Skills shortages are a major obstacle to business expansion, and more and more companies are looking for new ways of working with the education sector to up-skill their employees and boost business. It used to be that employers would send employees out to a training course away from their day job. This meant the loss of at least one working day per employee each week, which was ultimately bad for business in the long run.
Workplace learning has evolved in recent years, thanks to advancements in technology. In most cases workplace learning now takes place on the business premises during working hours thanks to the power of the internet.
A brief history of workplace learning
- Classroom training – Traditionally employees would be taken away from the workplace and taught in a separate training room, just like a school classroom. One of the main advantages of classroom-based training is that participants can learn together with their colleagues in the presence of a trainer. However there are a number of disadvantages in that everyone has to be in the classroom at the same time and is expected to progress at the same speed.
- E-learning – The advent of personal computers in the 80s brought with it interactive, multimedia computer-based training delivered via CD. However it was in the 90s with the birth of the internet that electronic-based learning really took off. Training can take place remotely from anywhere in the world now thanks to the World Wide Web and advancements in technology.
- Blended learning – Also known as hybrid learning, this is an approach to workplace learning that mixes face-to-face learning with online elements to meet the unique needs of a company’s employees. This could take the form of online tutorial videos, live real-time web conferencing, and online access to learning materials.
Informal learning and its role in the workplace
Formal learning is something that we can all recognise. It takes place in schools, colleges, and universities across the country every day. It consists of classroom-based lessons, lectures, seminars, workshops, and tutorials, with students being led along a predetermined course of learning by a teacher.
Within the workplace, formal learning means that a training or line manager decides what the employee needs to learn, how they should learn it, and when they should learn it. The whole process is tracked and monitored, with employees expected to learn at the same pace as their colleagues.
Informal learning, on the other hand, is led by the individual. Each participant decides what they need to learn, how, and when they should learn it, and how to manage and organise their own learning.
Within the workplace there are two ways in which we can learn informally:
- Intentionally – when an individual actively locates the information that they need by searching online or asking colleagues in order to help them solve a problem.
- Accidentally – Conversations with colleagues, whether in the office or over lunch, can reveal new information that helps you to grow and develop at work.
Many organisations try to manage or formalise informal learning by ensuring employees keep a record of their learning, or guiding them in the right direction by presenting them with projects that require them to learn something specific. However, this completely misses the point of informal learning. It can only be managed effectively by the learner, so some organisations refer to it as personal development instead.
The 7 Ps of modern workplace learning
There are a variety of ways in which we learn at work:
- Courses – we learn from scheduled classroom training or self-paced online courses
- Resources – we learn from the information and job aids that we have access to
- Social collaboration – we learn through teamwork and the sharing of knowledge
- Personal learning – we learn as individuals through our daily experiences and the Web
Employers should provide push and pull courses for their employees. Push courses are essential to the job and workers are required to take them, for example health and safety courses. Pull courses are there for individuals to use when and how they need/want to.
Employers should promote the development of social teams and groups within the workplace as we learn a lot from our peers when we work as part of a team. Individuals also need to be given the space and time to take responsibility for their own personal learning and development.
When an individual is offered a variety of courses, both mandatory and optional, as well as being able to work as part of a strong team and facilitate their own learning, their performance at work will be greatly improved. Follow the 7 Ps of workplace learning to benefit your business and boost profitability.