Whether you subscribe to the 70:20:10 model, are a huge proponent of offsite learning or think the humble classroom is the best learning environment, we can all agree on one thing: Learning at work just isn't what it used to be. I chalk this up to two things:
The pace of change in the business world is faster than it's ever been
Access to information is at an all-time high
So what can learning departments do in order to work within this new environment? How can we give people the knowledge they need when that knowledge might be outdated by the time it reaches them? And will they even look to learning departments for that knowledge when they have such free access to whatever they need to learn?
The good news is that we aren't suggesting that learning departments are going extinct. Far from it. But we are looking at a paradigm shift in the idea of developing talent. Instead of the traditional idea of providing learning opportunities to employees, leading organizations are more and more often emphasizing self-driven learning.
In these frameworks, employees are allowed, nay, encouraged to go out and seek the knowledge they need to be their most productive selves. Employees can seek out this knowledge anywhere. Podcasts, videos, articles, MOOCs, or even modules in a well-stocked LMS sourced from a content vendor or created in-house make for great learning opportunities that employees can seek out on-demand and at the time of need. And it doesn't stop at content either. Employees can seek out this new knowledge from internal subject matter experts, peers and teams.
The role of the learning department shifts as well. Instead of prescribing specific learning to employees, they instead curate learning content and help to direct learning around particular objectives linked to organizational, departmental and individual goals.
This may all sound great to you, or it might not. But I'm here to let you know that this way of delivering and facilitating learning has some huge benefits. Here are four reasons you should let your employees be self-driven learners.
Save time and resources
Self-driven employee learning strategies save the HR and learning teams time and resources. One of the biggest burdens placed on learning teams is content creation. But self-driven learning programs rely drastically less on in-house created content and instead pull from a wide variety of sources. Learners can pull from third-party content vendors, learn from their peers and internal SMEs, and even outside the LMS by searching across the web. By removing the burden of creating a huge library of learning content for employees, learning teams can instead focus on developing great L&D strategies, content curation and tracking results.
Also, with the right tools, content curation can also be crowdsourced from individuals and managers across the organization as well!
Learning is more relevant and personalized
Self-driven learning also offers the benefit of being more personal. When a learning team imparts learning content to an entire team, department or organization, those people may not all need those new skills (or at least, not at that particular moment). It's a catch-all situation that can be disengaging and, frankly, time-wasting.
It's also important to mention that employees and their managers will have a better handle on what new skills are needed than the learning team. A marketing manager will have a better idea of what skills to focus on not only because they work in the field, but they have a closer relationship to that department's current strategy and goals and can tailor learning goals as such.
When employees are able to seek out information specific to them and at their specific time of need, they can better tailor their learning experience to their current role, performance goals and even future career aspirations.
Fun Fact: 58% of employees prefer to learn at their own pace, and 49% of employees prefer to learn at the point of need, according to the LinkedIn 2018 Learning Trends Report .
Learning is more motivating and enjoyable
When L&D is driven by the employee, their attitude changes from "I have to do this" to "I want to do this." And by making rewards and recognition a part of that experience, working with content partners that create high-quality content, offering training that earns learners accreditations and certifications, employee learning becomes much more rewarding and engaging. It's all about making sure the employee has the right reasons and is motivated to learn.
Plus, we all have different content preferences. Some employees are speed readers while others may find video to be more engaging. Letting employees seek out new information allows them to find it in the way that they enjoy consuming it, which can also help with retaining that information!
Self-driven learning drives better business outcomes
This is the point you want for when you want to sell your executive team on self-driven employee learning. In self-driven learning systems, employees have a purpose behind their learning efforts and can leverage it to drive their performance, develop skills and grow in their careers. In fact, IDC reported that organizations that align learning programs to business strategy see a 32% greater average improvement in employee performance and 38% average improvement in employee productivity.
Employees that are able to make the connection between their goals and the learning they should take to help achieve those goals. When employees are taking learning that's going to help them perform better and achieve their goals, the L&D department moves from being a cost center to a profit center.
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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development
There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.
Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today
When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.
Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated
Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock