Employee-led learning is a modern training style that focusses on learners’ needs. While this might sound as if employees’ needs are put on top of the company’s requirements, supporters of this style actually have a mutual benefit in mind. Companies improve their workforce quality, time-to-market and competitive value by having employees set goals to achieve just this. Alongside their individual wishes for empowerment, valuation, knowledge, career, etc. Employees and companies push each other forward, which is why employee-led learning deserves a deeper look.
“Employee-led learning” (ELL) as recently described by workplace learning advisor Jane Hart, is a way to empower employees to make their own choices and take personal responsibility for what they learn: “We need to stop treating employees like school children and spoon-feeding them with all the training they need to do, in exactly the way we prescribe for them – but instead treat them like the intelligent adults they are.”
Secondly, she claims: “We need to stop treating employees as if they are all the same and providing them with a one size fits all training solution – but instead treat them like individuals, and help them to have personal (i.e. personally constructed, relevant and appropriate) learning experiences that fit their own needs.”
However obvious it might sound, treating workplace learners like intelligent adults is not a natural thing. Giving people autonomy in learning can be harder than “spoon-feeding”, e.g. distributing all available content over PowerPoint slides and other documents. In order to provide autonomy, companies need to consider a learner’s perspective and give him a choice. Therefore, a “self-service selection” of courses and resources for employees to choose from might be part of it, Hart argues, but it is not enough. Instead, “individuals should be empowered to organise and manage their own personal and professional learning to improve their own knowledge, skills and ultimately their performance in the workplace, in the way that best suits them.”
Giving employees a feeling of responsibility for their own training is essential in the Employee-led learning style. On-demand training is one way to support this. Others include visibility of progress and stimulation of discussion and self-reflection. Some useful tips to give control to individuals over their own training:
In order to fulfill the wish for empowerment and provide relevant training, the above mentioned functionalities need to be supported by a company’s training measures. If e-learning is part of the training strategy, the software needs to implement features for progress visibility, comments and discussion, offer various question types and be flexible enough to adjust after individual needs. Coursepath is such a software, built with special focus on autonomy and transparency: the intuitive platform enables self-directed learning and collaboration. Companies achieve best results when building courses for regular use and frequent adaptation, so training stays a dynamic process where different stakeholders have a say – participants as much as trainers and managers.
To make clear that it is not all about the learning but about the work, Hart does not use the word learner, but instead refers to individual, employee or worker. Also in Coursepath, we avoid the terms learner and teacher and use participant and trainer instead. However, in this article we do use learner once in a while to emphasize the role of individuals’ needs in learning – as opposed to business needs or company expectations. Nevertheless, companies and learners can not be seen entirely separately: if both see their needs fulfilled, it will be highly beneficial to employees’ motivation and qualification and the company’s overall success.
Participants in workplace training have a responsibility to themselves, which they enjoy and see as fulfilling part of their work. But they also hold responsibility towards the company’s goals. Employees know this and make sure that learning results become visible: either by course results and certificates or – better yet – by improved working skills and shared competencies. It makes the training live.