Who’s responsible for Modern Workplace Learning? We all are!

Workplace Learning has traditionally been seen as the sole responsibility of Training/L&D departments, but in the modern workplace we are all responsible. Here I look at the roles of the individual/employee, the manager and the L&D department.


In the modern workplace every employee needs to take responsibility for their own self-improvement; there is no longer such as a job for life so everyone will constantly need to think about not just improving in their current job, but preparing for a future job.  This means

  • Getting the most out of (and learning from) their daily work experiences
  • Organising and managing their own self-development
  • Learning something new every day
  • Keeping up to date with their industry or profession
  • Building a professional network
  • Choosing and using a mentor


Every manager need to take responsibility for nurturing their team members, so that they can learn for themselves and with one another. This means

  • Encouraging and supporting a continuous learning mindset in their people so they don’t rely on being spoonfed training
  • Being a coach more than a boss in order to develop people
  • Building a social team and leading informal social learning and social collaboration
  • Facilitating collaborative problem solving

L&D Teams

L&D’s role in the modern workplace now becomes one of supporting managers and individuals in the modern workplace, rather than focusing on design and delivery of training. This means

  • Supporting managers
    • as they promote a continuous learning mindset in their people and encourage learnability and self-reliance
    • as they develop their people
    • as they build and lead social teams so that effective sharing of knowledge and experiences takes place
    • as they help their teams to find their own solutions to their performance problems – and supporting the development of any learning solutions or performance support resources (producing only what is required and needed in the format that is desired)
  • Supporting employees
    • to acquire a modern professional learning mindset and the necessary skills in order to become self-reliant, self-directed and self-managed continuous learners in the workplace
    • to connect with one another across the organisation in order to share and learn from one another, and find their own mentors

New role and skills for L&D

So how can L&D teams prepare themselves for modern workplace learning?

Currently most of the products and services directed at L&D are focused on helping them organise and manage training/e-learning initiatives – through technology, content development and outsourced training. That is, after all, what the whole L&D industry has been set up to do.

But to survive and thrive in the modern workplace, L&D teams will need to re-skill themselves to take on the new work of supporting managers and modern employees. So for every learning professional and team this involves 3 key steps.

  1. Building your own modern professional skills.  You can’t help others until you have the skills yourself.  To help you we have designed a series of 30 day learning challenges to help you kick-start modern learning habits that will last a lifetime. These challenges can be offered directly to your people too.
  2. Becoming a social team. This means sharing experiences with one another in your L&D team so that you work closely together, grow together and solve your problems together – and in doing so become role models for the new social behaviours in your organisation. You might start this process by working together on the 30 day learning challenges, and this might be a way for you to encourage other teams to start working (and learning) together too.
  3. Designing the new services that your team will offer to the business – This means considering a range of new services so that you can support all the ways people are learning at, through and for work – not just by designing and delivering training. Our online workshop, Supporting Learning in the Modern Workplace can help you think this through.

In the modern workplace, everyone is responsible for learning and development, but this doesn’t mean the role of L&D will diminish but rather it will become even more important than before, and has the potential to become a driving force for change. But it does mean leaving behind old mindsets, old tools and old behaviours. That is the biggest challenge.

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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 A Professional's Guide to Modern Learning. Jane was the 2018 recipient of the ATD Distinguished Contribution to Talent Development award. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.