Self-Directed Learning at Work – The Myth that is Costing Organizations Millions
New solutions that are aligned to current trends in personal technology use, such as video-learning and on-demand courses, are incessantly peddled to organizations as the ticket to the future of learning for employees. And why should leaders question the validity of these products? Search engines like Google are used for people who readily seek information on topics of interest. Forums like TedEX, Kahn Academy, and YouTube drive millions of users who leverage these websites to absorb countless hours of learning. Corporations strive to capture this self-directed, on-demand learning behavior in their own organizations, and the efforts continuously fall flat, leaving many stumped and searching for a solution.
The disconnect is due to a lack of understanding of what motivates people to action. People have a misconception that technology use and behavior outside of work will translate to behavior at the office. This is simply not true. While an individual may be willing to search for countless hours to understand a health concern, they are less likely to put the same diligence to solve a problem for their employer. Many employees expect their managers to set expectations at the workplace; this includes objectives, performance, and yes, learning. Employees will not engage in self-directed learning unless they have a specific goal in mind, they seek to achieve, or if their employer has created a clear path that leads to recognition of efforts. Employees want their managers to tell them what courses, readings, or learning they need to succeed at the company. It is for these reasons that self-directed learning portals that cost employers millions of dollars a year are ineffective as an employee development tool. On-demand learning, while important, is less important to employees than an employer carving out time for training and actively supporting employees’ efforts to learn new skills that will be recognized by the company.
Leaders need to know that investing in tools to improve the employee learning experience is necessary to support the learning experience and desired performance outcomes. However, employees need guidance on the types of learning they should engage in that will help them be successful in their current and future roles. Employees also want to know that their organization is committed to providing the time and resources that will lead to better job opportunities, wages, and recognition for their work.
Employees will not engage in learning without purpose . While some people will pursue learning because they have a love of learning or self-driven to improve continuously, a lot of people do not have this passion for learning. Think of how many people say, “I hated school.” If we recognize that employees today are often overworked and short on time, then we need to recognize that training needs to be part of the job and time made available for employees to engage in learning on the employer's time.