Integrating Learning and Work

Tom Gram discusses the integration of learning and work (my professional passion) and gives a list of ten strategies for integration, of which three are discussed in detail in Part 1 (I’m already looking forward to Part 2):

1. Understand the job
2. Link Learning to business process
3. Build a performance support system

Of Tom’s 10 suggestions, not one is related to creating a course. That shows how relevant training is to the integration of working & learning and something to consider at the dawn of the learning age.

Look at “understand the job” and see how much of a challenge that could be in today’s workplace. What do you do when everyone’s job is unique? The learning professional must be in constant contact with the realities of the everyone’s work. Interventions and support will likely be incremental, addressing changing circumstances, but using multipurpose platforms for information and knowledge-sharing. Understanding work needs good two-way communications.

As jobs become more unique (I think the notion of the job may disappear over time), training either becomes a very expensive option or must be focused on specific skills that are used by several people. The result in the latter case is increasingly smaller units of training, which merges training into performance support, making training in the traditional sense less relevant.

In a complex or changing workplace (yours perhaps?), with shifting roles and responsibilities, Tom’s other seven strategies make even more sense:

4. Build a community of practice
5. Use social media to facilitate informal learning
6. Implement a continuous improvement framework
7. Use action learning
8. Organizational learning tools
9. Design Jobs for natural learning
10. Bring the job to the learning

I would say that these ten strategies would be excellent preparation for the networked workplace.

4 Responses to “Integrating Learning and Work”

  1. Tom Gram

    Hi Harold,
    Thanks for highlighting the strategies. Most of them have been around for many years. I think learning professionals are still expected to (and are rewarded for) providing traditional training. It’s changing though. A little more leadership and successes using these approaches and others will move things along even further…maybe into the jobless world you suggest ;). BTW Sarah graduated UofT yesterday. She’s heading to U of Michigan for PhD program. Time flies!

  2. Harold Jarche

    Thanks for the comment, Tom, and congratulations to Sarah (at least Michigan isn’t too far from home). You’ve definitely hit the ground running with your blog – well-done!

  3. Dave Ferguson

    Tom’s got a great model, though I think there are many people who see themselves in “the training field” who might not recognize it. The training=courses model is alive, if not well, for a vast swath of the workplace.

    The biggest quibble I have with “understand the job” is that someone might take it to mean “the individual’s part,” when it’s clear from Tom’s elaboration that he means the larger process into which my job fits. (In other words, “quibble” was just an excuse for me to make this point.)

    Really, it’s the larger processes, because even in traditional contexts like manufacturing, an individual and his workgroup have roles in more than one organization process.

  4. Tom Gram

    Hi Dave;
    I have no quibble with your quibble. Jobs or roles should be derived from and serve the wider process(es). Still, not all companies have truly embraced process (flow) or they have adopted it in it’s most bureaucratic form (think ISO). “Understanding the Job” actually means “Understand the System” (functional or dysfunctional) Rummler and Brache have some great tools for doing just that as you have eloquently posted on in the past.



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