Sustainable learning perspectives to support workplace learning: new thinking for people’s development at work!

Many organizations are once again feverishly thinking about next year’s staff training plans to develop people and organizational skills and learn new things. Probably the company’s human resource’s function has done at least some work and gathered various needs from the business, based on which we are now thinking and planning what programs to implement. It is important that the implementation of these investments is also in line with the company’s strategy. Competence has become such a key competitive factor in many companies that the development of competence and learning new things are at the core of companies’ HR strategies. The goal is for the company to have skilled personnel in the future as well, competence is constantly evolving in accordance with future needs, and in addition, a skilled team is maintained. Does this sound pretty familiar? But how in the world should the skills of employees be developed in the best possible way to achieve the goals set by the company in terms of skills development in both the short and long term? It is largely a matter of investing in new learning at work and supporting it in a sustainable way.

Kuva: Marika Shemeikka

In many companies and organizations, the issues of competence development and new learning are still viewed from very traditional perspectives. The goals of competence development and learning something new are often attached to the various programs that are still needed, but are these alone no longer sufficient to maintain the competence of the entire company? If what is learned in the course is not brought into the context of the work soon after the course, the effort and resources used may be wasted. Isn’t this a little ineffective? It is not at all uncommon for a supervisor to ask HR to look for suitable courses for staff to maintain competence. It is also typical that pieces of competence development suitable for one’s own work are snapped from the existing offer without thinking about how workplace learning could be modeled and developed. Understandably, competence development can be difficult to catch up with, and outsourcing to HR is therefore not uncommon.

It is therefore a great challenge for HRD professionals to get top management and all supervisors to understand how competence development should be approached and how to support learning new in addition to courses in everyday work. Adult people are learning much at daily work. We need to understand the seamless intertwining of work and learning as one process, the increasingly relevant context of learning and the perspectives of sustainable learning. Isn’t the aim to utilize an individual’s existing skills, to quickly learn and acquire new knowledge, and to strengthen well-being? This is exactly what sustainable learning is all about at work. 

Work, learning new things, competence development and organizational culture are intertwined seamlessly.

Work, learning new things, competence development and organizational culture are intertwined seamlessly. Here, the importance of culture is emphasized by how it supports sustainable learning from an organization-wide perspective for all employees in the company in the context of the challenges of each job. The various things that promote learning should therefore be seamlessly linked to the way work is done. For example, after a successful customer case, reflecting in a weekly meeting with the team on what went well – and maybe this is something you should also do next time to get a satisfied customer. Or the challenges and problem solving that comes with implementing a big project together with a multi-professional project team harnesses everyone’s expertise in problem solving to find the best solutions. From the perspective of supervisors, joint follow-up one-to-one meetings can serve as tools from the perspective of new learning, especially through problem solving, reflection and feedback. From the point of view of occupational safety, reviewing various instructions and the importance of occupational safety by discussing with the support of a supervisor or colleague provides opportunities for in-depth learning of the individual and ensures sufficient time resources to understand important occupational safety issues at work. The best thing about all of these examples is that everyone learns – not just the key account manager, project manager, supervisor, or person in charge of occupational safety education at site – but all the participants.

In the light of an already existing understanding, the perspectives of sustainable learning enable and reinforce the rapid learning of new knowledge without forgetting people’s well-being. The supervisor, as a leader of sustainable learning at work, has a key role to play. These are the topics we are working on in the joKo-project. Follow us through our sites, because results – and certainly interesting ones – are coming next year!

Annamaria Lumiala, research assistant and master student in University of Jyväskylä, Department of Education

References:

Lemmetty, S. & Collin, K. (2020). Throwaway knowledge, useful skills, or a source for wellbeing? Outlining sustainability of workplace learning situations. International journal of lifelong education 2020, 39(5-6), 478-494.

Manuti, A. & Giancaspro, M. L. (2019). People make the difference: An explorative study on the relationships between organizational practices, employees’ resources, and organizational behavior enchanging the psychology of sustainability and sustainable development. Sustainability 11(1499), 1-17.

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