We recently spoke with Jane Daly, Chief Insight Officer of PeopleStar & CEO of People Who Know, to delve into her research and views on current topics such as the importance of self-determined learning, the shifting power dynamic between employer and employee, and the benefits of personalization. Join us for this insightful discussion!
We hear a lot of talk about self-determined vs. self-directed learning. What is the difference between the two, and why does self-determined learning matter?
Self-determined learning, or heutagogy, is a continuum of self-directed learning, or andragogy. In a heutagogical approach to learning, learners are highly autonomous and self-determined, and emphasis is placed on development of learner capacity and capability. The goal is to have engaged and motivated learners who are well-prepared for the complexities of today’s workplace, something often found in organizations with a higher level of digital learning maturity.
Being self-determined matters because it focuses on how people learn and not just the content. Focusing on the whole person helps them to develop long-term strategies and problem-solving principles that can be applied holistically to work and life situations. Self-determination allows people to take ownership of their choices and how they live. Heutagogy also has an impact on motivation and wellbeing—people feel more motivated to act when they feel that what they do will influence an outcome.
Could you talk a bit about how the workplace power dynamic has shifted, allowing learners to take ownership of their professional destiny?
We are now in a digital-first world. Even though some people are experiencing digital poverty and challenges with digital literacy, the move to digital is bringing exciting new skillsets and career opportunities for people who are prepared to take ownership of their learning experiences to elevate their professional credentials.
With the move towards full digital transformation, things like knowledge, education, learning and work experiences have become more accessible and these open sources of access are predicted to grow exponentially over the next decade. This means that employees can take the lead and invest in themselves by choosing learning opportunities that promote self-development or career growth. Employers who take advantage of this momentum by offering employees relevant learning experiences via the company’s training platform will be able to attract and retain the best talent and maintain a competitive edge.
People with impressive professional credentials are in high demand, particularly those who are taking the initiative to build portfolio careers that match the needs of the market. Employers will want to attract and keep these valuable employees by investing in them through the offer of interesting upskilling and reskilling opportunities that help drive their careers forward.
To coincide with this there is also a movement driven by the global pandemic of people looking to nurture their wellbeing, work flexibly and fulfill more purpose in their work. Many people are choosing only to work with organizations and people who share their values and care about them. They are also more curious about the economic, social and environmental impact their organization or industry is responsible for.
Do today’s managers engage enough with L&D to demand the support they need for their teams? If not, why not?
The best managers have a mindset and mantra of guiding and coaching instead of just ‘managing’. Line guides and coaches, as opposed to managers, are more self-determined and motivated to drive the team’s development, focusing on the team’s potential. Their desire to unlock group learning is a key element to their motivation, so they are a natural partner for L&D. In fact, managers with these characteristics are often self-determined and find numerous ways to drive learning opportunities; working with L&D will be just one of these. This is great for L&D because these managers can provide invaluable insight and opportunities for learning and advocacy.
When it comes to managers who do not put people before profit, we usually find it’s due to a poorly designed reward and recognition environment within the corporate culture, one that focuses on the wrong things so that a chosen few people benefit from learning investment rather than the wider workforce.
The only way to make sure all managers support their teams and embed a learning ecosystem is to reward and recognize them for doing this, thereby creating a thriving learning culture where everyone benefits.
How should today’s L&D professionals assess learner needs and harmonize them with business needs?
There are limitless opportunities open to L&D professionals. Depending on the size of the workforce, professionals will need to decide what to prioritize. L&D should keep in mind that not all employees learn the same way and that by offering more formats and choice in their learning offerings they can appeal to a wider variety of preferences. When dealing with an international workforce, L&D would also be wise to consider cultural norms when it comes to designing their learning programs.
Whatever the size of the workforce, the critical place to start is with organizational risks and opportunities because this is where L&D can add most value. Once L&D teams have agreed with other stakeholders on the company’s priorities, assessing workforce insights will be crucial. Similar to assessing customer insights, L&D should focus not just on the learning need e.g. workforce personas or profiles, but also assess the real business needs and provide an opportunity to segment workforce requirements in more depth.
If L&D are focused on critical capability gaps, and then they assess learner requirements around them, they will find that alignment is naturally achieved. Future-focused professionals should take an evidence-based approach to assessing the needs of employees and teams, building up their insight as the workforce evolves so that it becomes more valuable over time instead of being a one off or annual event. These are ideal practices of an organization that works towards advancing their learning maturity level.
How can you deliver personalized learning at an individual level so that learners benefit from career and self-development, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach?
The simple answer is that we need to support and reward people who are self-determined learners.
By prioritizing self-determined learning with the right balance of technology that has been designed to be human-centered, and then nudging based on preferences and need, we could accelerate learning. This is particularly true in a scaled and complex workforce and in settings where people need to adapt their capabilities more frequently.
Taking an evidence-based approach will be key, while providing valuable insight at organizational, functional, team, manager, and individual levels will enable OD / L&D to lead this transformation by learning and adapting. The more people are supported by human-centered tech (not the other way around), the easier they can become more self-aware of how they learn and what they need to grow and develop.
We will need to build advocacy of this approach, not just among learners but also upper management who sometimes need convincing to support L&D budget requirements. L&D can do this by providing inspiring and limitless learning opportunities that demonstrate value and support business outcomes. Personalized learning will only come when we are prepared to offer more autonomy, relatedness and willingness to support people, empowering them be effective in dealing with any type of environment. We therefore need to be prepared to drive transformation within the L&D community at this critical time, to make real changes for the future.
Find out how CrossKnowledge can deliver personalized skill building for each learner in your organization!
Jane is Chief Insight Officer of PeopleStar, an independent evidence-based agency specializing in culture & behavioral change. She works across all areas of the people profession and has vast experience in organisational development/learning within complex and scaled workforces, as well as a proven track record in commercially adapting organisational culture whilst accelerating growth, transformation, productivity, profitability & wellbeing. Jane is a published thought-leader, board & leadership consultant, an accredited executive coach and OD strategist & analyst who champions the voice of People Professionals. She was previously Global Head of L&OD at M&S and Chief Insight Officer at Towards Maturity/Emerald and her research is regularly published and referenced. She is also a digital entrepreneur having launched People Who Know in 2017.