Modern Workplace Learning is a collaboration between L&D, managers and individuals

There are a number of reasons why the traditional workplace training model is no longer relevant. Put simply the workplace is no longer the place it was 100 years ago when training was the norm.

(1) The fast pace of change in the world of work means that jobs are changing fast. For example, the effect of AI and robotics in the workplace means that many jobs, if they are not completely replaced by robots, will be very different.

(2) Information is exploding at a phenomenal rate. Knowledge and skills now have a short shelf-life. It is frequently said that an individual’s knowledge and skills will be out of date within 5 years, and a college degree will be out of date before the loan is paid off.

(3) Individuals are living longer, so the traditional “job for life“ model has disappeared.  In fact, a MITSloan Management report, entitled The corporate implications of longer life, suggests that the flexible nature of the modern workforce will likely see a 15-year-old today navigating a portfolio of 17 jobs in 5 different industries. It also shows how the traditional 3-stage model of education-work-retirement will no longer apply.

“As working lives become multi-staged and the sequence of those stages becomes more customized, individuals will take an interest in skills with value that extends beyond the current employer and sector.”

The report then goes on to say

“This will weaken the one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development. Instead, there will be a growing need for more decentralized and flexible approaches to learning, curated more by individuals than by employers.“

The report recognises this will cause the following tensions:

  • people want personalization; corporations want conformity
  • people want flexibility; corporations want standardization

The authors conclude

“We expect the pressure building from these tensions to grow in the years ahead. Without changes in corporate policies, employees will struggle to build working lives that have resilience over an extended period of time and that support healthy and prosperous longevity. In response, companies need to initiate a top-to-bottom redesign of their human resource practices and processes.”

Some organizations do already recognise that to deal with a fast-changing world they now need to value “learning agility” or “learnability” – that is the capacity to keep learning and developing new skills and expertise, even if they are not obviously linked to one’s current job.

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: (1) select for it, (2) nurture it, and (3) reward it.

In How leaders face the future of work, Lynda Gratton explains that leaders needs to actively champion the learning agenda, by making their involvement in learning initiatives a priority, and by role-modeling adult learning through their own development activities.

Modern Workplace Learning is therefore not just about delivering modern training; it recognises that individuals learn all the time as an integral part of daily work – whether they realise it or not –  and that constant independent planned learning is of importance too.

Although many modern professionals recognise they are constantly learning from a multitude of sources as a natural way of life, there are others who think that workplace learning is all about being trained. So, when it comes to learning in the modern workplace, the first step will involve helping both managers and employees acquire a new mindset about what this means in practice – and how the learning function can help them.

In other words, Modern Workplace Learning is a collaboration between L&D, managers and the individuals themselves.

Update: You can find out more at Modern Workplace Learning 2019.

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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 2020 as well as the resource for individuals How to become a modern Learner. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at

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