Graphs appearing in this blog entry were inexpertly designed based on the data appearing in the publication cited below:

Straub, R. (2009). Knowledge work in a connected world: is workplace learning the next big thing? Impact: Journal of Applied Research in Workplace E-learning, 1(1). 5–11.

In this 21st-century work scenario, workplace learning becomes by default the dominant form of learning. We are learning in the workplace, whilst doing our jobs, most of it happening without being consciously perceived by either employee or employer as a learning process.

This informal learning is estimated to account for 70% to 90% of all learning that knowledge workers acquire, with the significantly smaller balance taking place through formal, off-the-job training (Cross, 2006). To further emphasise the point, research indicates that not more than 10% cent of formal off-the-job training is transferred to the workplace (Ford & Weissbein, 1997).

Key points:

  • If research looks at workplace e-learning as the ‘next big thing’ in isolation, it may, unfortunately, fall victim to the same flaw that underlay John Chambers’ prediction: it was not e-learning that was to become the next big thing, but rather the relentless need to learn and to innovate. 
  • Tools and techniques for enabling and supporting learning can range from face-to-face, online and blended courses and interventions to the use of email, blogging, social networking and other tools, but it is critical that the means not be confused with the end. 
  • Workplace e-learning, if understood as a set of technologies and capabilities, is simply a means to an end, where the end is to create superior value in an ever faster-moving, more complex and more unpredictable global marketplace.
  • Drucker, in his explorations of the subject spanning half a century, captured the essence of the knowledge workers by highlighting a number of distinctive traits they exhibit – for example, they know their tasks better than their managers do; they are highly specialised; they are connected to other knowledge workers in the same specialty knowledge field. They must be given objectives to serve organisational goals; however, they must be allowed to exercise initiative rather than simply being told how to reach the given objectives. 
  • Knowledge workers define their job and communicate it to those who need to know. To achieve their potential they require high degrees of autonomy and control, which includes self-determination of learning needs and priorities. 
  • The knowledge worker’s need for autonomy and the tension this can create is further emphasised by Davenport (2005), who outlines the challenges such autonomy brings: for example, it is very difficult for management to discern when knowledge workers are actually ‘working’, since they work through their brains rather than their bodies.
  •  Tools and techniques for enabling and supporting learning can range from face-to-face, online and blended courses and interventions to the use of email, blogging, social networking and other tools, but it is critical that the means not be confused with the end. 
  • Workplace e-learning, if understood as a set of technologies and capabilities, is simply a means to an end, where the end is to create superior value in an ever faster-moving, more complex and more unpredictable global marketplace.

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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