Company training/e-learning is the least valued way of learning at work: what does this mean for L&D?

 

 

I have been running the Learning in the Workplace survey for 5 years now, and after over 5,000 responses from 63 countries worldwide the results are clear: Company training is the least valued way of learning in the workplace. In this article I want to look at what the survey tells us and what the results mean for L&D departments.

About the survey

The survey asks respondents to rate the following 10 ways of learning in the workplace  – as “Not important (NI)”, “Quite important (QI)”, “Very Important (VI)” or “Essential (Es)”.

  • Company training/e-learning
  • Self-directed study of external courses
  • Internal company documents
  • Job aids
  • Knowledge sharing within your team
  • General conversation and meetings with people
  • Personal and professional networks and communities
  • External blogs and news feeds
  • Content curated from external sources
  • Web search for resources (e.g. using Google)

The survey results

The latest  results of the survey are as follows. They are ranked by their combined Very Important + Essential percentages. The pink shaded areas  highlight where the most responses have been received.

ways of learning NI QI VI Es VI+Es
1 Knowledge sharing within team 2 10 30 58 88
2 Web search 3 17 32 48 80
3 General conversations 2 19 40 39 79
4 Networks & communities 3 23 39 35 74
5 Blog & news feeds 12 31 35 22 57
6 Curated content 9 35 36 20 56
7 Self-directed study 13 35 35 17 52
8 Company docs 13 38 31 18 49
9 Job aids 18 37 30 15 45
10 Company training/e-learning 21 39 23 17 40

Right at the bottom of the ranking lies company training/e-learning with only 40% of respondent believing it to be very important or essential. But is this the case for everyone?

Analysis by age

It is often said that formal training appeals more to older workers than it does to younger ones. However, the data suggests that younger workers actually value training and e-learning more than older workers.

Age group NI QI VI Es VI+Es
under 30 13 35 31 20 51
31-40 20 40 23 16 39
41-50 21 39 23 17 40
overall 21 39 23 17 40
51-60 22 40 21 17 38
over 60 31 36 24 9 33

The most valued way of learning at work is Knowledge sharing within your team, so which age group(s) does this appeal to? Interestingly, once again it is the youngest workers who value this most, whilst older workers value it least.

Age group NI QI VI Es VI+Es
under 30 0 5 31 65 96
31-40 1 9 27 62 89
overall 2 10 30 58 88
41-50 1 10 31 57 88
51-60 2 12 31 55 86
over 60 5 13 29 54 83

So if we compare the profile of the youngest and the oldest workers –  i.e. how they ranked the 10 ways of learning relative to the overall profile (shown in brackets in the table below) –  this is what we find.

Under 30s Over 60s
  1. Knowledge sharing 96 (1)
  2. Conversations 91 (3)
  3. Web search 77 (2)
  4. Blog feeds 69 (5)
  5. Prof networks 66 (4)
  6. Company docs 52 (8)
  7. Company training 51 (10)
  8. Self-directed 50 (7)
  9. Curated content 48 (6)
  10. Job aids 43 (9)
  1. Web search 86 (2)
  2. Knowledge sharing 83 (1)
  3. Prof networks 80 (4)
  4. Conversations 79 (3)
  5. Curated content 69 (6)
  6. Blog feeds 64 (5)
  7. Company docs 50 (8)
  8. Self-directed 47 (7)
  9. Job aids 39 (9)
  10. Company training 33 (10)

What this means for L&D

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-organised 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 that

  1. focus less on the creation of top-down content (courses and resources) using a  “one-size fits all” approach, and instead offer flexible, on demand content and collaborative activities that allow individuals to have a personal(ised) learning experience
  2. focus more on supporting the informal, social learning practices that take place in teams, projects and across the enterprise, and also
  3. focus more on supporting self-organised workers and the development of their own personal learning strategies.

Analysis by country

Finally, what about different countries – are they all culturally ready for new approaches to workplace learning?

The table below shows how participants value training based on the country they live in. Whereas it can be seen that there are a number of countries where training is more highly valued than the overall profile (and some in particular do still have a strong training culture), there are others where it is less valued. It is in these countries that we are seeing a  shift in how workers are learning differently for and at work, so it is in these countries that employees are likely to be ready for modern workplace learning practices.

Country (% of voters)
NI
QI VI
Es V+Es Rank
Ireland (1%)  33 50 13 4  17
 10
New Zealand (2%)  19 59 15 7  22
 10
Canada (7%)  24 43 18 15  33
 10
UK (19%)  23 42 23 13  36
 10
Germany (4%)  18 44 27 11  38
 10
Australia (10%)  17 45 23 15  38
 10
USA (29%)  25 37 23 15  38
 10
overall  21 39 23 17  40
 10
Finland (1%)  32 38 15 15  30
 9
France (1%)  23 46 19 12  32
 9
Netherlands (3%)  28 38 19 13  32
 9
Switzerland (2%)  22 34 33 11  44
 9
Belgium (2%)  9 43 29 20  49
 9
Spain (2%) 18 39 29 14  43
 8
Brazil (1%) 29 14 14 43  54
 8
South Africa (1%) 10 23 24 43  67
 7
China (1%) 14 29 14 43  57
 6
India (5%) 4 29 19 46  65
 4
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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.

6 Replies to “Company training/e-learning is the least valued way of learning at work: what does this mean for L&D?”

  1. Very interesting, Jane. I found your narrative analysis, as always, thoughtful and thought-provoking. Somehow we need to tap into the social learning skills and habits of the new hires and empower these highly motivated new fires to reverse-mentor the learning and develop process.

  2. Great information, Jane! I’m happy to see knowledge sharing amongst teams at the top of the list. I think teams, and the managers who guide them are the key to corporate learning.

  3. Jane thank you these results. One of my roles keeps me connected to a large organization which continues to focus on – on the job training model – for years and years – it’s ingrained in the minds of the management. Snapping their minds into a new framework could make a huge difference. How to do that??!!
    In my other role I have opportunities to share the wisdom and insights of others – your postings are included – always so timely, digestible, and stirring.

  4. The rise in e-Learning’s popularity isn’t showing any signs of slowing. In fact, judging by the following Top 10 eLearning statistics for 2014 article and infographic, the future of the e-Learning Industry is brighter than ever.

    1. For sure there is a lot of stuff being delivered and thrown at people, but is it actually valued by the end-users?

  5. Agreed, throwing stuff at people means they will naturally resist and definitely not value it – and quite right too! There must be something in it for them, which will guide them to grow, learn and enjoy the experience.

    ‘Doing it digitally’ is different from boring, traditional eLearning – it’s already happening, some organisations and their people just don’t know yet.

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