Meaning of workplace learningWorkplace learning reflects a perspective whereby both the employer and the learner (employee) benefit from the learning activities resulting in improved job performance, enhanced career development, and transfer of essential skills from one job to the other. The concept of ‘workplace learning and performance’ is commonly used to encompass ‘activities and measurable outcomes’ for achieving a defined goal. Learning is one of the ways through which organizational performance can be improved, although it is not the only one. However, the concept of ‘performance’ tends to be closely tied to that of ‘learning’ owing to the crucial role it plays in enhancing operational efficiency in organizations.
The concept of learning is closely related to that of ‘competencies’. Although employees may have gained competence in performing certain routine tasks, they may lack the ability to attain standards expected of them by the employers in the present time and in the future. Additionally, the competencies gained may need to be refined in preparation for future roles in a different job. In this regard, workplace learning facilitates the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes that are required for improvement in performance in a certain occupation.
However, concerns about competencies go beyond basic employment issues. Today, many employers continue to lament the lack of skilled workers, especially in jobs that require high-level technical know-how. For instance, in a recent report the Canadian Expert Panel on Skills, claimed that there is a persistent shortage of technically skilled employees who can combine essential skills (such as teamwork and communications) and management skills (such as budgeting and cost control) in the Canadian labor market (Carliner 2006, p.
18). Elsewhere, a report released by the RAND Corporation claimed that organizations are shifting towards reliance on non-routine cognitive skills in the completion of everyday skills and functions such as problem-solving, abstract reason and communication (Karoly & Panis 2004, p. 12). This situation creates a sense of urgency on modern organizations to put workplace learning mechanisms in place in order to ensure that employees gain advanced competencies in addition to core competencies. Workplace learning takes place in the context of employment. In workplace learning, the interests of all stakeholders, including employers, employees, and the government are taken into consideration.
It is a type of learning that enables individuals, employers as well as organizations to adjust positively to the changing work and business environment. It also brings about efficiency in all production processes during employment. This creates an ideal environment for employees to meet their career development goals. Modern organizations can only ignore workplace learning at the cost of their long-term performance success. Relevance of workplace learning to employeesIn the 21st century, workplace learning is not just about creation of preparedness of employees for employment; rather, it has become the lifeblood for sustaining them in the workplace.
Employees need to continue learning in order to improve their level of professional efficiency throughout their working lives. Workplace learning is also an ideal way of extending one’s educational capabilities in the workplace. Moreover, new challenges and opportunities continue to arise in the workplace, necessitating the need to acquire new knowledge and competencies in readiness for them. Incidentally, some of the knowledge and skills acquired in the workplace enrich the employees’ personal lives, thus enabling them to maintain a work-life balance.