Demystifying how we learn at the Workplace: Creating pathways for impactful learning

Posted on : March 24th, 2014
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Workplace-LearningIn the corporate scenario, Knowledge is what equips an employee to do his or her job better. Not only training managers, but employees themselves are fast realizing this and are open to the concept of ‘perennial learning’ in the workplace. There are many learning practices that are prevalent in the modern workplace and each one comes with its associated ‘knowledge behavior’. The most prominent knowledge behaviors within a corporate learning environment are Connect, Consume, Create and Contribute (Source: Collective Learning in the Workplace: By Allison Littlejohn, Colin Milligan and Anoush Margaryan). For a learner-centric approach to corporate training, the behavior that you want to promote should ascertain the learning practice to be adopted. We explore some learning practices to demystify workplace learning, and identify the knowledge behaviors they promote.

  • Classroom or Blended Learning: Providing the opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded peers within and outside the organization, Classroom trainings are quite popular among corporate learners.
    • Classroom trainings provide the opportunity to both consume knowledge and connect with knowledge resources.
    • Instructor and peer interactions are the greatest strength of this type of learning.
    • On the flipside, classroom trainings are time and cost consuming. For a global learning audience, classroom trainings cannot be the only ongoing mode of learning – for all practical purposes.
    • Blended learning models are thus more preferred, where classroom sessions are supplemented with additional material (text, audio or video) both prior and post the learning event.
    • This creates a more impactful delivery of learning, as it provides the opportunity for learners to connect from time to time and provides them ready references to re-enforce learning as per their needs.
  • Self-paced Learning: This type of learning aligns very well with the developing web and knowledge management technologies. Add to that the increasing need for constant learning, technology-aided learning has truly come of age in the corporate scenario.
    • Self-paced learning used to mean reading up on lengthy literature, with little or no opportunity for interaction with the content. E-learning has changed that to great extent by employing learning strategies that engage the learner.
    • Strategies like virtual mentors, scenario-based learning and built-in learner interactions can make e-content come alive for the learners.
    • Adding sensory supplements like infographics, videos and audio-slips to the learning content also makes the content attractive and increases learner retention.
    • There is a prominent shift that is re-defining this type of learning. More and more instances of self-paced learning are learner-led, where a variety of learning content is provided to the learner. The learners decide their own learning path – often requisitioning courses that they perceive as beneficial to their role in the organization. This creates a rich knowledge repository within an organization, which is created as per the needs of the learners. So in addition to connecting with the knowledge, learners can contribute to building knowledge as well. Encouraging this behavior with self-paced learning can increase the impact of learning greatly.
  • Experiential Learning: Experiential learning is the only form of workplace learning that makes all knowledge experiences converge.
    • There different instances of learning through experience in the corporate scenario.  Some employees are trained on certain skills through formal or self-paced learning. This learning event is followed by real work-based projects that involve application of the knowledge gathered.
    •  In addition to consuming knowledge, the live projects give the opportunity to connect with peers as well and make collaborative efforts to hone their skills. Through documenting and archiving the experiences, the knowledge base of future learners can be suitably enhanced. Thus through experiential learning, the learners also contribute and create learning.
    • Live project-based workshops are however an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Logistically too, such an experience is difficult to arrange – especially for a larger number of learners.
    • Employing gaming technology is becoming an increasingly successful way of providing experiential learning in virtual environments for a large learner-base.  These environments present a life-like scenario to the learner, where he or she can learn, apply and practice at the same time. Comparing progress through different built-in levels and scores can bring in the competitive spirit that aids learning to a great extent.
    • With the onset of superior technology, the experience for the learner can be made more life-like. A modern trend is to use motion-sensing technology – of Kinect in Xbox 360, Leap Motion and Tobii, to make learning motion-based. The experience is thus just not on a mental level but impart physical skills for learners as well.
  • Learning through discussions with others: Interactions are at the core of informal learning in the workplace and occur all through the organization.
    • Informal chats and discussions are great ways to learn but to bring it under the umbrella of corporate learning, you have to create suitable platforms for interactions to happen and extract learning out of them.
    • Workshops and conferences are the common old-school ways of bringing a group of learners together to connect, consume, contribute and create learning.
    • Apart from the time and moneys spent on these events, more and more organizations are realizing the need to have such meets on a constant basis to create a sustainable source of knowledge.
    • Virtual discussion boards, communities and chat-rooms are now created with the aim of bringing together experts as well as novice learners.
    • Learners can ask questions pertaining to a specific topic and all responses can be flagged under a single thread. This creates a library of sorts for information on that topic and all further discussions on the topic can feed in to make the library richer.
    • Experts can also pose questions that bring out different responses and views that can then be trashed out to attain a deeper understanding of the topic.
    • Facilitators can keep the community alive by making sure that pertinent topics are discussed and experts as well as learners are active participants in contributing to the knowledge collated.
  • Mentoring and Coaching: A great way to encourage positive interactions that promote organizational learning is through Mentoring and Coaching.
    • This is often the most preferred way to learn for novice learners, who are unsure of their capabilities and seek one-to-one guidance from others.
    • For coaches, it is an opportunity to hone their knowledge and refresh what they know.
    • This way of corporate learning also gives opportunities to connect, consume, create and contribute.
    • The drawback is that in bigger organizations, these connections are difficult to come by as experts cannot take out time from their busy schedules. On the other hand, learners are expected to get rained fast and start showing results. By utilizing technology, e-mentoring is a solution that makes sense for a lot of organizations.
    • Mentors or coaches interact with learners over the organization intranet or the internet. In addition to online chats, offline interactions are also made possible – where learners can send their questions and queries and the mentor can reply within a stipulated time.
    • In addition to imparting practical knowledge, the mentors can also guide the learners to suitable learning content that resides within the organization training structure. This allows the learners to get access to the right content and acquire proper certifications often required for doing a job well.

By combining different learning practices and knowledge sharing behavior within an organization, training and development can be given a desired turn. To know more about successful learning practices in the workplace, write to [email protected]

Arunima Majumdar

Arunima is the Marketing Head at G-Cube. She loves exploring and blogging about innovations in training & learning for the new-age corporate sector.

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