Learning on the Job Ain't What It Used to Be
Posted by Roy Saunderson on Thu, Jan 28, 2021 @ 06:15 PM

Gone are the days of traveling to a distant city, staying in a hotel, and participating in a one, or two-day accredited course to learn new skills to add to your professional repertoire. And with the current pandemic, you can forget about attending multiple breakout sessions and limitless presentations at a professional conference. Luckily many associations have moved to virtual events where you can now take advantage of learning sessions.

Economic constraints have impacted many businesses and organizations, which causes learning budgets to be drastically cut year-over-year. At the same time, employers have not necessarily assessed the expertise they need for the future and how to invest in the talent to make businesses flourish.

A Pew Research Center survey found that more than half (54%) of adults in the labor force say it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life to keep up with workplace changes. And 35 percent of workers, including about three-in-ten (27%) adults with at least a bachelor's degree, say they don't have the education and training they need to get ahead at work.

Global industry analyst, Josh Bersin, did a study back in 2018 and found the opportunity to learn and grow was second to only to the nature of the work itself, as the number one source of inspiration in making employees happy and wanting to work harder.

Learning on the Job Today

A more experienced coworker or an expert with specific knowledge or skills can coach or mentor their peers or employees by providing guidance and monitoring of putting what employees learn into practice. Coaching/Mentoring also provides the ability to demonstrate, model, give feedback, and explain the "tricks of the trade" with workplace procedures.

Learning on the job today must become a part of everyday thinking and application in your work. Learning and Development professionals must become vocational learning instructors, so guidance and instruction can happen in the workplace rather than through an educational framework.

What Learning on the Job Needs

However, learning by doing on the job doesn't cut it. Workplace learning requires structured experiences that help develop the capacity of workers to perform at their best potential.

According to the Bersin study referenced above, a few (7%) employees referred to as "heavy learners" managed to spend 5 hours a week in some form of learning. This learning could be reading, taking classes, watching courses, or doing other things relevant to advancing their skills and careers. Medium learners (47%) spent 1 to 5 hours learning, and the light learners spent 1 hour or less.

An MIT Sloan Management Review & Deloitte Digital 2018 Global Study found the most successful, fast-growing and digitally enabled companies are differentiated by one thing. They transformed the way individual and organizations learn. The study showed that 73 percent of employees in these companies were updating their skills every six months. And 44 percent reported continuously updating their skills. This required companies to provide opportunities for employees to learn fast, learn well and learn regularly.

Take Control of Learning at Work

Companies are increasingly pushing decision-making down into the organization while digitally maturing. Employee must learn new skills in new ways. The top reported ways to learn are 27 percent by on-the-job learning, 26 percent through training programs, and 16 percent with supportive work environments.

Creating an environment for learning is not easy in fast-paced and growing organizations. Organizations must create a supportive environment allowing experimentation through feedback and repetition. Working and learning in new ways requires openness and transparency from leaders.

Organizations can succeed when they develop employees by acquiring new knowledge and skills through practice and experimentation. Together, employees and leaders must leverage what they learn from both successes and failures.

Learning on the job may not be what it used to be, but there are far more opportunities to learn every day. Employees are the backbone of an organization. Allowing them to take advantage of what is available is a great way to encourage them to learn and hone their skills while looking to achieve their goals.

Authors note: This article originally appeared in TrainingMag.com Click here to read it in its entirety.

Topics: Training

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