How You Can Support Self-Directed Learners

Today’s hyperconnected and tech-savvy workforce is turning to sites like Google and YouTube more than ever to drive their learning on the job. Studies show that personnel spend a lot more time self-directing their learning than partaking in formal training and development programs. Although organizations should be thrilled that their employees are becoming more self-directed learners, self-procured learning content can pose a risk as well. If the content isn’t reviewed by the organization, it may conflict with their best practices, values or process. Organizations should support their employees’ curiosity and focus on aligning learning with their development plans.

Why Should Organizations Care?

Self-directed learning is when learners take ownership of their active learning and developmental path. Self-directed learning can take many forms. For example, self-directed learners might seek advice on best-practices from peers, surf the web for how-to videos, follow thought leaders in the industry, or attend developmental conferences.

Organizations should support these learners because ultimately, they are:

  • More engaged in the topic
  • Achieve more successful learning outcomes
  • Are more likely to share and teach others
  • Are more likely to apply what they have learned in the workforce
What Can Organizations do to Support These Learners?
  1. Find ways that you can put your learners in the driver’s seat.

Organizations should find ways to support and empower the autonomy of their learners. This might be as simple as encouraging your employees to set their own learning goals that fit the scope of their development plans. It may help for both learners and leaders to have a meeting to align on what knowledge and skills are important to drive performance. From there, leaders should provide resources and guidance on how to create SMART learning goals.

Further, consider letting your employees create their own learning activity schedules. Employees are more likely to be engaged when their learning is scheduled at a time that suits them the best. Adding a sense of responsibility can help keep employees from putting off learning.

Lastly, encourage employees to share the resources they have found that support their learning goals and development plans. It can be especially beneficial for small companies to keep an inventory of collected content to ensure alignment, as well as crowd-sourced content that can be shared with other learners. This helps build a community around the learning environment.

  1. Encourage two-way feedback

Ask employees to self-evaluate their learning. This holds them accountable for their learning commitment and provides managers with valuable insights as to what they have accomplished. In addition, it is important for managers to give learners both observational and analytical feedback often so that learners have a better idea of what competencies they should be focusing on developing. Constant feedback also provides managers with the opportunity to give positive feedback, which helps keep employees engaged and happy.

  1. Make learning opportunities easily accessible and flexible

Giving your employees easy access to whatever developmental resources your organization has is essential! Consider implementing a cloud-based LMS that lets individuals learn on any device, anywhere. This will provide learners with the flexibility they need to learn in their busy workday. Finding a platform that also lets learners procure, upload and share learning content would be beneficial to your organization. It would give peers visibility to new, engaging content, that could eventually be built into the formal training programs.

Although self-directed learners pave their own path of continuous development, it is important for organizations to realize that they must support their efforts along the way. Both large and small businesses can be positively impacted by self-directed learning. For large businesses, empowering self-directed learning might be a small part of their formal learning and development strategy. For small to mid-size businesses, it can integrate learning into the culture of the company, without requiring significant, formal investment up front. A cloud-based LMS platform that is available on any device can help your organization support and organize a self-directed learning strategy.

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