Learning is more of a necessity than choice today for both those who have to work with their minds and those who have to work with their hands. Those who use cerebral faculties for their living need to keep pace with the rapid changes that are taking place particularly in their domain. The same is true for professionals as they need to keep themselves updated with new tools that are being developed. New techniques and equipment are constantly evolving and impacting existing systems and processes – as a result, skilled workers too need to make themselves relevant by adapting their skills to the changes in their work environment. However, developing learning skills need not always be a natural choice for individuals and L&D managers need to make conscious efforts towards helping employees do this.
Take learning to the workplace: Most learning happens not in the structured classrooms but at the workplace while on the job. People apply their existing knowledge and get things done. They make mistakes, learn from them, seek help from colleagues and better their performance. All this happens quite unconsciously and varies depending on the commitment and enthusiasm of the individual. It does not mean that structured classrooms are irrelevant but I would like to say that they are not always adequate. People learn the most while doing. Therefore, L&D managers should focus on the real place where learning happens i.e. at the workplace of the employees while retaining some of the elements of structured training.
Make learning hands-on or experiential: In consultation with the team leads, L&D departments can assign specific tasks or projects to the employees at the department level which requires either team activity or self-initiation. For example, if you take an eLearning organization, the production team in the organization might be working with multiple authoring tools. However, they may be inclined to use one particular tool more often than the others out of habit or due to convenience. They can be given the task of designing a course using a tool that they normally might not use. Resources to learn the tool and troubleshooting aids should be handy. As a result, employees understand their level of competence at using this tool and if required a more structured training program can be arranged for them. Chances are that employees would appreciate and value the structured training program better when they realize the areas where they need to improve.
Demonstrate the value of learning: Formerly training was management-driven. Something that the management decided as a policy, and enforced it on the employees. It cannot be the case anymore. Learning is more of a collaborative effort between the management and the employees for mutual benefit. Such awareness can be brought about by active engagement with the employees. Whatever be the means of engagement – be it training and development programs, on the job training, feedback, mentoring or coaching – employees should be made aware that all the resources are geared towards their development so that they can learn more and build their careers which of course will help the organization growth.
The success of any organization depends on committed and motivated employees. Only such employees will have the zeal for learning and become more productive. What L&D professionals need to do is make employees realize that their development is not just for organizational growth and development but also for their own personal welfare.