Creating Learners That Teach Themselves

What’s So Great About Self-Directed Learners?
Vitalii Vodolazskyi/
Summary: A self-directed learner is one that takes charge of their learning journey and seeks out new ways to grow professionally. Learn how to turn reluctant employees into enthusiastic learners.

How To Build A Culture Of Self-Directed Learning

If you’re responsible for the learning and professional development in your company, then you know the frustration of employees who drag their feet and seem to resist every eLearning course you send their way. No matter how important the learning is, it feels like a never-ending struggle and your time is wasted hassling your colleagues with follow-up email after follow-up email. It doesn’t have to be that way! With a few key strategies, you can create a team of self-directed learners.

What’s So Great About Self-Directed Learners?

Self-directed learners are people who take charge of their learning journey. Not only do they seek out new learning opportunities, they also love to interact with content. A self-directed learner thrives on the chance to shape their journey, and hone in on both their interests and knowledge gaps.

Self-directed learners are motivated to initiate their own learning because they understand the intrinsic value of learning and upskilling. They don’t need ten emails from their HR department reminding them of the deadlines on their eLearning courses, because they’ve already finished. Already, they’re saving time and mental load for others.

Self-directed learners are endlessly valuable to a company. Self-directed learners are more likely to stay at the forefront of industry developments and will seek out opportunities to upskill. As they upskill, they apply their learning to their work, propelling their teams forward with new approaches to old problems. They aren’t content with dated procedures and constantly pursue fresh strategies that can lead to ground-breaking leaps forward.

4 Ways To Make Your Workplace Conducive To Learning

Your self-directed learners are probably already there, flying under the radar and waiting for the right environment to come into their own. Here are 4 simple yet critical strategies that you can employ to create a workplace in which your employees thrive as learners.

1. Don’t Ruin A Good Thing

Learning should be a joy, not a chore. Humans are naturally wired to enjoy gaining new knowledge and understanding. The fastest way to kill that joy is through dull, rigid, and rote learning. The impact is shallow, forgettable learning that wastes everyone’s time. Instead, use simple techniques like narrativization, gamification, and branching experiences to create engaging, memorable learning. Pair it with high-quality resources to show that the learning is worth investing in.

2. Make The Value Obvious

Chances are, past less-than-positive experiences will make your learners wary toward your digital learning programs. You’re pushing uphill, but it’s nothing a little determination can’t fix. Use extrinsic motivations to create intrinsic motivation. Try starting a little healthy office competition that rewards the top scorers with prizes competitors will be actively interested in receiving. This might look like certain office privileges or food rewards. Set up a scoreboard in a central place in the office with daily position updates. Back this strategy up with engaging learning modules with genuinely useful teachings.

3. Find Your Trendsetters

Self-directed learners can be critical culture-creators. Team leaders have the important role of showing that new ideas and self-directed learning is valued and rewarded in team settings. Actively encourage your best learners to share the resources they find and pursue the new ideas they bring to the table. With the right nurturing from team leaders, they can turn around the culture of the office from stagnation and boredom to innovation and excitement.

4. Recognize What’s Already In Front Of You

There’s a reason you hired the people on your team, and hopefully, it’s because they had unique and valuable experiences to bring to your organization. Often, the best and most engaging sources of learning are right under your nose. You can turn your learners into teachers by encouraging them to throw together a quick digital learning course on a topic they’re an expert in to share with their colleagues. It’s a quick way for your learners to feel like their expertise is acknowledged and appreciated, a critical factor in employee retention. Furthermore, it prevents the siloing of knowledge, insulating your company from knowledge loss if an employee leaves.

Now sit back and relax. Remember, people naturally enjoy learning when you aren’t placing obstacles in their way. Start with high quality, engaging learning modules, then foster a culture that rewards new ideas, and with a little time, you’ll have a company of self-directed learners.

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