Seth Godin once said that “Learning is not done to you. It is something you choose to do”. And boy, was he right! We know that not all employees embrace training and development opportunities with open arms. In fact, for some employees, words like “workplace training” and “eLearning courses” can be downright fear-inspiring.
These learners could be concerned about the time pressure when having to juggle work and training. Or they might see training programs as a way to scrutinize their competence, rather than an opportunity for growth and development. And others are just scared of failing.
On the other hand, we’ve all come across the eager learner, you know, that person who just leaps at every training and development opportunity. Learners who not only consider how training can impact their careers at the time, but also recognize the potential lifetime value.
These self-driven, learning enthusiasts all have something in common – they share the qualities of empowered learners.
Identifying the Qualities of Empowered Learners
Now, don’t mistake “empowered” for “bossy”. This isn’t the sort of learner we’re talking about. Actually, the empowered learner approaches learning with confidence, curiosity, and excitement, and much of their learning is self-directed, rather than taught.
It’s up to training managers to identify who these empowered learners are, and then to utilize their qualities and behavior in a way that empowers the learning experience for all.
Let’s start by discussing the identifiable qualities of empowered learners.
1) A Self-directed Approach to Learning
One of the first major qualities of empowered learners is that they’re the captain of their learning journey and assume full responsibility for their own development.
They start this journey by evaluating their learning needs, either with or without the assistance of others. Then, once they’ve assessed what their learning goals are, they map out what resources they have available to them.
Knowing what they would like to achieve through training, and how they can achieve it, they develop and implement their own learning strategies. This results in a personalized learning experience that complements their own special needs and preferences.
2) A Curious Mind and Motivated Disposition
Empowered learners are curious and motivated, and view opportunities for growth and development both professionally and personally. This means that they want to grow in all aspects of their life, all of the time.
Equipped with self-directed learning skills, they are motivated to know more (and more, and more) so that they’re better prepared for a dynamic professional landscape. This means that they continuously and actively seek to understand what, why and how. And when training and development opportunities arise, they’re first in line to get on board.
Thanks to advances in eLearning technologies, and simple search engines like Google, the curious mind is more satisfied than ever. The discovery of new knowledge and skills is only a few mouse clicks away!
3) A Desire to Continuously Learn
Continuous learning is one of the key qualities of empowered learners. They are active participants in an ongoing learning process. Learning and development opportunities are continuously sought out so that they can learn new skills.
This is why empowered learners are often the first to sign up for additional training, workshops, and conferences. It’s also the reason why these employees choose jobs (and organizations) that offer regular opportunities to learn and grow.
Appreciative of the value of lifelong learning, these self-starters are comfortable with change and enjoy adapting to change.
4) A Desire to Learn Through Experience
One of the most important qualities of empowered learners is that they learn through experience. Also known as collective learning, this is when learners are eager and able to absorb new information or learn different skills, from just about any experience they happen upon.
Sound strange? Well, consider the new insights that a Sales Consultant might learn when they need to stand in for an ill Customer Service employee. A better understanding of the customer experience after the sale has been made, might improve their performance in the sales role.
5) A Preference for Learning on Their Own Terms
The empowered learner loves training and development opportunities. But, the way these opportunities are packaged does make a difference. Empowered learners not only expect those to be relevant, but they also expect to have some choice in how they learn, too.
Empowered learners typically prefer eLearning courses over traditional classroom training, which is often more prescriptive than self-driven. The passive reception of new information is not the most effective way to engage this type of learners.
Even with online training, empowered learners want to be able to switch between devices – to be mobile – learning from anywhere at anytime.
Fostering An Environment To Empower Others
The qualities of empowered learners can be used to stimulate a corporate learning culture, whilst facilitating better ways of learning for both themselves and for those less engaged in learning.
Through their enthusiasm for collaborative learning, they assist in developing an online learning community and learning culture, prompting others to engage in a process of ideation, questioning and debate that leads to new knowledge, skills, and ideas.
An organization filled with empowered learners and teams led by them is also more agile in reacting and adapting to change. The drive, motivation, and curiosity of these learners mean that they’re looking for opportunities to learn new skills or technologies before you’re even offering them!
Because empowered learners are always learning through experiences, they often require less formal training. And when they do participate in formal training, their motivation to learn usually results in improved training outcomes. This leads to employees who are learning skills and abilities that support the organization’s strategic objectives and learning them fast.
Leveraging the Empowered Learner
Not all employees have the qualities of empowered learners and are naturally inquisitive and excited by the prospect of development opportunities.
But empowered learners, once identified, can have a meaningful effect on the learning experience of others, either by taking up mentorship roles or by acting as tutors and share resources or helpful information with their peers.
So, make sure to provide opportunities for growth in your business to help the empowered learner to empower others!