For most of my adult life, I was in some learning-related role. From being a minister of education at a church to teaching computer classes to serving as a learning consultant, that world is very familiar to me. Now that I have been out of a professional learning role for the past three years, my perspective on learning has changed.
I will always be a lifelong learner. I can’t imagine otherwise. What I have become increasingly convinced of over the past three years, however, is that how learning happens in real life is very different than how many learning professionals think it happens.
It has been my experience that learning professionals – at least in corporate America – think formal classroom learning is critical for workers. If you analyze the budgets of learning areas in businesses, I strongly suspect that you will see the majority devoted to salaries of people who are expected to spend their time preparing and delivering formal training, or for those who develop e-learning modules that are rarely more than glorified PowerPoint presentations that most learners dread paging through.
Ask the workers how they best learn and how they actually did learn most of what they needed to know to do their jobs, and I guarantee you the answer won’t be “in formal classroom training and e-learning modules.” They will answer with things like asking their coworkers, learning on the job, working with a mentor, job shadowing someone, self-study, and Googling questions. Workers have a need to learn at the point and time of need. Formal, periodic, out-of-the-way and inconvenient solutions are not viable options.
It’s past time for business leaders to insist that their learning departments shift resources to supporting learning in the workflow of employees’ daily tasks. Most learning happens informally. Most learning happens socially. Learning resources need to shift in favor of what helps workers when and where they need performance support. Make it easier for workers to connect and learn anytime, anywhere (think social and mobile), and the business will benefit.
Learning efforts need to change to reflect the pattern learning follows, a pattern summarized in leap year lesson #273 – Do. Learn. Repeat.