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.
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.
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|
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
- 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
- focus more on supporting the informal, social learning practices that take place in teams, projects and across the enterprise, and also
- 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)
|Ireland (1%)||33||50||13||4|| 17
|New Zealand (2%)||19||59||15||7|| 22
|Canada (7%)||24||43||18||15|| 33
|UK (19%)||23||42||23||13|| 36
|Germany (4%)||18||44||27||11|| 38
|Australia (10%)||17||45||23||15|| 38
|USA (29%)||25||37||23||15|| 38
|Finland (1%)||32||38||15||15|| 30
|France (1%)||23||46||19||12|| 32
|Netherlands (3%)||28||38||19||13|| 32
|Switzerland (2%)||22||34||33||11|| 44
|Belgium (2%)||9||43||29||20|| 49
|Spain (2%)||18||39||29||14|| 43
|Brazil (1%)||29||14||14||43|| 54
|South Africa (1%)||10||23||24||43|| 67
|China (1%)||14||29||14||43|| 57
|India (5%)||4||29||19||46|| 65