We live in a world where what you learn today can become irrelevant tomorrow. It’s scary, it’s versatile and it’s fast. In this situation where emerging skills are ill-defined, learning pathways are one of the learning concepts that plays its cards right.
Because, let’s be honest, there has never been a greater demand for further professional learning opportunities from both organisations and employees. The first are trying to solve the complex puzzle of digital transformation, skills gap, and having to handle 5 generations in the workplace at the same time whereas the second consider learning as a key driver of happiness and performance at work.
What are learning pathways?
Learning pathways, learning paths, learning programs, or even microcredentials (programs including credentials) are some of the terms that academics and the industry have been using for a while to describe the importance of in-depth learning.
Learning pathways are groupings of online courses to take in a sequential or non-sequential way that enable a learner to broaden their knowledge or go in-depth into understanding a subject.
They have been introduced as a response to two trends:
- Towards micro-learning: Online degrees or 6 months training are not fitting with the reality of companies
- Towards stackable learning: Single online courses are good for general knowledge or introducing a subject but companies need more depth
In a context where the top challenge that prevents employees from learning is the lack of time, it’s important to provide organisations with a solution that allows for great accessibility, flexibility, rapidity and specialisation.
Learning Paths: a win-win situation
While the world is increasingly becoming digitalised with new jobs, new skills, new technologies and new challenges emerging constantly, learning programs with a certificate at stake are a solid option to demonstrate and validate the learning of skills.
They help organisations to have better visibility of the skills and competencies available to them, to better assess the skills gap and to relatively quickly respond to the challenge. Not only are learning programs for employees less expensive than recruiting new talent, but they also help organisations develop stronger strategic workforce planning.
Additionally, modular-based learning enables organisations to create a more learner-centric culture, because long gone are the days where one-size fits all. Employees are definitely not staying in the same job at the same company for their entire career.
Employees want to be more in control over their learning and a large portion believe that they are responsible for preparing themselves for the future, and learning programs are such an important part of the learning ecosystem to respond to this challenge.
While employees are expecting more learning opportunities in the flow of work, they still trust and want organisations to be actively involved in the learning process. A report from LinkedIn showed for example that 75% of employees would take a manager suggested course.
And finally, it is important to remind ourselves that learning is such a key driver to happiness and effectiveness at work and that the overwhelming majority of employees are ready to walk out if they don’t see the commitment and the investment in L&D.
Drive growth and nurture your company culture
Learning pathways are paramount in building a transparent learning culture that encourages growth, but it also can be daunting to know where to start. We’ve put together 7 steps to get you started with building your programs:
1. Assess and map out your organisation’s skill needs
Talk to team leads and managers to find out the existing skills in their teams plus the desired ones for each of their roles, and then map out the skills that you have and the skills that you need. This will help you see what the competency gaps are and hence where your learning pathways should go towards.
2. Understand your audience needs
Ensuring that employees are going to use your learning program is key and what better than asking them directly. Survey employees and ensure you are aware of the wants of your workforce. Combining the programs that will help you to close the skills gap with employees’ aspirations to learn is definitely a winner.
3. Define the learning objectives for your company
Once you’ve talked to managers and employees, you will be able to understand the skills that your workforce has, the skills they are missing and the skills they are aspiring to gain. By prioritising the list of skills, you will ensure that your learning program strategy is aligned with your business strategy. You then need to put some numbers into place – who will benefit from the learning programs? When and how long will it take? How will I assess? When will I plan to upskill my entire workforce?
4. Gather your resources and plan for missing content
You probably have some resources and online courses in place, even if they are a little scattered. Gather all your existing courses and documentation and see how they fit with the learning program objectives you have set. Then you can decide whether you’ll produce the missing content internally or you’ll outsource it to an external provider. Always have in mind that these learning pathways are competency-oriented and that they need to help you reach a goal.
5. Create a mind map of your learning pathways
You probably have a lot of insights and ideas from the previous steps, and it’s time to put them down on paper (or in app!). A mind map is one of the most effective ways of putting down your thoughts and laying out the structure for your new learning programs. It’s a nice visual representation that will give yourself clarity, and it will definitely help it to share it internally.
6. Involve managers before creating the learning pathways
Before starting to create the learning programs you need, just ensure that you are reviewing your mind mapping with the right stakeholders (e.g. managers or directors) and ensure they are all relevant. Now that your plan is in place, you are ready to start with the conception of your learning programs.
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