Our modern times are so different from those depicted in Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. The world of work hopped on a super-fast conveyor belt and reached the point of omnipresent automation. Chaplin's hard work has been replaced by a faster and more accurate machine. Employees were forced to leave the industrial factories and invade offices, which lead to today's knowledge-based economy.
No matter what your job is now, knowledge is key. You only get better by knowing more, and it's a never-ending cycle. You just can't stop learning.
The more I learn, the more I learn that I need to learn more.
Continuous learning at work
Companies know that their best shot at being successful in our over-competitive business world is to have knowledgeable employees. But nobody is born a know-it-all. That's why Learning and Development departments will have such an important role in always improving employees' productivity.
Continuous learning at work targets everyone in a company, from new hires to top management, and L&D professionals themselves. There's always room for improvement.
All business processes, across all fields of activity, follow the same improvement cycle:
idea → research → tests and measurements → implementation and measurements → analysis of measurements → new ideas to improve the first one
This overly-simplified cycle requires in fact a lot of resources from companies and a lot of hard work from all employees.
The best motivator to apply it, then? When done right, it works more than great!
A cycle of pressure
Everyone is under pressure to perform better and to constantly improve, and learning at work is the catalyst for this:
Employees feel pressure from managers
New hires need to learn the company's way of getting things done as fast as possible in order to pass into the group of productive employees. Experienced employees need to learn how to juggle more and more complex tasks in the same amount of time. Senior employees are pressured to share their vast knowledge, but also adapt to new technology and new ways of doing things.
Being better than yesterday — or than last month, or last year — is what makes managers put more value over one employee or another.
L&D departments feel pressure from employees
Learning at work need to be fast, precise, relevant, engaging, interactive, available at all times and on all devices, to offer instant feedback, to offer a safe environment for making mistakes, to come in many shapes and sizes, and to offer a personalized experience for each employee.
The learning needs for new hires are different from — and to some extent, more stringent than — those of seasoned employees. However, L&D professionals shouldn't overlook the latter category, as those are the ones who make things move forward. As a result, they need to create courses and learning strategies that cater to everyone in the company, no matter their age, expertise, or style of learning.
Formal training as it was in the '90s can no longer be efficient. Modern employees have high demands from any training program; they need to reach their managers' high expectations.
Managers feel pressure from L&D departments
It's easy to list everything that L&D professionals should do to meet the high demands of their training audiences, but the truth is they can't bare the whole weight of that. Managers have to step in and share the burden. It's in their interest to have better productive employees, after all.
L&D departments need clear objectives in order to successfully deal with organizational learning needs. They can't provide the most appropriate blended learning strategy with small budgets. They need support from other departments: HR, for a better understanding of employees' situations, or IT, for a seamless implementation of technological tools and solving technical issues. Finally, they need managers' support for dealing with challenging learners and boost everyone's engagement rates.
Employees, L&D professionals, and managers push each other to achieve higher productivity and better results. They all feel the outside pressure of the knowledge-based economy and know that continuous learning at work is the only way to be part of the more modern future. Our ways of working may end up like Chaplin's conveyor belt.
Your job is never done. Consider that the next time you run into a workplace learning activity.
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