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7 Strategies to Support and Drive Self-Directed Learning in the Remote Workplace

April 14, 2021 | By Asha Pandey


7 Strategies to Support and Drive Self-Directed Learning in the Remote Workplace

Formal training programs are typically designed to lead the learners toward baseline proficiency. Self-directed learning (SDL) can help them move from baseline to mastery. In this article, I share 7 strategies to support and drive SDL.

Why Don’t the Existing Corporate Training Programs Deliver the Desired Value to Learners?

This is on account of inherent shortcomings in which they are structured. Look at the following aspects that clearly highlight how often existing approaches may not be in sync with what learners need and ask for.

  1. L&D teams push training to employees rather than them pulling it on their own: By nature, “enforced” (or pushed) training meets resistance. Learners absorb more when it’s self-directed content and transfer more of what they’ve learned to the workplace.
  2. Existing training interrupts work and can be distracting: It’s not that the work “goes away” when employees attend mandated/scheduled corporate training. In fact, the workday is typically longer and more stressful during training. The result? Both work and learning are unintended casualties of current corporate training programs!
  3. Limited-duration corporate training is just not enough: Training can only help learners achieve baseline proficiency. For learners to progress, they need to acquire knowledge outside the formal training environment.
  4. Formal training ignores the realities of today’s remote working dynamics: Invariably, today’s remote workers can’t learn in the same environment as existed a year ago. Today’s Work From Home (WFH) policy is a paradigm shift from prior models of telecommuting (and remote learning). Formal learning strategies just don’t cut it anymore!
  5. Corporate training programs train to curriculums: Today’s WFH paradigm demonstrates that learners need practical knowledge beyond what a scripted formal corporate training curriculum delivers. When employees are encouraged to pursue self-directed learning opportunities, they typically gravitate toward learning skills (or enhancing existing ones) that not only interest them but also deliver real-time work performance improvements.

How Can Self-Directed Learning Help Drive Continuous Learning – Particularly, in Today’s Remote Workplace?

Today’s workplace is characterized by remote work, in which it’s not always possible for corporate L&D teams to monitor and enforce “scheduled” learning. The rapid pace at which information changes makes it extremely challenging for trainers to update curriculums, modify training content, and retrain everyone in time to leverage the new learning content.

As more employees embrace remote work, the most effective learning paradigm is one where employees themselves take ownership of their learning needs and pursue them through self-directed learning opportunities.

How Can Organizations Support Self-Directed Learning?

By using the Learning and Performance Ecosystem based approach, organizations can successfully support self-directed learning.

This approach connects employees (learners) and supports them with the processes, technologies, and content necessary to enhance performance.

Here’s a 5-channel approach to building such an Ecosystem:

  1. Initiation: Initiate remote learners to the Ecosystem so they have visibility of the learning opportunities and to the context and objectives of the session. Tools that can be used to support initiation – eMails, newsletters, and video messages.
  2. Awareness: Maintain a continuous stream of engagement, awareness-building messaging, and outreach campaigns – based on an individual learner’s role in the organization. Tools that can be used to create awareness – Video based case studies, teasers, tips and tricks, promotional and informational posters, banners, and hoardings.
  3. Engagement: Deliver engaging learning content for self-directed learners to immerse themselves into. Tools that can be used to enhance engagement – Learning journeys, gamification, performance support tools/just-in time learning aids, and assessmentbased challenges.
  4. Collaboration: Use collaborative tools to further training effectiveness and measure performance. Tools that can be used to promote collaboration – Surveys, social learning, performance support, and contextual assessments.
  5. Evaluation: Use feedback to measure and analyze the effectiveness of the Learning and Performance Ecosystem and decide if the desired ROI was achieved. Tools that can be used to ascertain training effectiveness and impact – Polls, surveys, data analytics, and feedback loops.

What Strategies Can Enable You to Drive Self-Directed Learning in the Remote Workplace?

In today’s remote workplace, self-directed learning won’t just happen on its own. It requires concerted strategizing by L&D teams to make it happen.

It’s important to remember that in successful self-directed learning strategies, Learning and Performance Ecosystems place the learner as the central focus of the system. L&D teams then build all other channels and platforms around the learner to facilitate self-directed learning.

Here are some key elements of a winning self-directed learning strategy:

  1. Building awareness and motivating learners toward self-directed learning: With employees focused on work performance, it’s easy for them to ignore the need for ongoing self-improvement. A good self-directed learning strategy starts by building employee awareness to the fact that following a path of continuous learning invariably leads to better work performance.
  2. Enabling self-paced learning: Make learning assets available to learners so they may consume them at their own pace.
  3. Creating ongoing learning opportunities: Make learning a part of the employee’s daily routine. This self-directed learning strategy works best when it provides learning support tools, learning and job aids, learning on-the-go, just-in-time learning, and learning within a learner’s workflow.
  4. Leveraging informal learning: According to experts, informal learning comprises between 70% and 90% of adult learning activity. Informal learning opportunities, such as creating a continuous learning culture, organizing moderated forums and learning centers, delivering microlearning content, facilitating virtual book clubs, and offering coaching and mentoring to learners, must therefore form a key part of a self-directed learning strategy.
  5. Leveraging social learning: The most effective self-directed learning happens when peers collaborate on learning projects in (online) social settings. The strategy must, therefore, leverage multiple social learning networks to ensure learners have a place to meet, discuss ideas, and further their learning.
  6. Organizing and curating learning assets: To facilitate effective self-directed learning, it’s important that learners have access to content. Not just any content, but purposefully curated learning assets that L&D teams organize for logical and intuitive access and consumption.
  7. Checkpointing for feedback and evaluation: Continuous, multi-faceted feedback and evaluation is necessary to determine whether the strategy works and affects desired course changes if there are shortcomings.

Parting Thoughts

Existing corporate training programs have their limitations, especially in the changed workplace dynamics. They can only help the learners achieve baseline proficiency. To help learners progress toward mastery and improve their performance, L&Ds should enable continuous learning.

Self-directed learning is a key strategy for driving continuous learning in the remote workplace.

I hope my article will help you successfully implement strategies to drive self-directed learning in the remote workplace. I have also shared cues on how you can use a Learning and Performance Ecosystem based approach to foster a continuous self-directed learning culture in the workplace.

Meanwhile, if you have any specific queries, do contact me or leave a comment below.

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Asha Pandey
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