Everyday Workplace Learning: A Quick Primer

Everyday learning is the learning that takes place everyday as individuals do their jobs – individually or working with their internal colleagues, as well as connecting with others in (online) professional networks and channels. It’s about continuously acquiring small pieces of information or shills (often unconsciously) that over time build up into a large body of knowledge or experience, which means an individual becomes proficient in their job and knowledgeable about their industry or profession.

In other words, as the diagram below shows, everyday learning happens.

As part of daily working – from a variety of everyday experiences at work. As a personal daily learning activity – in whatever way(s) best suits the individual concerned. Although this type of learning is very different from traditional learning where knowledge and skills are acquired through a conscious process of studying in the classroom oronline (e-learning) – everyday learning is essential, for it is through this type of learning that most people learn how to do their job and improve.

And yet the importance of everyday learning has long been overlooked, undoubtedly due to the fact that the only valid way to learn at work is mostly seen as happening through an educational process, i.e. training which involves the design and delivery of authoritative content, and the management of learners.

But things are changing. More and more people now recognize the critical part that everyday learning plays in their lives, as too the fact that workplace learning is no longer the sole responsibility of L&D; it's now up to everyone to take ownership of their self-development. And for managers, in particular, continuous learning, is once again, becoming a key line responsibility.

Supporting everyday learning is therefore the new work of workplace learning professionals, but it is a very different type of work from designing, delivering and managing courses and resources.

1. It involves working with managers to help them develop the potential of individuals, and encourage their people to become self-organised “learning workers”. It also means helping them understand that as their team learns from one another in the course of their daily work, social collaboration technologies can help to underpin this, and can provide a safe space for the sharing of knowledge and experiences.

2. It means not trying to manage or track everyone’s everyday learning (in a LMS) – an impossible task! – but helping individuals to take responsibility for it themselves, and personally log their own learning activities and evidence their new knowledge and abilities, with their managers measuring success in terms of improvements in job and team performance.

3. It means working with a team to help them to learn how to share (and not over-share) knowledge and experiences, as well as how to support one another using appropriate collaborative technologies, and once again, for the manager to measure success of these activities through improvements in job and team performance.

Jane Hart is a well-regarded international speaker and writer on modern approaches to workplace learning. She has been advising businesses for over 20 years, and currently focuses on helping them to modernise their approach to workplace learning in order to create more relevant training initiatives for today’s employees as well as work with managers to support continuous learning in their teams.