Learning Is Becoming an Integral Part of Work

While up to today knowledge workers have been in demand in the labor market, from now on it will be learning workers. Find out what that means for you.

Who is the smartest person in the room? The one with the university degree? No, the one with the smartphone.

A good education is still a good foundation if you want an interesting job. But: Knowledge has become a commodity. Anyone can find it easily and conveniently on the Internet.

Work Is Learning and Learning Is Work

This has huge implications for what skills a workforce needs to have. They don't need a big backpack of knowledge, but the ability to find the relevant knowledge and continuously learn new things. “Work is learning and learning is the work”, says consultant and learning expert Harold Jarche.

The shift from knowledge workers to learning workers on the labor market is driven by additional developments:

  • Workplaces are shifting from hierarchies to networks. “Hyperlinks have subverted hierarchy”, Jarche states. The consequence: management control systems become obsolete.
  • Businesses, with the use of social media, become more and more social.
  • The world and the problems we must solve are no longer simple or even complicated. They are complex. There are no more easy answers, to succeed we need a different approach.
  • As Boomers leave the labor market, the Millennial generation is moving up. They have already internalized the system of continuous learning.

Not Knowing, but Learning Stuff

What exactly are learning workers? Knowing how to learn is their most important skill. Far more valuable than knowledge is their ability to learn new things and apply those learnings to new scenarios and environments. How to interpret available information.

An important difference to conventional knowledge workers is: Learning workers do not acquire their knowledge mainly through institutional learning, through classical training courses. They consult the internet, they learn on the job, from solving problems, from probing.

Companies Must Become Learning Organizations

Learning workers are very agile and can adapt quickly. If companies want to be the same, they must become learning organizations.

As a learning organization, they must provide their employees with the right working environment:

  • Time and space to read, reflect, discuss and learn
  • Autonomy to learn and teach at one’s own will
  • Autonomy to customize one’s own work
  • Open, transparent and flexible company culture
  • Tools and networks to share their information and knowledge
  • Tools to collaborate
  • Chance to become a leader for certain topics and solutions

Become a Learning Worker!

Should I become a learning worker myself? We strongly recommend it to you. You will increase your chances on the job market if you take the initiative.

Here are some useful hints how you can become a successful learning worker:

  • Have an open mind
  • Make learning part of your work – all the time
  • Record what you have learnt – in a journal
  • Don’t try to solve every problem on your own. Consult your workmates, the internet, experts
  • Try out things
  • Make mistakes and learn from them
  • Make prototypes, identify their weaknesses and keep improving them
  • Share your learning with others

Rest assured: anyone can become a learning worker. After all, learning is part of our life.


Hansjörg Schmid

Hansjörg Schmid