Workplace change impacts the way we learn

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Maddie Brooks tells us why different businesses require different learning strategies.

The workplace is changing, resulting in lower participant attendance in physical classrooms. Organisations must manage the varying learning platforms and remember that achieving a disparate L&D approach through the use of these differing platforms will not lead to an improvement in employee performance. Therefore, having a dedicated resource, in the form of an L&D manager is the first step in the right direction, as they will attain the day-to-day knowledge of your respective organisation’s needs. 

It is common now, for organisations to seek the best of face-to-face learning, mobile, elearning etc. through a well thought-out blended learning approach. Marketing the learning offering to your organisation to achieve higher levels of engagement, understanding and absorption of the high quality content and resources that you as an organisation choose to implement, whether from external or internal suppliers.

Though there are often similarities, different sectors can require varying types of learning. For example, some sectors benefit hugely from face-to-face and experiential learning, where others benefit from a higher percentage of learning online. Usually, most sectors find a balanced blend between the two learning styles ensuring that everyone within the organisation has access to both self-development resources and organisation-specific skill training – whether that be job-specific, behavioural or soft skills. Interestingly, I have found that high engagement, whether from face-to-face or online learning is most likely when the L&D function and line managers encourage learners; as a result the organisational culture is concerned about embracing self-development. 

A key point for the L&D function to acknowledge is the need to fully identify and understand the business issues, challenges, and goals. From this a plan can be formed to tackle the aforementioned and consider the elements that should make up the learning offering to enable people to learn. 

There is a challenge around capturing everything that people do which represents a part of their learning - formal and informal, mandated and self-directed. The reality is that in most cases it is a blend of all of this which will develop individuals as opposed to a single, official intervention. The motivation lies in the acknowledgement that as an individual I am exploring every day, which in turn should ensure the impact of learning is high and that employees learn to do things differently. 

Social collaboration can help organisations to enhance their employee’s ability to help each other learn and as a result, everyone wants to learn. Of course it is critical that people are given the permission to communicate, discuss and learn through encouragement rather than as a mandatory task. 

Maintaining the quality of content is of course critical within learning, whether face-to-face or online. However, it is about the ability to use that content and allow people to feel a sense of belonging in the organisation, to maximise the engagement with it, all while increasing the transfer of learning into the workplace. 

There is of course the practical difficulty of ensuring that employees dedicate time to learning online as opposed to face-to-face learning in a classroom off site whereby the learners are forced to make time out of their day-to-day environment and focus on particular themes and ideas. When online learning is used to bridge the gap between face-to-face learning, organisations often see a higher success rate of transfer of learning. This can work either before or after classroom learning. For example, by enabling a learner’s access to pre-reading materials on a digital platform they are able to bring their knowledge to the same point so that when entering the classroom, all learners are on a more equal standing. 

On balance, there is a place and a need for both face-to-face and online learning, and when using the 70/20/10 approach with 10% in the classroom it is important to ensure that line managers encourage their employees to embed their learning back in the workplace, so that ultimately the individual develops their skills and the organisation benefits from their improved performance. 

Maddie Brooks is marketing manager of Virtual Ashridge

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