Workplace learning as it used to be…

One of my first ‘proper’ jobs was as a placement student for the oil company Conoco. I was in their HR department, at their Head Office just off Oxford Street in London. While I was there I was lucky enough to be able to attend lots of training courses, and I remember going on the entire Microsoft Office suite, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, a full-day course for each. I also attended a two-day Interviewing Skills course, and of course the full-day Induction – which it then became my job to organise.

Fast forward a few years and I was responsible for training for the entire workforce of a local authority. We had a regular programme of classroom courses and management development programmes. Each would be accompanied by a nice spiral bound workbook. I remember needing access to management journals from my professional body, the CIPD, I would put in a telephone request to their library service, and then wait for the item to arrive in the post a week or so later. These were the days pre-internet, where knowledge and information were a commodity and things like training course notes were a valued resource.

These days information is readily accessible – with internet search browsers and smart phones, we have what we need at our fingertips. Anything we need to know we can google. Since starting my own business my learning curve has been steep. Most days I’m looking up something, whether it’s to do with my accounts, marketing or an IT issue, the answers are all out there with a few keystrokes.

So, what’s the future of learning if information is readily available?

Learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience or being taught. Having access to information doesn’t equate to learning, but it does go some way in bringing down barriers and opening up opportunities.

The technology that is driving workplace change also provides tools for learning – and that’s not just google searches for Wikipedia entries. Tools such as YouTube, where you can find videos on how to do just about anything – provides opportunities for learning new skills. I’ve used YouTube to practice my salsa dance steps, and for vocal coaching, as well as for practical things like how to tile my bathroom.

Social media tools like Twitter enable sharing of information, again opening up access to professionals and their insights in a very immediate way. Having an eclectic mix of politicians, learning industry-experts and journalists in my twitter feed leads to an interesting and ever-changing selection of reading matter.

Information, now channeled through social media, is more available. This has resulted in a blurring of lines between information that may have once been considered relevant for the work-place but now has a more general audience.

For example the popularity of Brene Brown and  Simon Sinek has been assisted due to great TED talks (influential talks from expert speakers on education, business, science and tech) – and the proliferation of video content on platforms like YouTube.

Of course, we had access to experts before, albeit using different mediums. I have fond memories of my Dad listening to Zig Ziglar’s motivational messages on audio-cassette tape, which he took on board 100%. What has changed is the abundance and accessibility of these messages.

Workplace learning is changing

There have been lots of shifts and trends in workplace training and learning that I’ve seen over my career to date, and there are likely to be lots more still to come.

Currently, organisations are taking advantage of learning technologies, using learning management systems to host learning content. Digital delivery methods such as e-learning, webinars and video are common-place and there are a host of collaborative tools. We’ll get more into the detail of this in our next blog Future Ready, where we will look at the next wave of learning technology solutions.

To think about…

The future of learning is definitely open, however with so much information and so many tools at our disposal it can be overwhelming.

Think about how you consume information – do you take advantage of digital tools?

Are you a ‘surface-skimmer’ just reading what pops up on your feed? Or do you control and curate where your interests lie? What shifts in your workplace and personal learning have you seen?


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