Blog

September 30, 2015

Understanding the Empowered Learner

By David James |

empowered learner

This article was originally published in TrainingZone on 28th September 2015.

Workplace learning has changed dramatically in the past ten years and technology has been the primary driver of that change. However, it has not necessarily been learning solutions supplied by organisations that have been the game-changer. The way that technology has enabled workers to self-direct their learning has been the significant factor. Whether it’s been fully acknowledged or not, this has dramatically changed the learner’s relationship with L&D.

When I joined the training team at Lloyds Bank in the late 1990s, we were just getting started with CBT (computer-based training). It was during this period that we (learning / training professionals) were teaching employees a brand new way to learn at work. Fast-forward little over a decade and we find ourselves in a very different position. E-learning seems universally rated as the least preferred way to learn in the workplace and yet the majority of people will self-direct their own learning at work via web-searching and sources they discover online themselves.

The stats are plain to see:

  • More than 70% of people will web-search for resources – as a first port-of-call – to help them to do their jobs;
  • 81% of new starters will perform web-searches for answers whilst assimilating into a new role;
  • 91% of smartphone users will go to their devices for answers when completing a task;
  • And yet only 12% of people will go to HR for help, which means that even fewer people are likely to direct themselves to their company’s LMS

So what? If people are directing their own learning via Google, YouTube or other web sources then surely that’s a good thing, right?

I’m certainly not going to argue with people developing themselves online based on their immediate needs, their interests or future ambitions. However, as a strategic L&D leader, I am interested in developing my organisation’s capability towards:

  • Higher performance;
  • Improved productivity;
  • Managing according to our company’s competency framework;
  • Growing managers and leaders from within;
  • Developing the skills and knowledge required for critical roles – both now and in the future; and
  • Supporting everybody to find the support they need internally when the organisational context is critical

These are unlikely to be achieved by employees seeking support from web-searches or from low-engagement in an organisation’s learning technology.

So what can L&D learn from such high-engagement in self-directed learning online?

The opportunity to develop and support employees with online learning is huge but the opportunity lies in capitalising on their habits, preferences and motivations – and not ours. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, L&D professionals are a lot more smitten by their creations and commissions of e-learning than employees are. Low-engagement rates speak for themselves.

This white paper examines today’s empowered learners – their motivations, habits and preferences – and what L&D can do to increase learner engagement towards organisational capability and improved business performance.

Download your free copy of The Empowered Learner today.

This post was written by David James, former-Director of Talent, Learning & OD for The Walt Disney Company EMEA and now Learning Strategist with Looop.co