By Steve Morse, MEd RRT CHPT CTP
Director of Education, Covenant Care
As organizations change their product or service delivery model to meet market demands and competition forces, the need for an agile and responsive workforce to support these changes is critical. Without a workforce that can readily attain the competencies and skills to support a changing business model, an organization will fail to thrive.
Learning and development is a common support service in organizations with responsibility for resolving employee competency and skill gaps. A new challenge, however, has manifested that is making it difficult for learning and development professionals to provide much needed educational interventions effectively and efficiently – the current state of the modern workforce learner.
The Modern Workforce Learner
Today’s workforce is being asked to do more with less, is easily distracted from multiple responsibilities, and has very little time to devote to learning. Bersin by Deloitte (2014) identified key characteristics of the modern workforce learner:
Kadakia (2016) shares “A modern learner is someone who is in an environment where content changes fast and learning needs change even faster.” The definition of a modern workforce learner provided by Kadakia would apply to any organization experiencing change in which learners need to acquire new competencies and skills to support the change. In short, the modern workforce learner is overwhelmed, distracted, impatient, and untethered – work often occurs in multiple locations or remotely (Tauber, & Wang-Audia, 2014).
Needs of the Modern Workforce Learner
The paradigm has shifted for learning and development on how to best meet the needs of the modern workforce learner.
A new learning architecture is now being designed and deployed by learning and development professionals to support the concept of continuous learning for continuous improvement.
Continuous learning takes into consideration the needs of the learner (Mallon, & Johnson) as to whether they are immediate (supporting success in the moment), intermediate (growing in the current role), and transitional (growing a career). To encourage the modern workforce learner to engage in learning continuously, multiple modalities of learning options must be made available to them that are both prescriptive and self-directed.
Multiple Modalities of Learning Options
Research literature indicates about 70% of learning occurs from on-the-job, experiential learning, 20% from informal sources and collaborating with peers, and 10% from formal classroom and course instruction (DDI, & Brandon Hall Group, 2016). In alignment with these literature findings, continuous learning (Mallon, & Johnson, 2014) is categorized in one of four contexts:
The inference from the continuous learning context descriptions is that learning occurs everywhere. “Today’s learners participate in a classroom that’s radically different than previous iterations because it’s an experience, not a physical place” (Hays, 2016). With respect, learning approaches (Mallon, 2010) can be classified as formal or informal.
Communities of Practice
Electronic Performance Support
From the classifications of learning approaches, the modern workforce learner has access to multiple learning options that are both prescriptive and self-directed.
Expectations of the Modern Workforce Learner
In addition to multiple learning options, the modern workforce learner has expectations of learning that include immediate, anytime, anywhere access to relevant information; curated, bite-sized content drip-fed over longer time intervals; and content that is engaging, attention-grabbing multi-media in design (Gnowbe, n.d.). To meet these expectations, learning and development professionals are utilizing specific instructional strategies (Paul, 2017; Rentier, 2016) to enhance the learner experience:
In Consideration of the Modern Workforce Learner
The modern workforce learner has been shown to represent a unique audience of adult learners. It is commonly recognized in the literature by learning and development professionals that adult learners are internally motivated, have a readiness to learn, and are responsible for their own learning (Morse, 2016). These characteristics of adult learning are particularly important given the heavy reliance of self-directed learning from informal learning approaches through continuous learning.
As with any learner audience, however, a thorough assessment of the learner’s needs must be completed. If it is determined that an adult learning approach does not meet the needs of the target audience, then a more direct, supplantive method must be used to guide the modern workforce learner (Morse). In the latter case, clear expectations and a learning roadmap will be a must for the modern workforce learner to succeed in the new reality of continuous learning.
Bersin by Deloitte. (2014). Meet the modern learner [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://www.bersin.com/Lib/Rs/ShowDocument.aspx?docid=18071
DDI., & Brandon Hall Group. (2016, July). Learning technology 2016: Embracing innovation for a better learner experience. Retrieved from http://www.ddiworld.com/DDI/media/trend-research/learning-technology-2016_tr_brandon-hall.pdf?ext=.pdf
Gnowbe. (n.d.). Paradigm shift in corporate learning. Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55654ef3e4b06054695119d4/t/588a398fbe65945e50a1a93a/1485453711708/whitepaper09.pdf
Hays, K. (2016, March 24). How to engage modern learners: When to “Push” and when to “Pull” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.insynctraining.com/how-to-engage-modern-learners-when-to-push-and-when-to-pull
Hogle, P. (2017, April). Portrait of a modern learner. Learning Solutions Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/2294/portrait-of-the-modern-learner/pageall
Kadakia, C. (2016, June 3). Are you a modern learner? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.td.org/Publications/Blogs/Human-Capital-Blog/2016/06/Are-You-a-Modern-Learner
Mallon, D. (2010). High-impact learning culture: The 40 best practices for creating an empowered enterprise. Retrieved from http://home.bersin.com/
Mallon, D., & Johnson, D. (2014, May). The learning architecture – Defining development and enabling continuous learning. Bersin by Deloitte. Retrieved from http://www.bersin.com/Lib/Rs/ShowDocument.aspx?docid=17435
Morse, S. (2016, August 10). Should distance education adult learners always be treated as adult learners? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/should-distance-education-adult-learners-always-steve-morse/
Paul, J. (2017, June 23). What is modern workplace learning? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.d2l.com/blog/modern-workplace-learning/
Rentier, C. (2016, December 2). Designing learning experiences for the modern learner [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://novoed.com/blog/3350/designing-learning-experiences-modern-learner/
Tauber, T., & Wang-Audia, W. (2014, November 26). Meet the modern learner: Engaging the overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient employee. Bersin by Deloitte. Retrieved from http://www.bersin.com/Lib/Rs/ShowDocument.aspx?docid=18066