Self-driven learners, also known as self-directed learners, are employees who take control over their own learning and development. They're a growing phenomenon within the workplace, and Learning and Development ( L&D) departments are increasingly being tasked with supporting and nurturing them.
The reason for this is simple: Research shows that embracing self-driven learning within your organization benefits not just the learners themselves, but also moves the needle on business outcomes.
Given the current fast-changing business environment, driven by digital transformation, organizations need just this type of employee if they hope to flourish. By 2022, almost 80 percent of organizational skills will have to be "reprioritized or revisited" due to digital disruption and business transformation, according to a recent report from Gartner.
So how do you start the shift to self-driven learning into the day-to-day work of L&D? Making a significant change in an organization can be difficult, but there are ways to empower your learners to take charge of their learning activities in an impactful, lasting way. It often comes down to how you design their learning experience (LX).
Ready to get started? Here are 10 design solutions that can significantly promote self-directed learning in your organization:
1. Practice makes perfect. It's a cliché for a reason. Seldom do employees master a new skill on their first attempt at putting it into practice. Give self-driven learners the time and space they need to learn new skills; support their practice by offering more resources and tools rather than courses.
2. Embrace microlearning. There's nothing worse than wanting – or needing – to learn something new, but not being able to carve out the time to take the training. Ensure the digital learning interventions you create are short and to the point, so that self-directed learners can consume learning at their convenience. Microlearning helps employees pick up skills needed in the moment, which is what they want: According to LinkedIn Learning's 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 49 percent of employees prefer to learn at their point of need.
3. Tick tock – don't watch the clock! Everyone learns at their own pace. Don't impose study time constraints on self-directed learners; it can take varying amounts of practice and lengths of time for different people to learn the same thing. In fact, 58 percent of employees prefer to learn at their own pace.
4. Gear your learning strategy toward strengthening the weakest skills. Design and label learning content around typical failure points; self-directed learners often want to know where they went wrong after trying something new, and they are more likely to learn from their mistakes. This could mean investing in learning technology that aggregates all the learners' incorrect answers after a skills test, and requires them to repeat the sections where they need improvement.
5. Put needed skills on repeat. Completing a course once doesn't make an employee an expert. That's why employees who are required to take compliance courses in most industries need to be recertified after a certain period. For new and emerging skills, use spaced repetition techniques to ensure people focus more frequently on the skills they have not yet mastered and less frequently on the skills they have already gained.
6. Choose your own adventure. Use profiling questions and adaptive branching to ensure the learner has a personalized learning experience. Learners become more engaged when they connect with the content and have more control over their learning experience. Learning and development teams can even go a step further and leverage learning technology that allows learners to create and curate their own "learning playlists" to curate, organize and follow their personalized learning journey.
7. Home in on employee interests and desired career path. Store and use profile data about the learner to trigger their motivation to learn; push new and relevant learning opportunities. If your organization's learning environment has an Artificial Intelligence (AI) application built into your learning platform, it can make smart suggestions to the learner, similar to Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, so that the learning experience is more streamlined and personal.
8. It's time to socialize! Design social-support opportunities (face-to-face as well as online) as part of the learning, but tap into existing networks to drive adoption. Collaborative learning increases the reach and connection of subject matter expertise across your organization, increases employee engagement, and makes learning stick.
9. Get specific. It can be difficult for learners to cut through the clutter if your learning management system (LMS) is disorganized and missing searchable tags. Not being able to find content is just as bad as not being sure whether the course you're taking will ultimately be helpful in your situation. Ensure content and social support is context-sensitive; use curation tools to filter relevant content and contributors.
10. Amplify learners' intrinsic motivation. Self-directed learners independently seek new insights and experiences, so leverage that engagement by triggering their motivation to learn new approaches and technologies. This will mean making use of emerging ideas and technologies, such as AI, curation platforms, mobile apps and intelligent search. The technology you use within your organization needs to match the consumer experience your learners are already familiar with in their personal lives. Your organization's LX needs to keep up with the technological industry standard.
Designing your organization's learning environment to enable the self-driven learners eager to build their skills means that you're making it easier for them to find what they're looking for and take action on what they've learned. In this era of constant change heavily affected by digital disruption, you're boosting engagement, performance and business outcomes, now and into the future.