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Supporting the Modern Learner

Much has been discussed and addressed in the past few years regarding the modern learner.  Some think this term is synonymous with describing learners from the millennial generation. But the truth is this term defines all generations in the workforce today. Technologies have largely reshaped the profile of today’s worker, and learning professionals are now challenged with developing a workforce that is:

  • Overwhelmed with activities that interfere with getting work done.
  • Distracted with the multitude of inputs taking them off task.
  • Impatient as a result of all the inputs.
  • Untethered from the traditional workplace.
  • Accustomed to accessing information on-demand.
  • Highly collaborative, mainly due to social networks.
  • Empowered, as a result of all of the above, to find what they need, when they need it.

I recently attended a panel discussion featuring learning professionals from various industries who shared their challenges and observations in reaching today’s learners. According to the panel, Enemy #1 is “workers having little to no time available for learning.” They offered the following practices to connect with and support the modern learner:

  • Develop solutions that can be used within the normal flow of an employee’s work and life. Use more job aids and performance support and less training. Think about time that can be used in the car on the way to work to listen to a podcast.
  • Gather the resources employees need to do their job and establish a single, central source where they can easily access them such as a learning portal.
  • Take a cue from sites like YouTube and develop quick videos that provide tutorials on things such as performing a procedure or showing product features.
  • Stay connected with your HR business partners to provide guidance on how to address the needs of the business. Work with them to be your champion in promoting the good work you’re doing to meet employees’ needs.
  • Establish and support social learning networks to foster collaboration. Let the conversations happen.
  • Be proactive in continuously marketing the learning you’ve developed.

Regardless of the practices, systems, and tactics you can employ, one critical element sits at the fulcrum of success for the modern learner — learning leadership. The panel agreed that company executives who reinforce a culture of learning are paramount. Empowering and holding managers accountable to develop their employees and creating an environment that permits learning as part of the job are crucial to the success of the modern learner.

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