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Pjattaforma Elettronika għat-Tagħlim għall-Adulti fl-Ewropa



What role can adult learning providers play in workplace learning?

minn Simon BROEK
Lingwa: EN
Document available also in: HU DE

/es/file/workplace-learning-epale-5Workplace learning EPALE

Workplace learning EPALE


According to Simon Broek, in order to support workplace learning, adult learning professionals cannot simply act as learning providers. What role can adult learning professionals play in making workplace learning more effective? Read this article to find out.


Organisational behaviour in fostering workplace learning

In recent years more research and analysis is being conducted on the role of organisational behaviour in fostering workplace learning.

In this context, organisational behaviour relates to how organisations are organised; how they distribute work tasks, design jobs, recruit staff, and value new skills.

Research (see for example the ENLIVEN project) shows that the behaviour of organisations can stimulate or hamper learning at the workplace. Even within the same economic sector, organisations can differ considerably in their provision of a stimulating and rich learning environment.

Organisational behaviour can have general effects on learning, it also impacts what learners/workers are targeted by training policies and what types of learning are supported. The way an organisation behaves can stimulate learning for particular groups of workers and discourage others, such as those in jobs requiring low skill levels, and it can stimulate specific types of learning – for instance short task-oriented training instead of long-term formal training pathways.

Often organisations are not aware how their organisational culture and behaviour influences the potential for learning. This can result in organisations offering training opportunities and even obliging their workers to participate, which is hardly effective for increasing skills levels, satisfaction among workers, and innovative thinking. As a consequence, learning is seen as an organisational burden and not an asset.


Aspects that influence organisational behaviour – need for a strategic orientation

There are aspects that influence how organisations behave when it comes to stimulating learning. Here, I only mention a few dimensions:

  • Is the division of work stimulating for learning? Routine-tasks provide less incentive for learning than a more varied task pallet.
  • Are labour conditions and wages motivating workers to invest in their occupation and skills development?
  • Is the organisation open to change and improvements to how things are done? Organisations have – often implicit – management styles that stimulate or hamper workers to develop professionally and contribute to the further development of the organisation.

Hence, to turn organisations into learning organisations requires a strategic and holistic orientation in which the nature of work, the management styles, the cooperation with other organisations, the knowledge sharing within the organisation, the working conditions and wages, and opportunities for learning are all taken into consideration.

This also means that adult learning providers need to reflect on their role in this strategic orientation. When adult learning providers take a rather traditional role and act solely as suppliers of training based on a demand by the company/organisation, this makes them complicit to an ineffective learning culture.


How can adult learning providers support establishing learning cultures and change organisations’ behaviour towards learning?

To play a role in organisations’ strategic orientations and to make them aware of possible organisational barriers for effective learning, adult learning providers shouldn’t base their provision only on the voiced demands from the organisation or even the workers. They should also consider the training provision within the organisational context: what aspects in the organisation need to be reflected to make the training effective in contributing to individual skills development, the application of newly developed skills in the organisation, and finally – innovation and improvements in the organisation.

Adult learning providers are taking steps towards this. An example can be found in Slovenia where companies receive guidance through an ESF supported project for stimulating cooperation between adult education and businesses (the Career Platform for Employees project). In this approach, adult learning providers are involved in forecasting skill needs (sectors, companies, labour market), identifying skill gaps, fulfilling gaps related to existing VET offer, and developing tailor-made programmes that meet the skill needs. The project consults businesses on identifying long-term goals and the skill needs of company employees. It also supports HR staff to develop career-planning (see figure). The methodology of this project is already more broadly applied in the Competence Centres for HR Development, supporting 91 businesses in HR development and 21,160 employees in their professional career development, training and education.

/es/file/workplace-learning-epale-4Workplace learning EPALE

Workplace learning EPALE


Acting as a partner, sharing responsibilities for training and professional development

To conclude, for adult learning organisations to play a role, this requires them to operate more as organisational consultants and guides than just training providers. They are less ‘suppliers of skills’, and more ‘critical friends’ and ‘partners’ in organisational development and skill provision.  Adult learning providers also need to build up long-term relationships with the organisations they support and learn to speak the language of the organisations.

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