Have you ever been on mandatory workplace training? The one that seemed pointless and too far away from your personal goals, but you still had to spend many hours attending it? You might have even felt too overwhelmed afterwards, finding yourself unable to engage with daily tasks. If yes, you are not the only one. Disengagement in such situations is an expected reaction.

The professional term would be ‘psychological reactance’, which refers to the action of pushing or persuading someone to do something that he or she believes is unfair. People perceive this as a threat to their freedom and try to disengage or resist to the attempts in many ways. If you have spent time with toddlers, be aware the psychological reactance might be the source of their many tantrums.

Self-directed learning as a main psychological need

As humans, we have a basic psychological need for life autonomy. Correspondingly, independence and control are equally important during our learning journeys. The process where we take the initiative to create our goals and choose our learning method – appeals to our intrinsic motivation. This is called self-directed learning. It supports us to much easier endorse our learning content if we have chosen it for ourselves and decided how and when we wish to engage with it. Moreover, self-directed learning can be a great method of fostering employee learning and development in the post-pandemic world.

How did the pandemic influence our learning and development?

Over the past 15 months, our learning experiences have changed. We’ve needed to adjust to new work conditions and embrace different online interaction software. This enforced us to start practising more flexible ways of working. The resulting boom in digital learning has given us also a huge range of learning material with which to engage.

For those who have been able to offer training and development within their organisations, agility has been key to successful learning. Shifts to online learning platforms and leadership programmes have helped managers coach their teams regularly. This has allowed employees to access their development in personalized ways. Indeed, the ability of organisations to successfully pivot to self-directed learning approaches has been instrumental in their effectiveness.

Five tips for effective self-directed learning

Let’s look at five self-directed learning tips that can boost your confidence and help you foster employees learning and development:

  • First thing first, I invite brands to chose learning provides. If you want to cut down time spent on searching for high-quality content, you’ll need some help. Learning providers are there to offer outstanding learning for you and ease the entire process.
  • Look for a balance of ‘anytime training’ and live sessions where you can ask questions and engage with a community of learners. The pandemic has illustrated our core human need for connection whether face to face or digital.
  • The landscape of work is changing constantly, and our learning solutions need to move in line with changes in demands. Be agile and embrace change.
  • TED talks, books, webinars, memberships and online coaching are available to all of us and allow for the self-directed learner to adopt a continuous and individualised learning approach to their development.
  • Find a network or community. Offer and seek support when you need it. There are many people out there who want you to succeed.

Improving EX with self-directed learning

When employees have autonomy, they experience a sense of progression and confidence. This increases general workplace satisfaction and engagement.

Self Determination Theory, one of the most robust thesis of motivation and well-being, provides much evidence around this. If employees can find autonomy, connection, and a sense of progress during the learning, they are more likely to feel motivated to continue developing. This is critical to the overall employee experience. Fostering employee learning and development is also of vital importance for sustainable business growth.

Taking ownership over learning

There are many quality learning and development solutions out there. If you provide learning accessibility within your organization, it will increase performance and give employees control over their development.

And if you’re, as an employee, assigned to a course that doesn’t endorse your skills, ask yourself why. Make sure there’s an alignment between what the company needs, and how this map to your own personal development journey. Take ownership over your learning journey. With autonomy, your learning will contribute with excitement. This is the desired outcome for both employee and employer.

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