Why organisations need to empower employee-led learning

Organisations are no longer like they were 50 years ago; people are constantly moving around in their careers, and this is set to continue. So whereas training was originally done to people at a time when it was about training people to do a job for life, it is increasingly clear that conventional training practices and approaches are now outdated. Individuals mostly want to learn what they need for their job, as and when they need it – and L&D can’t possibly provide everything everyone needs. What is more people learn in many different ways – not just through organised L&D activities – but everyday, inside and outside the workplace.

Modern Professional Learning is how we learn in the new world of work; it is more than being taught or trained and includes many different elements as shown in the diagram below.

It happens both inside and outside an organisation:

  • Inside an organisation it happens through both L&D- and Manager-organised initiatives
  • Outside an organisation it happens thorough self-organised initiatives

It is more than taking formal training or courses, and involves:

  • finding things out
  • solving learning and performance problems
  • keeping up to date with what happens in ones industry or profession
  • interacting with both content and people
  • doing ones daily work

It is both planned and unplanned (accidental and serendipitous), conscious and sub-conscious

In the modern workplace L&D now has a tripartite role – not just organising things for people to learn from (e.g. courses and resources), it means supporting all the other ways people learn for and at work. This means supporting manager-led learning and empowering employee-led learning.

By empowering employee-led learning, organisations will gain substantial benefits, e.g.

  • as individuals bring their knowledge and networks to work so others in the organisation can more easily learn from shared experiences and resources
  • as individuals have easier access to a wider range of resources (content and people) they will be able to solve organisational performance problems more quickly
  • as individuals take responsibility for their own professional learning and career development, so the organisation will be able to benefit from their new knowledge and skills

Furthermore, as as individual’s learning is managed by the individual him or herself, trying to track everything everyone learns in a corporate LMS becomes an increasingly irrelevant task. It therefore makes more sense to focus on enabling individuals to improve themselves in the ways that suit them best – and supporting them as they do this.

The organisational success metrics for empowering employee-led learning will then be determined by job, team and business performance improvements.

(This is an extract from Learning in the Modern Workplace 2017)

See also An employee’s Personal Learning Space lies at the heart of MWL – not a LMS

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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 Learning in the Modern Workplace 2017 and How to become a Modern Professional Learner. You can contact Jane at Jane.Hart@C4LPT.co.uk.

2 Replies to “Why organisations need to empower employee-led learning”

  1. Thank you Jane.

    Your comment “Furthermore, as as individual’s learning is managed by the individual him or herself, trying to track everything everyone learns in a corporate LMS becomes an increasingly irrelevant task”.

    Interesting that at previous professional services organisations I have worked at, there were attempts to try and use the LMS to record employee-led/organised activities. This was mostly driven by a laudable objective to give individuals a place to record their personal informal learning as well as their formal L&D-led activities for CPD purposes. But as you imply, this is difficult to encourage consistently, let alone enforce. Rather let the individual take the responsibility for recording informal learning as part of the wider responsibility for owning their learning.


  2. Thanks Phil, I’ll be talking more about the technology to support self-organised learning in my next article. And it won’t be by using the LMS!!!

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