Thursday, August 18, 2011

Is Your Workplace Designed for Learning?

As the 21st century transitions to the knowledge worker (from the industrial / manufacturing worker of the 20th century & from the agricultural worker from the 19th century) companies are faced with the responsibility of training their workers to acquire the required knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s) for their jobs. Nijhof and Nieuwenhuis (2008) identified that work is shifting toward knowledge-intensive work, with a focus on knowledge production. It is not uncommon today to view a journal article or a newsletter that talks about the knowledge-economy. The primary difference here is that knowledge-economy refers more to a macro perspective, where knowledge production looks more at a micro perspective.

As the requirements for the knowledge worker continually changes to keep up with the global economy and new technologies, the educational system often falls behind these new technologies, thus furthering the burden for the employer to train employees. This new emphasis on training, by the employer, was highlighted by Nijhof and Nieuwenhuis (2008) by stating: “Efficient and effective learning impose requirements on workplaces that are different from those for efficient and effective working” (pp. 6-7). This new requirement on employers causes a shift in the common practices of the organization.

Most views of the workplace take the stand that there is a place to work (the workplace), there is a place to play (at home), and there is a place to learn (at home or at school – both away from the workplace). However, learning new tasks or skills are often required to perform one’s job. Alternatively, in order to successfully perform one’s job, one must be able to learn about the job duties and processes that are involved with that particular job. Nijhof & Nieuwenhius (2008) identified that learning is an intermediate function of work, “the learning potential of the workplace therefore lies in its conditions to support or stimulate learning” (Nijhof & Nieuwenhuis, 2008, p. 5). Thus, the more learning is supported in the workplace, employees have a tendency to be more motivated and productive.

A fully supported learning environment in the workplace could be replicated using the following definition provided by Nijhof and Nieuwenhuis (2008): “The learning potential of the workplace may… be defined as the power of a work setting to integrate learning at work with the result of behavioural changes and the generation of new knowledge” (p. 7).

Is your organization set up to integrate learning in the workplace? I will follow up in the next couple of blogs with a few models that could be implemented to begin a new learning workplace for organizations.


Nijhof, W. J. & Nieuwenhuis, L. F. M. (2008). The learning potential of the workforce. In Nijhof, W. J. & Nieuwenhuis, L. F. M. (Eds.), The learning potential of the workplace. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense.

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