strategic transformation of workplace learning

Is your learning and development team able to transform so it can support complex work, help people be more creative, and adapt to the changing nature of the digital workplace? Strategic transformation is more than changing what you work on.

“Strategic Transformation. This means changing the very essence of what ‘learning’ means in the company, through both a new understanding of how it happens in the workplace (i.e. not just through conventional training but as people carry out their daily jobs) and how performance problems can be solved in different ways. It also means that learning and performance improvement is no longer the sole remit of the L&D department, but something that everyone in the organisation – managers and employees alike – has responsibility for.” – Jane Hart

The strategic transformation of organizational learning requires a shift from delivery of content and courses to integrating learning and working. While learning is personal, much of it happens while we are working with others. Learning is mostly social and often informal. Informal learning is learning without instruction and is personally directed or done in collaboration with others. Studies show that informal learning accounts for between 70% and 95% of workplace learning. For example, performance improvement specialist, Gary Wise extrapolated Josh Bersin’s research data from 2009 and found that as much as 95% of workplace learning is informal. The surveys of hundreds of companies showed that knowledge workers formal learning averages 100 hours per year out of 2,080 available work hours, which is about 5%. The strategic transformation is to shift the focus to the 95%.

Offering only formal instruction as professional development is not enough in today’s complex work environment, as courses address less than 10% of workplace learning needs. We cannot know in advance and prepare instruction for everything that people need to learn on the job today. Everyone needs to experiment, learn from experience, and share with colleagues, as part of their work. The 70:20:10 principle provides a rule of thumb to help organizations stay focused on what is important in workplace learning. The principle states that what we learn at work is based, generally, on these ratios:

  • 70%: Experience
  • 20%: Exposure
  • 10%: Education

While multiple good practices and methods can be recommended, a pragmatic approach is to master a few and implement them vigorously. I have identified nine components to create a structure of continuous, action-based learning that goes from the classroom, to the workplace, into the community, and beyond.

  1. Action Mapping for Designing Instruction, instead of a focus on content distribution.
  2. Flipping the Classroom, so that instructors spend more time assisting and engaging in learning activities, then in lecturing.
  3. Promoting Personal Learning Networks as part of all formal instruction.
  4. Adopting Enterprise Social Networks as bridges between personal and organizational knowledge.
  5. Working Out Loud as part of group knowledge sharing in work teams.
  6. Supporting Coaching & Cognitive Apprenticeship to connect different generations of workers.
  7. Using Social Media to connect working and learning.
  8. Learning Out Loud to ensure more signal than noise is shared with others, within a framework of personal knowledge mastery.
  9. Engaging others cooperatively through Communities of Practice.

To learn more, the social learning community provides a pragmatic path for the enterprise L&D team to implement a performance-oriented and social learning framework that supports workplace performance in the network era. This can be the beginning of a strategic transformation for workplace learning.

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