Survey Shows Surprising Attitudes Toward Workplace Learning

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Only 14 percent think that company training is an essential way for them to learn in the workplace.

That was one of the findings of my recent anonymous survey on how people learn best in the workplace, and even I was surprised by the results.  But I think the biggest take-away from my survey is that we can no longer assume we know how people like to learn in the workplace nor how we think people should learn. So in this blog post, I want to share the data from my survey, some of my thoughts about the results, and the importance of undertaking your own survey.

The survey’s main question asked respondents to rate the importance of 10 different ways of learning in the workplace  — as “Not important,” “Somewhat important,” “Very Important,” or “Essential.”  Here are the responses in the form of a heat map — from 131 people from 28 different countries, although the survey is still open and further responses are still coming in.

Here are some of the things I picked up on:

• Just under half of the respondents think Company Training (that includes face-to-face workshops as well as e-learning) is only “somewhat important,” and nearly 20 percent find it “not important at all.” That’s nearly 70 percent of the respondents. Although a lot has been written about the ineffectiveness of training, I was surprised that training was rated so low, so I looked further into the data.

Firstly, this same pattern of results was visible across all functions. So who said it was essential? Well, although there were responses from across the board, they came mainly and notably from a number of e-learning and training providers, trainers as well as some academics and L&D people. And who said it was “not important”? Was it just those who worked in small organizations without a training department? Well, there were a few in this category, but in fact most of the respondents who said it was unimportant came from organisations with sizes between 100 and 9,999. It also included some academics and trainers. In fact one respondent pointed out the irony:

“My function is primarily driven by the need to help others learn (classroom training – computer and professional development skills). My own quest to learn is very much self directed … to serve the needs of my customer better.”

• Interestingly, around the same number of respondents rate self-directed study of external courses more highly than company training — i.e. “very important.” From additional comments made by a couple of respondents, it seems that some even go so far as to fund their own professional development so they can study what they really need to know.

• Just like company training, the use of company job aids and company documents are also only seen as “somewhat important.” I found this quite surprising; I thought more people would value job aids, but maybe this is due to the dearth of good quality job aids available.

• Ninety percent of respondents, however, think that learning from collaborative working within your team is “essential” or “very important,” while conversationsfeeds,  personal and professional networking, curated content, and using Google to search the Web are also rated very highly. Very few people in fact considered these items as “not important.”

• There were no significant differences in this pattern of results across any of the areas surveyed: age, sex, job role, organizational size and type, although there were clearly differences in individual responses — and that is clearly something we need to keep sight of.

Re-posted with permission by Jane Hart, an expert on learning and development and an independent consultant, speaker, and writer. She is an internationally known specialist in the use of social media for learning and working. You can read the original version of this post on her blog

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