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Prioritizing Learning in a 24/7 Globalized Culture

Bob Little 

February 23, 2018

In the second of two blogs, I’ll be exploring the challenges faced by L&D professionals, and their learners, in a 24/7 globalized learning culture.

Modern working life can result in managers overloading their team members. For example, they can call them out of hours, and request – or demand – extra work at the last minute. So, workers arrive early, stay late, work weekends, and are never apart from their electronic devices. To their organizations, these are “ideal” workers.

And fear of reprisals – such as being overlooked for promotion, or even dismissal – means that workers feel pressured to put their job ahead of their outside interests and family time.

The demands of performing a role can also take priority over learning and developing the skills that employees need to do the job more effectively and efficiently. This can frustrate an L&D professional’s desire to provide learning opportunities.

Yet there are strategies for helping workers to manage (or at least to justify to themselves) the pressure of being “ideal” workers. These strategies, outlined in the Harvard Business Review, include:

1. Accepting the situation. Essentially, this means that you accept being at the “beck and call” of your organization as the price for the job’s prestige and rewards. This strategy can work while a job is going well, but it can pose problems from an L&D perspective. For example, some managers are intolerant of “non-ideal” workers, and may be unwilling to work with L&D professionals to mentor or develop team members.

2.  Giving the impression that you are an “ideal” worker. This is when you successfully pass yourself off as someone who is always on call, but you still take the time to enjoy your personal life.

3. Rebelling against the “ideal” worker culture. Here, you just say “No” to sacrificing your whole life to the job. You make it clear that you have a life and interests outside the workplace, and look to achieve an acceptable work-life balance.

What Are the Lessons for L&D Professionals?

While “ideal” workers may view learning as intrusion on their time, L&D professionals urge them to see it as an important part of their job.

Tim Drewitt, the online learning practitioner,  writer and speaker, says, “Learning shouldn’t be seen as an extra, but as something that sits alongside the task at hand.

“In my experience, learners genuinely want, and find the time, to learn – if not always through L&D-developed channels. Rather than ‘prioritize learning,’ we should promote learning as equal to, and indistinguishable from, the ‘day job.’ Shifting emphasis from learning courses to performance-support resources can help this transition.”

Drewitt adds, “Organizations also need to move from annual personal development discussions to a regular series of quick check-ins, reviewing current tasks interlaced with discussions about personal development and improvement. This must be driven from the top. Since data shows the C-suite among the best-read, they should demonstrate how and what they’re learning – and the benefits it’s bringing.”

Nick Hindley, global learning and development manager at AVEVA, says, “The 70:20:10 approach helps deal with issues concerning adopting a flexible, learner-led approach to solutions. We should also focus on clear outcomes, since these are key to effective learning because they drive robust evaluation. Furthermore, personal motivation is always key to effective engagement with, and the application of, learning.”

20 Strategies for Prioritizing Learning

Among the strategies to help you prioritize learning in modern organizations are:

  • Set an example in lowering workplace stress.
  • Be open to different ways of working/learning, such as promoting curated L&D materials.
  • Emphasize to learners that L&D activities, including informal learning activities outside your control, should benefit both the learner and his or her organization.
  • Turn all L&D activities into positive, pressure-free experiences – using humor to reduce pressure, for example.
  • Dispel ideas that L&D activities are for those being punished for poor performance.
  • Emphasize that results, not effort or time spent learning, are what count.
  • Encourage learners to reveal their learning behavior, and change workplace norms to embrace learning.
  • Resist perfectionist influences. These may come from “ideal” workers among the organization’s senior executives, who urge you to set unrealistic L&D goals.
  • Reward learners’ achievements.
  • Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Instead, focus on the things you can control, such as the way you choose to react to issues.

In addition, Hindley suggests:

  • Focus on outcomes: be clear what’s going to change after the learning has happened.
  • Enlist and encourage role models from all levels of leadership and management to promote learning.
  • Apply rigor to SMART goals.
  • Use “App” gaming psychology to entice, intrigue and engage learners.

Drewitt’s tips are:

  • Understand micro-learning and develop learning objects that target micro-knowledge and skills gaps.
  • Make learning easy to find. Locate it alongside other tools that learners use, and/or choose an LMS that recognizes the demands placed on modern learners.
  • Ensure your learning is available anywhere, 24/7.
  • Explore how light-touch gamification raises learning’s profile.
  • Spend time with your learners in their working environment. And, when you’re developing learning solutions, consider the user experience. What triggers learners’ learning needs? How can that learning need be met at the point it’s triggered? What would the most user-friendly solution look like? Would some user-generated content be helpful?
  • Explore how better use could be made of your workers’ existing social collaboration platforms, to connect those with questions to those with the answers.

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