Learning is not something new; humans have been doing it for millennia. But the way we learn has changed as society has changed.
Today, learning has taken on various forms influenced by many factors of the modern world:
- The need for a variety of skills
- The need to learn skills quickly
- The need to continuously improve learned skills
- The need to apply and experiment with learned skills
- The need for innovation
- The need for critical thinking, leadership, and collaboration
In order to accomplish all those things while also having a personal life and keeping up with the daily tasks of a job requires an organized individual learning plan.
Individual learning plans are based on the theories of Carl Rogers and Malcolm Knowles. They theorized that learning plans make connections between an individual and institutions like schools and workplaces.
Based on their theories, a learning plan is basically a structure of individual development that links the organization’s needs with the needs of individual employees.
These plans provide objectives and encourage discussion and understanding between people. Knowles said that a learning plan replaces the content of what will be learned will a process of learning.
These plans help motivate, engage, and retain employees. This motivation and engagement can result in increased productivity. In fact, research seems to support these theories showing that learning plans increase motivation and promote more personalized teaching and learning.
Why You Need a Learning Plan
Learning plans are beneficial to both employers and employees. They help align the needs of the organization with the needs of individual employees. They create the opportunity for collaboration and a symbiotic relationship between the organization and the employee, one where they both grow together.
Therefore, the individual learning, while personal, is really a plan for everyone. It provides the structure for how an employee can help the organization and how the organization can support the employee’s growth. So, one person’s individual learning plan may seem too personal to matter, but when created effectively, they should help all employees as they create a better workplace.
Creating an Effective Learning Plan
There are multiple ways to create a learning plan that helps both the employee and the company.
Create a list
Make a list of skills and knowledge you want to have for your current job and your dream job. You may also want to list up-and-coming trends and technologies that may be important to learn in the future.
The next step is to organize the list based on importance and difficulty level. It can be useful to create a long term plan and break it down into short blocks. That way you can create a long term goal and many short term goals. If you're not particulary good at prioritizing, here are some useful tips.
After you have your goals, you need to find resources to help you achieve those goals. You can find out what your employer offers in terms of training or training reimbursement, search for free or low-cost options online, look for local conferences or training sessions, or find some good books, videos, or articles.
Learning is best done in regular intervals. Just like any new change, it takes repetition before it becomes a habit. It is best to block out a couple hours a week specifically dedicated to learning.
Learning Plan Phase Model
Some people use a phase model to create their learning plan. The five phases are approach, deployment, learning, integration, and results.
In this stage, you will have to understand your needs in relation to your current job and your future career. You will need to explore training methods and programs so that you can choose the best one for your needs. At this point, it is also a good idea to create some goals and to create a one-page learning plan.
During the deployment phase, the learning plan is put into place. You will need to have training materials ready and you'll need to make sure that you are able to evaluate your learning and track your progress.
Many learning plans have two aspects: organizational and personal. As you learn you will need to see how your plan addresses the needs of the organization, as well as your own personal needs. Along the way, you may need to adapt and learn how your learning plan needs to be changed when it is time to update it.
Once you've started the process you will need to review your progress and integrate any information you discovered about yourself, and how your goals coincide with our personal goals and the goals of the organization. This process of review and integration will not only help you grow but it will add to the growth of the organization as well.
In the results phase, you will see how effective your learning plan has been in relation to your own personal goals as well as the goals of the organization and the goals of other employees.
When companies take into consideration the connection between themselves and their employees, as well as the connections between their employees, they can begin to discover how learning helps everyone.
This type of system of learning often requires some sort of plan. Those learning plans, when viewed as a bridge between the present state of the company and the future of the company, make individuals and their learning, not only a personal process but one that impacts everyone in the organization.