Choosing the Right Workplace Learning Approach

Workplace Learning werkplekleren is a structured, tailored work experience program which gives an opportunity for employees to gain some real world, hands-on training or experience. It can be undertaken by employees themselves with the assistance of training and testing modules, or alternatively it can be delivered by trained facilitators who can take the place of employees at their workplace. Employers who are looking to reward their staff for a range of skills or performances can utilise workplace learning as a method of increasing productivity. Employers who are not prepared to provide suitable workplace training can consider this program as an important part of a workforce management strategy.

What can workplace learning deliver? Firstly, it builds upon existing skills by exposing participants to new knowledge opportunities and the ability to apply learned skills in different work situations. Secondly, workplace learning can develop leadership, team working and team communication skills in both employees and facilitators. In addition, workplace learning can also provide valuable experiences in terms of problem solving and development of novel approaches and possibilities.

But there are two main objections to workplace learning which have been raised against it. The first is that traditional forms of formal learning, such as formal classroom learning, are becoming obsolete due to the spread of the internet and other technology. Facilitators argue that there has been a considerable decline in the design and methodology of traditional classroom learning. Traditional learning has typically involved a set number of modules which were then moved through a prescribed sequence, requiring participants to retain all of them or face the consequences – failing to successfully complete a module may result in a lower grade, or worse, being dismissed. Facilitators argue that with no set order of modules and no structured learning structure, this form of learning does not support long term retention of new knowledge.

An alternative point of view to this criticism is that workplace learning does work, providing a significant amount of motivation and opportunity for improvement. Many people are familiar with modules that have been successfully completed by others within the company, either through the creation of a course or resource book, or a set of practical work. By allowing employees to develop work-based skills and knowledge without the constraints of a course, employees are more likely to apply themselves to the project, achieving higher levels of output. It is not necessarily true, however, that the increased productivity produced by informal learning will automatically translate into more production – many courses only train the participants in particular areas, whereas workplace learning encourages participants to develop whole skills and new ways of thinking about the company and its tasks.

An alternative argument that is commonly raised against workplace learning is that formal training is inefficient when it comes to producing results that are sustainable over a long period of time. Formal training provides the teacher with knowledge of specific processes, tools, and structures, but at the end of the day these tools and processes need to be applied in the real world, i.e they must be used in real-life situations. Training in the workplace usually involves long and drawn out sessions lasting several days or weeks, and unlike in the classroom, where breaks can be taken, in the workplace these breaks are often not available. The only way in which workplace learning can be successful is if it is delivered in small chunks, rather than all at once. This also means that rather than being taught one lesson at a time, employees are encouraged to learn as part of a more holistic approach to learning which takes place over a longer period of time.

Developing workplace learning preferences is an important factor when choosing to introduce workplace learning into an organisation. In general it is easier to tailor training to an individual’s own learning preferences. An individual’s learning style may be different to the next person, so one lesson may be suitable for one person but not for another, and in a similar way one person may prefer to learn to use a certain format and the next prefers a totally different way of learning. In addition to the above considerations, there are many other considerations which must be taken into account. Different people learn at different paces, and many people need the support and motivation to make it through a course or assignment. The curriculum, together with support and guidance, can help everyone to reach their potential.