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Empowered autonomy is key to successful organisational learning, says study

According to a new study into organisational learning, self-directed learning is the route preferred by the majority of employees and the role of managers in facilitating this is critical to success.

The study, by online learning provider, SkillSoft, was compiled following two pieces of research which took place towards the end of 2006 - involving an online survey of 5,360 employees plus interviews with senior HR personnel from 16 global organisations.

One of the aims of the study was to establish whether there were any synergies between how employees preferred to learn with the training made available to them by their organisation.

The top five learner preferences were:

  1. Being able to get at information as and when I need it
  2. Being in charge of my own learning pace
  3. Attending classroom courses
  4. Learning in bite-sized pieces
  5. Learning at my desktop

The survey found that organisations use a variety of programmes and plans in place to ensure that these employee requirements are being met. These include: providing online training that can be done in bite-size pieces; enabling access of learning resources at home; increasing the availability of online books and referenceware; providing more support for just-in-time training; offering blended solutions that allow employees to pick and mix; and giving access to specific facilities in the workplace that can be used before or after working hours.

However, according to the survey, all of these opportunities are rendered ineffective if learners are not given the opportunity to take advantage of them. The role of the manager is seen as key by both the HR executives and the employees interviewed - for a number of reasons. In some organisations, managers are responsible for defining the training requirements of their teams; in others they are encouraged to promote a learning culture; and in many cases, they are responsible for measuring the effectiveness of any training taking place.

Charles Jennings, global head of learning at Reuters, said: "I fundamentally believe that you cannot build a high performing company without managers understanding their responsibility in helping employees learn and build their capabilities. And they not only need to understand it, but they need to have the tools and the skills to be able to do it."

Kevin Young, Managing Director of SkillSoft, EMEA added: "The importance of the line manager is never more important than when they have control over deciding who can participate in the training available.

"Giving managers this responsibility is something that most of the HR professionals we interviewed had very definite views on. There was a consensus of opinion that involving managers in training decisions is beneficial for all concerned.

"However, arguably the most gratifying finding from the research, cited by both employees and employers alike, is the acknowledgement that training is critical to the corporate capability of an organisation. There is widespread belief that having a corporate learning culture is one of the best ways an organisation can grow and thrive."

The study, entitled 'The Future of Learning' is available for download at

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