What is self-directed learning, and how can it help?
These days, companies are focusing so much on making employees feel valued in an organization. Making them get better at what they do by allowing self-directed learning is a part of such appreciation.
Self-directed learning can help companies give much-needed encouragement to employees. Employees have become more oriented towards their careers nowadays. There is a considerable difference between the employees of earlier generations and those of today. Generation Z prefers learning through its ways, which has intensified because it has so many sources.
It has smartphones that have Social Media and YouTube available for it to absorb information.
Self-directed learning makes sure that the company does not restrict the employees from completing their eLearning modules within a certain time. Self-directed learning also helps companies save money on supervising the learning activities like tracking the LMS activities of employees.
What is self-directed learning?
In broad terms, self-directed learning means a learning process in which people take the liberty themselves to evaluate what they need to learn and, hence, decide their objectives for the process.
Once they have decided on their goals, they evaluate what resources are available at their disposal, both human and nonhuman. Henceforth they create some learning methods and check whether they have learned enough.
Direct learning, where a teacher gives students instructions, is completely different from this concept, where students only consult teachers when they have problems.
In a hybrid workplace where remote employees can’t come to the office to attend lectures, self-directed learning is an important solution. The main goal behind self-directed learning is to boost the confidence of learners. They decide their learning topics without being forced by the organization.
Hence their levels of interest in this process are better. They also have to take responsibility for meeting their learning objectives because they choose the learning topics themselves. When learners don’t fail after learning something in a formal training environment, the L&D department is blamed for not choosing the right topics.
Self-directed learning also makes sure that employees don’t resign because they can’t keep up with the training schedules of the company.
In self-directed learning, learners have complete autonomy for upskilling or reskilling themselves. Once a company introduces a culture of self-directed learning, it should be ready to reap its benefits in the long run. Such learning improves the technical and communication skills of employees, but it also makes them ready to battle any change in technology through such learning. They embark on a road of self-discovery and self-reliance. Companies with such individuals can expect the latter to upgrade their skills whenever needed.
Also, individuals don’t like to attend classes like young children after a certain age, unlike in self-directed learning.
Its most important benefit is:
Reduced work for L&D: The L&D teams also benefit from such autonomy given to the learners because it saves their time in planning learning schedules for employees. Instead, they get feedback from learners about whether they need more resources to support their learning. If the employees need access to more experienced persons or books for self-directed learning, HR can arrange that.
But organizations also have to see to it that when they are guiding employees towards self-directed learning, certain elements are taken care of:
- Proper learning technologies: The organization must have proper learning technologies like the LMS so that the employees can embark on these self-directed learning paths. Hence, the companies must ensure that the employees have access to the organizational library of resources, including senior managers. Discussion forums can be set up for communication between the inexperienced and the veterans in the workplace.
Such resources include human beings and technical assets, such as simulations and animated videos offering instructions for different procedures. When employees have such resources, they can easily learn independently without requiring an instructor.
- Raising a need for such learning: Apart from providing access to resources for self-directed learning, it’s also the organization’s job to see whether the employees feel a need for it. That’s why employees have to be given an idea of their knowledge gaps through scenarios with similar job roles as theirs. The employees should be given continuous feedback by employers on their performances rather than yearly or six-monthly feedback to understand their gaps. Learners could be given skill blocks developed by their seniors, but the level of the block to be mastered by them must depend on their tenure in the company.
A company has to understand that self-directed learning is so crucial in a company because everyone has a different learning path depending on their intended growth trajectory. Everyone cannot be taught through a homogeneous course that presents everyone with the same material.
Hence this is how an organization can excel at self-directed learning.