Beyond Training – The Importance of Workwide Learning

There is a lot of talk about lifelong learning – but most of it focuses on lifelong education – that is continuously taking courses throughout your life. For instance, the recent Economist article, Lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative, explained how “Technological change demands stronger and more continuous connections between education and employment”.

This article makes an important point, but lifelong education is only part of the answer. Rather than talk about lifelong learning, what it is actually more appropriate is to talk about lifewide learning.

The education concept of lifewide learning is described at LifeWideEducation as follows …

The important characteristic of lifewide learning is that it embraces a comprehensive understanding and practice of learning, development, knowledge and knowing and achievement.  Lifewide learning includes all types of learning and personal development – learning and development in formal educational environments which is directed or self managed, and learning and development in informal (non-educational) situations. It includes learning and development that is driven by our interests and its intrinsic value, as well as our needs, and learning which just emerges during the course of our daily activity

Lifewide education embraces and recognises these forms of learning, development and achievement. It holds the promise for a more complete and holistic form of education in which people combine and integrate their learning (both formal and informal), their personal or professional development and their achievements.”

If we apply the concept of lifewide learning to the workplace, we might talk about workwide learning. So to paraphrase the second paragraph above:

Workwide learning embraces a comprehensive understanding and practice of learning, development, knowledge and knowing and achievement.  Workwide learning includes all types of learning and personal development – learning and development in formal training which is directed or self managed, and learning and development in informal (non-training) situations. It includes learning and development that is driven by our interests and its intrinsic value, as well as our needs, and learning which just emerges during the course of our daily activity.

A Workwide Learning approach that offers “a more complete and holistic form” of workplace learning is therefore more appropriate for today’s fast moving workplace, since it encourages individuals to learn for, at and through work – not just in training.

But are your people ready? Lifewide Education explains that ..

“To be a competent lifewide learner requires not only the ability to recognise and take advantage of opportunities and the will and capability to get involved, it also requires self-awareness derived from consciously thinking about and extracting meaning and significance from the experiences that populate our lives.”

When adopting a Workwide Learning approach, L&D’s role will therefore be more about enabling and supporting employees to become competent workwide learners  – rather than just designing and delivering courses and resources FOR them. This means both supporting manager-led learning and empowering employee-led learning.

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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 as well as private company sessions. 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.