The Surprising Benefits of Self-Directed Learning in the Workplace

While self-directed learning in the workplace is not a new trend, it has become more widely used as HR professionals shift their focus toward developing a more skills-centered workforce. Self-directed learning has become popular in recent years because it’s a method that’s flexible and easy to customize. This makes it possible for managers to better serve the learning needs of a diverse group of employees.

This blog will break down the benefits of self-directed learning and provide strategies that HR professionals can use to promote the holistic learning processes and successfully meet the unique needs of their workers.

The Benefits of Self-Directed Learning in the Workplace

Self-directed learning helps empower employees to make choices that will maximize their learning and retention. In order for HR to choose how to implement self-directed learning strategies, it is helpful to understand the benefits.

Self-directed learning encourages autonomy and confidence, because it inspires learners to make decisions based on their preferences and needs.

This can lead to:

• Confidence in setting and achieving goals
• Stronger metacognition around one’s own learning process and the influence it can have on their growth and development
• Comfort in autonomy
• Curiosity
• Willingness to take initiative

Self-directed learning can also:

  1. Provide opportunities for developing specialized skills based on employee interest—By allowing employees to choose content that resonates with them, you’ll be helping ensure they’ll retain the information months or years later.
  2. Help employees become more adaptable and resilient—The more employees are empowered to grow in their roles, the more they will adapt and remain productive during times of change.
  3. Improve critical thinking—When employees have regular opportunities to engage with educational materials at their own pace, they tend to ask more insightful questions and become stronger critical thinkers. This can help improve innovation and collaboration within your company, boosting the health of your organization’s culture.
  4. Develop confident, strong leaders—When employees are encouraged to study what excites them, they’re more likely to share their knowledge with their team. This will allow for bright new leaders to emerge. Plus, enthusiasm is contagious. A workforce of passionate learners is likely to have a positive influence on everyone around them, including customers.
  5. Cultivate “deep learning”— Learning that is self-directed inspires a transition from “surface-level learning” to learning that involves critical thought, strategy and intense evaluation. This is because when individuals move from learning merely because it’s a requirement to learning because they are intrinsically motivated to do so, they’re more likely to be interested in the subject matter, which can inspire a level of deep learning that boosts retention and motivates employees to apply what they’ve learned to their job.

How HR Can Encourage Learning In and Outside the Workplace

One of the best ways to promote the benefits of self-directed learning in the workplace is to become an active part of the process. You’ll want to set employees up for success by studying what makes self-directed learning so effective in the first place.

Self-directed learning requires the following competencies to be successful:

• The willingness to take responsibility for one’s own learning outcomes and goals
• The ability to set specific and attainable goals
• An understanding of how to access and rely on support individuals who will facilitate and encourage learning
• The ability to routinely and objectively reflect on one’s own learning process

If you’re finding that your teams don’t possess these competencies yet, strengthening employees’ skills in these areas is a great place to start. This can take some time, as you’ll need to understand what drives your employees in order to craft the workplace learning strategies that will best serve their individual needs.

By investing in your workforce, you are contributing to developing engaged, content workers. This will help your company remain competitive in its market and develop a reputation as an outstanding place to work.

Which learning strategies work best?

You can use certain learning strategies to promote a culture of personal development and growth. This will set a cultural standard within your organization that lets employees know that they are valuable and that their professional development is worth investing in.

Some of the best learning strategies to get started with include:

Microlearning—Using small learning units and delivering short bursts of information at a time is a holistic learning approach that can lead to increased retention of concrete information.
Active learning—A traditional classroom-style learning process whereby there are “teachers” and there are “learners” who engage together in interactive techniques that rely on cooperation and collaboration.
Dual coding—Using a combination of ways to present information (i.e., speech and graphics) to improve understanding and retention.
Spaced learning—Presenting information on a schedule that is intentionally spread out over a period of time to help learners absorb as much knowledge as possible without overwhelming them.

How to Facilitate Learning in Your Organization

There are many strategies that HR teams can use to bolster their employee development plans, in addition to self-directed learning. You can either use just one of these, or you can use a combination of several different plans.

Some of the most common L&D methods are:

• Mentoring and coaching
• Crafting individual development plans for stand-out employees
• Cross-training and specific skill development
• Job enrichment and strategic assignments for key employees or teams
• Learning Management Systems for e-Learning

We recommend developing a strategy that combines several of these options. Using a LMS can be a great way to monitor growth and progress in your employees while you dedicate more hands-on energy to mentoring and coaching programs or to working with select employees on individualized development plans that will benefit whole teams.

Whichever methods you choose, the goal should remain to empower employees to lean fully into the self-directed learning process. This means that they should know where to access learning resources and who to speak with about their professional development goals. Ultimately, employees need to trust that company leadership values their personal development and growth.

Because when employees feel that their professional development is valued and that they have ample opportunities to grow within their roles, they are more likely to stay with an organization long term. In fact, 54 percent of immediate retention is due to employees’ beliefs that their company values their development. What’s more, employees who feel meaningfully engaged in their work are 59 percent less likely to search for a new job. This is especially crucial to consider in today’s labor market as HR faces issues like job churn. Strong employee training programs are one of the most effective protections against high turnover.

How KnowledgeCity Can Help

You don’t have to take on the challenges and complexities of implementing a workplace learning program alone. Just as you want to encourage employees to rely on training resources, know that you are empowered to do the same. Visit the KnowledgeCity resource page to get started with our free eBooks and courses. We also offer a robust LMS along with thousands of individual training courses you can hand-select to suit your unique business needs.

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