21st century learners ask for more self-directed learning. Conventional training formats can no longer satisfy their needs. Communities of practice may prove to be an ideal environment for effective workplace learning.
Perhaps you belong to the happy few (staff) who consume learning content over cappuccino and get inspired by keynote speakers who represent “highbrow” and tell you what author Michael Lewis once named the “new new thing” - the very insight or algorithm that will allow you to change the world. Maybe you work in a training division and are busy establishing a culture of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of your workforce training. Or perhaps you belong to the group of (internal or external) stakeholders who rely on benchmarking and evaluation results to make strategic decisions aimed at increasing productivity and performance.
Study reveals that learners want more autonomy
In either case, you may be keen to learn that according to the 2015 Towards Maturity Benchmark Report, 88% of staff (N = 1,600) like to be able to learn at their own pace; 87% know what kind of learning they need to do their job; 76% want to be able to do their job better and faster; and 42% even learn at weekends or evenings. These figures clearly indicate a wish for self-directed learning. When you talk to staff in public and private sector organisations, however, they will tell you that they encounter a number of obstacles: they lack the time to learn due to their daily workload; they lack acknowledgement and thus motivation to learn; and they see themselves increasingly exposed to a culture of control and distrust.
CoP - learning format of the future
Basically, organisations all over the world are in need of talented staff who are loyal and come up with innovative ideas to solve the commercial, political, and social problems they face. They need to invest into their workforce and make sure they provide them with the best and most effective training. Conventional workforce training formats, however, are not very likely to satisfy the needs of motivated 21st century learners. It is high time that leaders, politicians, and researchers acknowledge the skills of talented practitioners as a source of true innovation and start to invest into learning environments that allow these practitioners to come up with and try out innovative solutions.
Communities of practice may prove to be an excellent format to satisfy the new learning needs of a "global workforce" as they support self-directed learning in a culture of collaboration and trust. Leaders and training division experts who are aware that well facilitated communities of practitioners are likely to become the driving force behind competitive global organisations will be ready to change the rules of the game and go for innovative and effective workforce training.