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Why put learners in charge of their training?

Organisations are increasingly choosing to move away from top-down development frameworks and empower employees by using a more learner-centred approach to workplace learning and development

LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report reveals that more than 58 per cent of employees want to learn at their own pace depending on their personal requirements, needs and interests.

Almost half of generation Y say they would consider leaving a job that doesn’t offer them learning

“Workplace fulfilment and personal development are becoming just as important as salaries and bonuses,” says Hannah Elderfield, senior behavioural analyst at Canvas8. “In fact, almost half of generation Y say they would consider leaving a job that doesn’t offer them learning opportunities.”

Employee training and development

But generation Y are not the only age group in the workplace, and organisational learning and development (L&D) programmes have to cover a wide age range and evolve in response to feedback as well as to management decisions.

“It’s a slow change,” Richard Coombes, leader of human resources transformation at Deloitte, concedes. “In our Voice of the Workforce report, 50 per cent of employees who thought they needed to reskill saw it as the responsibility of their employer. Only 18 per cent thought it was their individual responsibility.

“With longer life expectancies, frequent job changes, an accelerating rate of skills obsolescence, new business models and changes in technology, this has to change. The balance of responsibility has to be shared between employee and employer.”

That equilibrium can be maintained by offering employees a learner-​centred approach to workplace education, through a mix of in-​office teaching and online learning.

This can be a great way to empower employees to learn at their own pace, according to Sameer Bhatia, founder and chief executive of ProProfs. “With an online classroom, employers can assign training courses and employees can take them at their own pace. This empowers them to schedule learning according to how they like to work,” he says.

The rise of the chief learning officer

Over the past six years, the number of C‑suites appointing chief learning officers (CLOs) has soared by 900 per cent, according to AVADO’s Transformation in the C‑Suite report.

“The need to embrace digital transformation from the top down is more crucial today than ever before,” says Niall McKinney, global president of AVADO. “C‑suite titles in these influential companies serve as a bellwether for how rapidly and effectively companies recognise the need to expand the skillsets of their leadership teams.”

The rise of the CLO suggests that more attention will be paid to creating a learner-​centred approach to L&D, but only if senior management buys into the idea. “Embodying the voice of the workforce is the responsibility of the entire C‑suite,” says Mr Coombes. “Of course, the CLO can help, but it needs to be owned by the whole board. As workers now rate the opportunity to learn as among their top reasons for taking a job, it is the responsibility of the CLO to translate this desire for business leaders and to integrate it into the organisation’s talent strategy.”

Liz Johnson, co-​founder and managing director of The Ability People (TAP), says: “A good CLO should act as a bridge between the workforce and the C‑suite level. However, a company’s core values and mission should permeate the whole organisation, no matter the level. If you want to see any real shift or culture change, you need to ensure employees at every level are on the same page.”

Advantages of learner-​centred approach

Designing a training programme for employees can be complex, even before considering a learner-​centred approach. “It’s not so much about pre-​planned ‘lunch and learns’, but more about integrating these opportunities into the day-​to-​day tasks so that L&D becomes part and parcel of the job,” says Ms Elderfield. “What’s more, with 34 per cent of British employees working through their lunch every day, it’s a big ask to expect them to dedicate their own free time to L&D.”

An L&D strategy underpinned by technology can empower workers. Mr Coombes notes: “With the proliferation of cloud-​connected mobile and wearable devices, and the introduction of augmented reality devices, organisations will be able to explore new approaches to virtual learning in small doses throughout the day, and in a format that will allow workers to learn as and when they see fit, personalising the learning experience.”

The data from online learning modules can help with the ever-​evolving problem of how to identify individuals’ L&D needs. “Virtual classrooms make it easy to create a personalised learning path for each individual based on their individual requirements and needs,” says Mr Bhatia.

“The more people you have to train, the more important it is to have an L&D programme that scales. It is so much easier to grow your company when you can quickly and easily assign critical courses to different groups of employees.”

Effectiveness of your training

Mr Coombes points to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey, which found that 77 per cent of respondents are leaning towards the development of the existing workforce over acquiring new talent. “This means organisations need to move to a new model for learning development, integrating learning and work,” he says.

This is why a learner-​centred approach is so important. As Ms Elderfield says: “If employees are able to decide their paths, they’re much more likely to be able to draw upon the resiliency and motivation required to achieve truly remarkable things.”

An effective training programme for employees creates “a more empowered and better-​trained workforce”, Mr Bhatia concludes, and the resulting uptick in productivity will benefit the whole company.