One third of workforce are negative about learning

L&D professionals should see employees as consumers of learning, say experts, as they urge a ‘transformative approach’

One third (32 per cent) of British workers hold negative sentiments or are indifferent towards learning, according to new research which experts said suggests L&D professionals face considerable barriers to encouraging employees to sharpen their skills . 

The survey of more than 3,000 people by learning provider AVADO found 18 per cent thought a colleague should learn on the job rather than taking part in training that lasted more than a day.

And many were put off taking part in workplace learning and development opportunities due to factors including cost (48 per cent), the need to travel (26 per cent) and inability to fit learning around work (20 per cent).

Amy Crawford, managing director of AVADO, said: “Consistent learning and development will be essential in future-proofing the nation’s workforce if they are to remain a competitive powerhouse in the future. Our lack of interest in learning as highlighted in this research poses a real threat to future generations if they are to keep up with the ever-changing career landscape.”

She added the results should prompt employers to rethink how they package their learning opportunities: “We do not believe we are a nation of lazy learners, but instead are looking for ways we can better ourselves that fit within already busy schedules. We would urge everyone to park their school-time prejudices and consider learning something new.”

Respondents felt in-work learning opportunities were more valuable than higher education. But only 18 per cent said the workplace was the last place they learned something, compared to 38 per cent who said it was a degree-level institution, college or school. 

Jane Daly, chief insight officer at Towards Maturity, said: “We see a clear disconnect between what’s offered in the workplace and what learners actually need. L&D professionals have high aspirations, but they are not getting the support or traction they need to change at the depth and pace required – and therefore their value and relevance, and the value of workplace learning, is under question.” 

Towards Maturity’s Bridging the Divide 2018 report found more than half (55 per cent) of learners wanted the ability to personalise learning to their own needs, and 57 per cent said they would like to access learning at the point when they need it most. Yet only 50 per cent of L&D professionals agreed their staff can choose to access learning provision at any time.

More than one third (35 per cent) of AVADO interviewees said the internet was their primary source for learning, although 27 per cent felt the ability to copy and paste information from online sources had a negative effect on their ability to absorb and understand it.

Earlier this year, research by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants found around a quarter (26 per cent) of the UK workforce did not take part in any workplace learning in the last 12 months. Its report suggested that employees who missed out on training risked lagging behind in their careers or even dropping out entirely because they lacked the skills and knowledge to keep up with technology.

Daly said a “transformative approach is required” to shift negative perceptions of learning: “Our call to action is that leaders and L&D professionals need to listen more and look at learners as ‘consumers of learning’ who need more convenient and appropriate ways to learn. The learning agenda clearly needs to step up.”