Employee Centred Learning & Development: A Model for the Modern Workplace

I have written extensively about how my 11 year longitudinal study into learning tools shows that more and more individuals are doing a lot to learn for themselves – by Googling what they need, by watching YouTube to get quick answers to their performance problems, by building a professional network of people from whom they can learn on an ongoing basis, as well as signing up for Web courses or MOOCs if they want to learn something more formally.

And this is very important, because nowadays everyone needs to be an independent lifelong learner – it’s no longer enough to rely on being educated or trained to do a job to last a whole career. Everyone needs to take it upon themselves to self-improve and self-develop in the new and evolving world of work where jobs are changing all the time – and where there is no such thing as a job for life.

Furthermore, organizations need workers to be self-sufficient lifelong learners too – that is people who are constantly discovering new things – new ideas, new thinking, new resources – and bring what they learn into the organisation, so that others can benefit from them too. In fact, this is the only way to build a true “learning culture“ or “learning organisation” – otherwise you simply have a training culture.

Although many L&D departments are making great efforts to modernize their training activities – i.e .by creating shorter, more visual, more social, more flexible, and more accessible resources – in order to offer similar experiences that people chose to have on the Web – this is not enough. In this fast changing world of work, L&D are finding it increasingly difficult just to cater for everyone’s current needs, let alone prepare them for the future.

And as the power of the individual grows, modern employees want more flexibility and autonomy in how they work and learn. We are now in the Age of the Individual.

Whilst many L&D professionals do recognise this, they just don’t know how to enable and support continuous independent learning, and more often than not try to force-fit it it into the traditional training model – by trying to capture and manage everything in some sort of central enterprise learning management system or “learning platform”. Whereas an enterprise platform might be relevant to keep track of (mandatory) corporate training, it is just not appropriate to use it to try to manage an individual’s professional learning.

In other words, the traditional, top down, one-size-fits-all, command-and-control approach to workplace learning – which organizations have been using for more than 100 years – is just not up to the new world of work. What it requires is a new workplace learning model.

The Employee-Centred Learning & Development (ECLD) Model – turns everything on its head. Here an employee’s professional learning and development lies at the very centre of the model. It is something they organise in a privately owned learning space and evidence in a privately owned digital portfolio. It is the role of their manager to enable the growth and development of all the members of his/her whole team, and the role of L&D to work with both managers and individuals to support all this – as summarised on the diagram below.


When the focus is on helping individuals become fully successful, they feel valued and this in turn leads to higher levels of engagement and performance, which leads to achievement of organisational goals. As a consequence, everyone wins – employees, managers as well as other stakeholders.

So how can you adopt and implement the principles and practices of ECLD? Or, if your organisation is not yet ready, how can you prepare your managers and employees for this modern approach to workplace learning? Take a look at the workshops we offer at the Centre for Modern Workplace Learning.

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Jane Hart

Jane Hart helps organisations and learning professionals modernise their approaches to workplace learning - through public workshops and bespoke consultancy. She is the Editor of the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine, and is the author of a number of books including Modern Workplace Learning 2018 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a Modern Professional Learner. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.