Learning Experts Recommend Developing a Culture of Self-Directed Learning

Learning Experts Recommend Developing a Culture of Self-Directed Learning

A new survey illustrates why the training and development teams at most organizations can “drive people completely insane,” in the words of a Nigel Paine, a consultant, author and learning technology expert.

In a recent webinar, Paine discussed results of research on mandated training by Learning Pool, a U.K.-based online learning platform for businesses:

  • Only 26% think the online compliance training is effective
  • 53% already know the course content
  • 43% think the course content is irrelevant

What the results show is, Paine says, is that companies are throwing too much training at their employees without getting to know them as individuals and build on what they already know.

Staff consider the most appealing features of learning to be personalization and relevance. What’s least important are “bells and whistles,” Paine says. “Our learners are way, way more sophisticated than that. If it’s relevant, if it does the job, they don’t care whether it’s got videos built into it or gamification.”

Titled “Moving to a Culture of Self-Directed Learning,” the April 23 webinar, hosted by Chief Learning Officer magazine, discussed the benefits of addressing staff-wide learning and development needs through a bottom-up, personalized approach. Upskilling can be done more quickly this way and with more involvement and control by the staff, the speakers say.

Learning and development departments are under pressure to quickly improve the skills for their staff, with the same amount of money as last year or even less. With the pandemic pushing learning online, these professionals are more pressed for time than ever, but the needs for new skills continues.

What skills are most highly valued today? Paine, citing McKinsey research, says they’re not technical skills, but social and emotional skills – empathy, creativity, collaboration, leadership, resilience etc. “They were growing before this pandemic began. They’re now exploding.”

This contrasts with information gathered just a few months ago, says Sharon Claffey Kaliouby, North American vice president for Learning Pool. “As of January 1, the data scientist was the sexiest job role of all in the 21st century.”

To personalize training options, Paine says machine learning can come into play. An online learning platform that displays a limited number of choices based on the learner’s needs and interests, much like a Netflix queue, has been proven useful and more engaging. “It allows the individual to choose what, when and how.” As choices increase, the platform gets smarter, so to speak, and selections get even more personalized.

Billions of dollars are being lost in organizations that are not delivering learning experiences in the right way, Kaliouby says. “It gets me riled.” Many companies are offering the same mandated training to nearly everyone in a company, regardless of job title or experience.

Although mandated learning is not going to go away, giving staff more choice and control increases engagement. Requiring training that is not needed is disrespectful and does not acknowledge skills that have already been attained.

“That kind of top down, directed, controlling, micromanagement is now being exposed for what it is. It’s now failing spectacularly to cope with the demands of the present,” Paine says. “The bottom-up, supporting, empathetic, helping, trusting, guiding kind of management is going gangbusters.”