Pitching work literacy

Bill Brantley responded to my post on work literacy:

In fact, as the rise of social network-based learning has demonstrated, employees no longer need the company to develop their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

This is the conundrum for those of us who would like to help organisations [and get paid] in enabling their employees to become work literate. It may be that knowledge workers need to become more autonomous to be effective and that this would be good for the organisation in the long run. However, one result will be that workers will need less supervision and direction. A do-it-ourselves approach to learning and development also means that there is less of a need for training, HR and several other organisational functions. I doubt that any training department will fund its own demise.

So how do you get employers to spend money unlocking  their employees from the indentured servitude model of salaried employment? This is the client/customer challenge. The workers may be the customers who need the skills, but the employers are the paying clients. Why would employers help employees become more independent and maybe even leave the organisation?

I’ve suggested that work literacy may be best left to professional associations or communities of practice. Higher education may take up the challenge, but I won’t hold my breath. I’m quite certain that pitching real worker empowerment to hierarchical organisations is going to be a hard sell.

6 Responses to “Pitching work literacy”

  1. Michele Martin

    I wonder if there’s LESS of a need for training staff or if they’re needed in a different way? Even when we look at empowering people to be self-directed learners, I still think that there’s a need for people to help facilitate the process by providing people with tools, resources and supports–a combination of the digital curator and a facilitator.

    I do agree that this will be a hard sell to hierarchical organizations, taking us back to your previous post on dysfunctional workplaces.

  2. Laura Jaffrey

    In addition to the above comment, I think training staff might need to become more focused on addressing people’s perceived need to know. This may be accomplished through corporate communications such as meetings, enewsletters, blogs, video podcasts and other content. Reward learners who show initiative and share their stories and I think people, self-directed learners at least, can take it from there when given access to key resources.

  3. Tom Haskins

    Thanks for pointing out the conundrum in this. It has got me silenced on the “skill gap issue” and focusing on trainers as the change agents in this. Said another way:
    — Let me direct you on how to be inner directed so you don’t rely on your inner teacher and time outs.
    — Let me teach you how to be self taught as if self realizations, reflective practice, and sense-making are all scams
    — Let me do it to you so you get how to DIY from something other than my example.

    I agree with Michele that facilitating transitions and curating content are helpful interventions. To that I would add: generating useful digital content for DIY learners to find when they need it for their own reasons.

    Meanwhile I expect big organizations to keep doing what they always do while the “creative class” opts for free lancing and startups to innovate, co-create and mash-up for the future.

  4. graham watt

    Isn’t some of this talk rather patronizing? It implies that your subjects are simple, stupid beings, essentially thinkless. There’s a smugness to it, a “let me show you how to be yourself”. It’s like you’re programming a new camera.
    Or am I just having a senior moment?

  5. Harold

    It is definitely not my intention to be patronizing, Graham. People aren’t stupid, but far too often the workplace has beat them down to just doing as they’re told. It’s easier to follow the rules and do your job. However, the rules outside the organisation are changing. There’s no longer a stable market for our goods and services. That means that companies have to be flexible and they say they want more flexible employees who can think for themselves. However, the company often doesn’t reinforce this sentiment with action.

    As for individuals, I have often seen people in training sessions who just want to be shown what to do then get back to their comfort zone. Our industrial classrooms and workplaces have sucked the creativity and curiosity out of far too many people.

    Ken Robinson says it best:


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