes to the work that L&D does in order to offer a service that is more valued in the business.

Whilst some L&D teams are putting in great efforts to modernise their “designed” learning efforts – in order to make them more relevant for today’s people – this will not be enough. There is now enormous potential to support the other ways of learning in the organisation.

But that doesn’t mean putting in place some new enterprise learning platform and trying to capture and manage all the “learning” thats happening outside formal learning initiatives – an impossible task anyway. It doesn’t mean DOING more things TO people.

  1. It means enabling and supporting individuals to DO more FOR THEMSELVES – by helping them to
    • get more out of their daily work
    • to organise and manage their own continuous learning (i.e. self-improvement and self-development) both inside and outside the organisation – rather than simply spoon-feeding them stuff. This which will include helping them to
      • grow their professional networks
      • keep up to date with their industry or profession
      • learn something new every day
  2. It also means working with managers to help them take a more active part in the growth of their people.

But all that requires a brand new L&D mindset, new L&D role(s), and new L&D skills, as I showed in The Case for the new Role of a Modern Learning Advisor.

Those L&D departments that offer new services that are of real value to the business are more likely not just to survive but to thrive in the modern workplace,

What do you think these results mean for the future of L&D? Comments are open below.

Meanwhile, if you want to find out more about helping your L&D department modernise their activities, take a look at our online workshops.

*Breakdown of demographics

  • Countries: From 63 countries around the world, including USA 25%, UK 25%, Australia 9%, Canada 7%, New Zealand 6%, Germany 5%, Netherlands 3%
  • Industries: Education 25%,Financial Services 10%, Government 9%, Healthcare 6%, Technology 6%
  • Organisation size: 250+ people 66%,
  • Function: HR/L&D 59%, IT 5%, Marketing 4%
  • Job type: Non-managerial 39%, Senior manager 22%,  Middle manager 18%, Line manager 10%, Other 10%
    • Age: 41-50 36%, 51-60 25%, 31-40 24%, <30 6%,  >60 6%
  • Sex: Female 62%, Male 38%

Here’s more about the work of a Modern Learning Advisor

In my previous article, I put the case for the new role of a Modern Learning Advisor and showed that in the modern workplace, L&D has two roles:

  1. To design, deliver and manage modern learning experiences for today’s busy people; and
  2. To enable and support individuals to organise and manage their own self-improvement & self-development, as a natural part of their daily work as well as in planned activities on and off the Web.

I also explained that the latter requires a new breed of L&D professional –  a Modern Learning Advisor.  In this article I want to talk more about what the work entails.

The work of the Modern Learning Advisor falls into 3 stages, although  in some organizations (depending on their readiness) he/she will not necessarily need to go through all stages.

Stage 1: Get ready

Prepare the organization (managers and individuals) for a modern approach to workplace learning; one that isn’t just about designing, delivering and managing learning solutions or learning experiences for people to do, and make sure they do them, but enabling and individuals to organize and manage their own self-improvement and self-development.

Explain the rationale for this approach (for both the organization and employees), the principles of modern professional learning, and the new practices involved (for both individuals and their managers).

The aim would be to identify interested managers and individuals (as likely there will still be people who will not be convinced by this approach, and expect all their learning at work to be delivered to them.

Stage 2: Get set

This stage involves two aspects

  • Helping managers to understand how they can operationalize it in their team, what it means to them, and how the MLA can help and support them
  • Helping individuals acquire or hone modern professional learning skills so that they can get the most out of (and learn from) their daily job as well as from the Web, and to organize and manage their own self-development in a more structured way (particularly if their manager is supporting them)

It means understanding new activities, developing new skills, and selecting own tools and services.

Stage 3: Go!

Some people in the organisation may well already be in this stage, for others they will have needed help at stage 2.  But here the Modern Learning Advisor takes on an advisorial and support role:

  • Providing bespoke advice and support – to managers or employees, as and when required – in the form of a Learning Concierge or Help Desk service
  • Promoting sharing of learning and new performance in work teams as well as coordinating events to showcase new talent across the organisation

The role of the Modern Learning Advisor (MLA)

The MLA will be a Specialist, Expert and Master of Modern Professional Learning – demonstrating modern attitudes and practices.

The MLA will be a Guide and Helper to individuals – empowering and supporting them to self-improve and self-development in many different ways.

The MWL will be a Partner and Consultant to managers – helping them to understand, and how to adopt a continuous learning mindset and support self-reliant employees and build a social team.

Want to find out more?

If you would like to find out more about the work of the Modern Learning Advisor,  the upcoming online workshop: Supporting Independent Continuous Learning will look at Stages 1 and 2 of the work over 5 weeks as follows.

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

Find out more about the Workshop and sign up HERE.

The case for the new role of a Modern Learning Advisor

“The biggest innovation in workplace learning will not come from new technology but from supporting people to learn continuously
and to manage their own learning.”
Jane Hart, 2017

In a number of previous articles in the MWL Magazine, I have explained how modern professionals now recognise that they learn in many different ways at, through and for work.

The standard approach of a L&D department is to design and deliver learning interventions to and manage employee learning CENTRALLY in some sort of learning platform,  e.g. a LMS to manage courses, or more recently in a Learning Experience platform to manage use of other types of content and interactions.

Standard roles for this L&D work include course designers, developers, trainers, and LMS administrators. However, whilst the work of these standard roles is currently being modernised: e.g. Instructional Designers have become i LX designers, and trainers have become facilitators, fundamentally their work is the same as it has always been – designing, delivering and managing learning.

But this standard approach  is no longer enough in the modern workplace, there is now need for a more modern approach of enabling and supporting learning, where individuals manage their own self-improvement and self-development.  This new approach requires a new role: a Modern Learning Advisor.

What is the rationale for this modern approach and new role? Here are 6 good reasons:

  1. L&D can’t create everything everyone needs to do their jobs. As it is, individuals are already doing things for themselves and by-passing L&D, so it is time to make a virtue of this fact, and encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own continuous self-improvement and self-development.
  2. It is no longer appropriate for L&D’s focus to be just about developing content, making sure that employees learn from it and tracking their every move, but rather it needs to be about helping them develop modern learning skills so that every employee can become self-reliant and self-sufficient, and make the most of, and learn from all kinds of experiences and opportunities.
  3. One size doesn’t fit all, even if it using the latest technology trend (whether it be video or VR)!  It’s more about helping individuals identify what they need to self-improve and/or self-development and how they might do this in the most appropriate format or way for them.
  4. L&D can’t possibly manage everything everyone learns centrally. As it is,  a lot of what people learn (naturally) happens without them even realising it, and in most cases, they don’t want to record things on an enterprise platform.  So what they need is to  to reflect on, record and manage their own learning and achievements themselves – using their (self-selected) tools so that they own their own learning – and in such a way that they can demonstrate their achievements to current or future employers.
  5. But in fact, taking a greater interest in employees as individuals – with individual needs and preferences – and helping them to prepare for their own futures, they are more likely to stay in the organisation than seek employment elsewhere.
  6. Furthermore, by taking on this new role, a L&D department moves from being a “course order-taking” unit, to providing a more relevant service for the modern workplace.

But it is not  either/or approach.  It’s NOT either the traditional approach or the modern approach. There is room for both approaches, particularly there will still be a need for the design and management of essential (e.g. compliance, and regulatory) training. However,  introducing the new work of a Modern Learning Advisor, will mean that there are many more opportunities to help individuals learn in the modern workplace.

Are you interested on taking on the role of a Modern Learning Advisor? If so, it requires a new mindset, new skills and new work from the standard L&D roles.

New mindset

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.

New skills

The Modern Learning Advisor will need to be someone who can “walk the talk” and demonstrate what it means to be a modern professional learner (MPL).  He/she will

  • have established a habit of continuous learning,  and learn something new every day
  • make the most of (and learn from) everyday work experiences – through problem-solving, interactions with their own manager, and their own team
  • manage their own self-development
  • have grown their own professional network
  • continuously keep up to date with their industry or profession in many different ways

Want some help? Our 30 Day Learning Challenges are a good way to hone your skills in these areas.

New  work

The work of the Modern Learning Advisor will be to:

  • change mindsets, and prepare both individuals and managers for modern professional learning
  • help managers enable and support modern professional learning
  • help individuals acquire (or hone) modern skills for learning on the Web
  • help individuals make the most of, and learn from their daily work
  • help individuals manage their own professional development

Want some help with this? Our upcoming workshop, Supporting Continuous Independent Learning Workshop looks at these aspects of the work of the MLA.

Next article:  Here’s more about the work of the Modern Learning Advisor