5 Ways Employees Learn

March 3, 2014 — Leave a comment

Where do you send your employees to learn something new? Where do you go yourself?

There a lots of options out there. The best strategy is to take a integrated approach to learning across five broad categories. Here they are.Employee Class Excited

On-the-Job Experience

The majority of employee learning comes from on-the-job experience. That is where the most time is spent. In fact, you could argue that until someone performs on the job, he or she hasn’t fully learned the job yet. This doesn’t mean that all time spent at a job is learning-oriented. If you (or one of your employees) have become fully competent, it’s probably time for a new challenge.

What are you learning in your current role?

Formal Learning

Formal learning comes from classes, courses, modules, company programs, learning events and more. Courses are typically taken in a classroom with an instructor, in an online learning system or self-paced. Organizational training departments usually spend the majority of their efforts creating these kinds of formal learning opportunities or bringing in outside vendors.

What formal learning programs are you utilizing?

Development Activities

Development activities are informal learning opportunities. They may be directed by an employee or by someone close to them, like a supervisor. These activities are essentially limitless, such as reading a book, attending a networking event or professional club, joining a cross-functional team or just learning something new. Adept organizations invest in a development library with a menu of options to select from depending on developmental goals.

What are your developmental goals?

Assessment Feedback

There are many, many assessments to help employees identify and diagnose their strengths and preferences. Personality assessments, like MBTI and DiSC are very popular, as is Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment. You might take a 360 degree assessment to get feedback from your team. There are assessments for learning styles, job fit, team fit, leadership, etc. You can also find effectiveness assessments from thought leaders and organizations (like these from Mark Miller). Most of us also receive a periodic performance assessment in the form of an annual review. Assessments tell us something we may not have considered and help direct our development goals.

What assessment feedback have you gotten recently?

Other People

Other people can often be the greatest source of learning. Supervisors, mentors, co-workers, network members, friends, family – virtually anyone can teach us something or give us valuable feedback, if we’ll let them.

Who have you learned from recently?

So, what’s your learning plan? And if you are a supervisor, how are you supporting your employee’s development needs? There are all kinds of options out there. Pick one and give it a shot!

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his new ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website  or follow him on Twitter.