Learning in the Modern Workplace – are you doing enough to embrace this new era?

Meet Jim. Jim works in Accounts for the Mediocre Company. In his spare time, he’s an enthusiastic beekeeper and has a successful podcast all about beekeeping. Mediocre decides to grow their reach by delving into the world of podcasting. They send Sally from Marketing off on a 2-day course to learn how. Nobody asks Jim to teach Sally – and why? They don’t know – or don’t care – that he has the podcasting skills they already need.

Does this sound like a familiar scenario? Mediocre are stuck in the old culture of training courses and workshops. But learning in the modern workplace has a whole new style these days.

What does learning in the modern workplace mean?

Learning in the workplace used to be classroom style lectures or online e-learning courses where you clicked through a lot of screens, didn’t take much information in and answered questions at the end of the course to pass an assessment. That style of learning is outdated and indeed, hurting your business.

In a world of constant change and uncertain future, companies need a new model that focuses on how their people can solve complex problems together. Not only do they need to give them the skills of the job they do today but to also prepare them for the work of tomorrow.

We asked Helen Blunden, Adoption Consultant from Adopt & Embrace, her thoughts. “Learning in the modern workplace means a completely new mindset on how we look at learning.  Gone are the days of one size fits all solutions that are churned out of Training departments or hidden in learning management systems. That’s not learning. It’s compliance and all it’s doing is disengaging your people.

Modern workplace learning is about how organisations can help people bring the best of themselves to their work, and to use and acknowledge their unique knowledge, skills, capabilities and talents in their workplace. It’s also to provide workplace experiences that further develop, connect, support and grow their people so that they can navigate a workplace – and indeed, a world –  undergoing constant change.  

However, modern workplace learning relies on having all employees, regardless of position, to be open to seeing their workplace as a place of discovery and learning. Every interaction, every project, every conversation is an opportunity to question why they are doing things that way and devise new and better ways. It also involves an openness to showing and sharing your work transparently, making visible their knowledge, ideas and talents to their colleagues, all of which can be assisted through social technologies and supported by their managers. It’s through conversations that your people will build bridges, identify opportunities and bring insight to work – you can’t get this by forcing people into classrooms,” explains Helen.

Effective collaborative learning needs the right workplace culture

But that sort of learning needs the right workplace culture to be able to thrive.

Organisations will need to accept that if they want their company to stay ahead of the competition, improve productivity and address retention and recruitment of staff that they will need to consider how they grow and develop employees not only for today but for tomorrow too.

In a workplace where the demands of the day-to-day outweigh long term benefits, managers will need to consider how learning can be integrated into the workflow and allow time for their people to be continuously improving.

This can include giving their people free time to be creative and innovative through reskilling into new areas, or allowing employees to work on exciting projects outside of their current work. The value is that in the long run they will have satisfied employees who are not only engaged with their work but who feel they have a vested interest in contributing to the success of the organisation in the future.

This type of learning requires a complete rethink on how learning is seen and valued in an organisation by employees, managers and leaders. It is about adopting a learning culture around collaboration, curiosity, knowledge sharing, experimentation, problem solving, personalisation and participation.

“Let’s face it, the worker who is always asking questions, constantly improving their skills, connecting with people inside and outside their organisation, curious about their work and understanding the changing nature of context around them is the type of worker you need to have in your organisation to survive. You can’t teach that in a 1-day course. You will need to build an environment of trust and support for this to grow,” says Helen.

Online collaboration tools support learning

Online collaboration tools like Yammer and Microsoft Teams let employees build their networks internally and exposes them to different people and projects across their company.

Similarly, using public social network tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter expose them to networks and industries that they would have otherwise never come across. The potential to bring new insights, be first to identify global trends and patterns will mean the value is provided back to their work and their organisation.

For example, if Sally had posted to Yammer calling out for anyone with podcasting knowledge, it would have led her to Jim, and potentially a few others too. Having Jim share his knowledge with Sally would have saved the company the time and money spent on sending her on a training course. Jim would have felt his skills were valued and that he was seen as a whole person, not just a job description.

In order to support and enable employees to learn in the flow of their work, companies need to build an environment where employees feel safe and comfortable in experimenting and trying things outside their job description. Also they need to see learning more than just formal education or training courses; or that it needs to be delivered by a training department. Work should be a place where workers are encouraged to learn new skills, connect and converse with their peers and colleagues, take part in projects outside of their current role, show and share their work and think openly and transparently without judgement. Learning needs to be the responsibility of everyone, not just the training department.

How can MWA help with your modern workplace learning?

The Modern Workplace Alliance model is a perfect representation of what employees should be doing within organisations, that is building their knowledge and networks –  alliances that will help expand their skillset.

The MWA is an alliance of five different companies all offering unique skillsets that complement one another. In just one phone call you can tap into the expertise of many heads instead of information being contained in one silo.

We can help you connect with people who can help you in your own work. If you need some assistance in creating a strategy that will work for your company, book in our Modern Workplace Accelerator workshop. Without more than a few hours of your team’s time, our Modern Workplace Accelerator delivers you a bespoke 12-month Modern Workplace Roadmap.

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