Posted date:
Lori Niles-Hofmann headshot

As learning professionals, we often get caught up in training delivery from our own perspective. We worry about our metrics, whether or not we can prove ROI for stakeholders and assessment results.

While this is obviously important, there’s a crucial audience we often forget about: the learners. Senior learning strategist Lori Niles-Hofmann says that it’s time we considered the learner social contract - that is, our duty to ensure that learners are getting what they need out of the learning we offer as much as we are.

Redundancy or relevance?

As Lori points out, for many employees, workplace learning spells the difference between redundancy and remaining relevant.

“We have a huge responsibility to upskill our employees,” said Lori, “and we should be thinking more critically and respecting our learners’ time and intelligence when we’re designing learning.”

This means not designing huge, sprawling programs for the sake of it, but instead creating more targeted programs which are appropriate to the learners’ circumstances. Some employees, such as those working part-time, may need to give up some of their own free time to complete training activities, so it’s up to us to ensure that everything we’re giving them is necessary, designed well and won’t take up more time than it needs to.

A male employee smiling at a female employee

The learner burden

In recent years, many employees have found themselves shouldering the burden of workplace learning - if not just a time burden, that may also be a financial burden. Some organizations now expect employees to pay for their own mandatory third-party training programs, which could be prohibitively expensive for some employees - though regardless of personal financial circumstances, this is a dangerous model to enter into that places far more burden upon employees than is necessary or fair.

In fact, Lori would go so far as to say that it’s our moral duty to upskill our employees and keep them relevant - but to do so in a way that doesn’t disadvantage them. We owe it to our employees to respect their available time, to motivate them and to create data-driven learning programs that benefit employees just as much as they fulfill our business needs.

Why does it matter?

There is a fantastic post on Lori’s website that explains why this is such an important issue:

“The buzz on the L&D street is all about the skills gap. Every presentation these days has a slide with some snazzy metric on how 83% of people do not have the skills for the jobs of 2025, or half of the jobs will no longer exist in 13 months, according to Wall or Sesame Street. All of these are framed as business and profit issues… and they are.

However, what about the end learner whose very income depends on constantly learning, lest the very real fear of being terminated? Imagine the anxiety for workers who have to rely on the efforts of L&D departments to stay employable? That alone negatively impacts the ability to absorb content.”

Think about it this way: for many employees, their futures not just in our own organizations, but in the wider industry, depend on us and the learning we provide for them. If we get it wrong, it could have a massive impact on their futures. Essentially speaking, we’re all guilty of sometimes prioritizing the organization’s needs over the real people who just want job security and to stay relevant in an increasingly unpredictable labor market.

What can we do for our learners?

“As learning professionals, the best thing we can do for our learners is be brutally efficient. It’s important to remember that we’re not creating a Netflix of learning, and we don’t want to encourage mindless bingeing,” said Lori. “We want people to get in, learn quickly and get out.”

While L&D has an important role to play in any organization, it is crucial that we don’t ask too much of our employees in terms of spending their own time, money and energy on workplace learning, and just as crucial that we as learning professionals possess the skills to design programs that serve our employees effectively.

If you’re ready and raring to go, download your free copy of our learner social contract ebook today. It’s packed with practical tips and advice to help you - and your learners - get the results you want from your program.

Download the learner social contract ebook

Want to know how you can respect learners’ time and ensure your program succeeds? Download Lori Niles-Hofmann and Lars Hyland’s ebook today, and ensure you’re aligned with the learner social contract.