• Kate Earle

Learning @ Work: 3 Pivotal Movements

Updated: May 26, 2020

Even before Covid-19 appeared on the scene, there was a shift underway around how we learn at work. We’ve been keeping an eye on this shift for a while, which has rapidly accelerated in the past few months.

There are three pivotal movements learning professionals ought to consider in the midst of this emergent change to best support their people and organizations.

1) WHO: Systems over Individuals

Opportunities to learn at work have primarily been made available to aspiring or current people leaders. Leadership development is estimated to be a $366 billion global industry. Yet many people question the return on that investment.

Rather than continuing to direct development resources to one part of a dynamic workforce, businesses are shifting their attention to the broader system in which those people operate: teams.

According to Deloitte, there is a global trend underway toward team-based organizations. And for good reason: “It is a more effective model for operating in the dynamic, unpredictable business environment typically seen today.

However, people have to “learn to team,” says Harvard’s Amy Edmundson. If organizational success is dependent on teaming, we have a responsibility to our people to teach them how to be amazing at doing it.

How are you shifting from a focus on developing individuals to developing systems (i.e., teams)?

2) WHAT: How We Know over What We Know

We’ve gotten good at teaching people new concepts and techniques that set them up for success at work. No doubt, people benefit from those experiences, yet what they’re mostly doing is adding tools and sharpening skills, or developing horizontally.

The growth of businesses today requires the growth of our people. Real growth stems from making a qualitative shift not just in what we know but in how we know. To actualize the future of business, people will literally need to think differently. They must evolve and expand their mindsets in order to create space for developing differentiated skills and behaviors.This is vertical development.

How are you creating opportunities for your people to learn how to think differently?

3) HOW: Journeys over Events

Learning at work has moved from the edges of our work to the very epicenter. People increasingly have access to insights and techniques at the moment when they will have the greatest impact: on the job. Technology has made so easy to embed learning in the flow of the day-to-day that learning is no longer a distraction from work but becoming the work itself.

In most organizations, learning events (e.g., off sites, workshops, and meetings) are still the norm but more frequently those events are being strung together to create dynamic learning journeys that lead workers on chartered development expeditions over time. Traditional “down time” between events is fed by informal self-paced and peer learning to sustain growth and momentum.

Changes such as these are reducing interference to being a lifelong learner, which according to Harvard Business Review is an essential skill for competing in an increasingly automated and distributed workplace.

How are you crafting journeys that empower your people to be lifelong learners?

What other movements are you seeing in how we learn at work?

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