The Masie Center has just published the results of their most recent survey on how employees learn in 2008 and it's an interesting read.
- More people are learning independently in ad hoc, asynchronous fashion. "In a six-month period of time, 70% turned to reading, 58% searched the web and 58% participated in on-line e-Learning to gain new skills or information for their jobs." I'm not sure if this a good or a bad sign. Are people doing this because they're taking charge of their own learning and it's an effective strategy? Or are they doing this because organizations aren't investing in their staff?
- "Employees appear satisfied with their ability to learn for work using technology (80%), but are generally less satisfied with the amount of time they have available to learn (48%). It seems that as options for learning have expanded, perceptions about the availability of time to learn have decreased. Employees have more learning methods available to them than ever, but have less time to pursue learning and/or feel overwhelmed with their options." This is where I think we need to do a better job of facilitating people in developing learning plans that work for them. That includes assisting them in figuring out ways to embed learning into their daily lives.
- Let Us Stretch: Job Rotation/Stretch Assignments are among the least frequently used learning methods selected only by 11% of employees, predominantly because the opportunities were not available to them. Half of employees that had not participated in a job rotation/stretch assignment indicated that those opportunities were either not available or not used by their organizations; yet, supporting data suggests that employees overwhelmingly want more of their time dedicated to those kinds of experiences. As Rosetta Thurman has pointed out, stretch assignments are one of the best ways to build real skills, so in some ways it's surprising that they don't happen more often. I suspect that it's because they take more time to craft and because they feel a lot less manageable to people.
The standout finding for me is that employees seem to want a combination of high touch and high tech learning. That is, they value technology for its ability to help them engage in ad hoc, asynchronous learning activities. At the same time, they want more "high touch" experiences like coaching, one-on-one mentoring and individualized learning. I think that it's possible to combine these in a lot of ways--virtual mentoring comes to mind--although I think the challenge is to find the best intersection between high touch and high tech, using the best features and attributes of both.
So if we're doing learner-centered design, what do these findings tell us about how we should be crafting professional development activities?