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How Responsibilities for Workplace Learning are Changing

Posted on July 31, 2017 By Jake White

As new learning technologies are created and adapted, we see a large shift in the way workplace learning is handled. Exploring new strategies for employee learning, we inevitably reevaluate the roles of various workplace employees on every level of organizations. This shift is compounded by the way newer strategies are putting the power not in the hands of particular departments or workplace leaders, but in the hands of individuals. Here, we’ll explore how these roles are changing and what responsibilities employees at each level can expect.

 Employees need to be proactive in their personal learning and development.


In the past, the majority of employees were only responsible for completing workplace learning goals presented to them by the L&D department and their managers. They often were very structured goals such as:


  • Attending a class
  • Taking a quiz
  • Participating in a workshop


But now, in the modern workplace, everyone is responsible for workplace learning. While your employer is invested in your improvement as an employee, it’s understood that in today’s world you’re not likely to stick with the same company for life. This means that your employer is not the only one that benefits from your continuous learning and improvement - you’re also preparing yourself for your next job.


If you want to get ahead in your career, you’ll want to manage your development. To do this, you should actively:


  • Try to glean information and knowledge from your daily tasks
  • Take advantage of learning opportunities provided by your employer
  • Keep abreast of the latest news in your industry
  • Network. Your current job is also a great place to build your network




Where at one point managers were tasked with chasing down their employees to get them to take training courses, the primary job of the manager these days should be to support learning. An employee that is babysat is not one that will continue to be successful, so managers should promote employee self-improvement. They can do this by:


  • Creating an atmosphere for team building
  • Collaborative problem solving
  • Enthusiasm for continuous improvement

Learning and Development Department (L&D)

The primary responsibility of the L&D department has been to create, manage, and distribute workplace learning. As workplace learning becomes less structured and formal, however, we see a shift from a top-down system to a bottom-up system. This shift means the primary drivers of workplace learning are the employees, not the L&D department. Instead, the goals of these departments become similar to the managers: they are supporting players to employee’s self-improvement.


The L&D department is not any less important, though. Now, their goals focus less on creating a structure for workplace learning and more on becoming role models for employee self-development and supporting that development. Members of the L&D department can accomplish these goals by:


  • Creating a more collaborative team within their department
  • Supporting managers in creating a more learning-focused workplace
  • Supporting employees in developing the skills they need to be more self-reliant