Modern working and the learning challenge

Some recent blogging from different people has got me thinking more about the world of work and therein the challenges that lie ahead for the world of learning at work.

Mervyn Dinnen wrote a piece where he spoke about the rise of what’s called the gig economy and questions whether HR are ready to support such a changing relationship with a workforce who aren’t entirely employees but kind of are. Jane Hart wrote a piece last week where she highlights the challenge of modern workplace learning. Essentially she argues that there is a growing split of traditional L&Ders who don’t accept that workplace learning needs to move beyond classroom based and e-learning and on the other side modern workplace learning professionals who understand how work demands different ways of providing performance support. And David James wrote over on LinkedIn how technology has enabled people to do more learning in their own time and their own way than ever before.

You bring all that together and you start to gather that not only is the workforce itself changing, not only is the way we recruit people changing, and not only is technology changing work patterns, but also the skills needed and the knowledge needed for a successful company are no longer dependent on what the company says it needs.

If ten years ago you were to know about the roles being hired for today, you’d not even know where to begin in training people and getting them skilled up. Instead what’s happened is people have clumped together, directed their own ways of working, created new behaviours for getting work done, and found better ways to share knowledge and learning.

The work environment used to be a place where you received everything you needed to do your job from your employer. For a lot of companies that remains the case, but what’s changed is the way that learning needs to be delivered. People can’t wait 2 months for a company induction, or 3 months for the next workshop, or next week to learn about the new product, that’s all too late and not at the point of need.

The world of work is moving rapidly, be you on the bandwagon or not it doesn’t matter, the way you’re expected to work is moving on. For us L&Ders, that presents huge challenges to the way we provide learning at work.

If your workforce is changing to accommodate flexible workforces, contingent workforces and full time workforces all at the same time, how are you changing your learning delivery to meet all their needs? And let’s not be naive enough to start making claims that agency workers must receive their learning from their agency and other nonsense like that. Workplace learning demands that workers have access to content which is of value to help achieve goals. We can’t keep working in ways where we only provide content to permanent workers and hope everyone else will learn by osmosis.

We also need to be stronger at making our case for modern learning to the businesses and organisations we’re part of. If you’re being told to run workshops and courses but you know there are better learning solutions available, find a way to make that happen. It might mean experimenting and finding safe ways to play with discreet groups so that you can build evidence. It might be that you circumvent regular ways of working to make something happen (provided of course you don’t get into trouble for it). It might mean that you build a stronger and better professional network of people who can support you delivering these modern solutions.

What is certain is that the people who are coming to work will be there for a range of reasons. Being at work means that they need access to learning content that can help them be successful. There’s no easy answers here, and no easy solutions to implement. It’s a challenge we’re all faced with and we need to start stepping up our game to meet this ever increasing need.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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