Giving employees ownership of learning to increase engagement

Sophia Wichtowska, Content Writer

Traditionally, training courses for staff looked very much like a school classroom — a facilitator leading the class, delivering knowledge to obedient learners. 

Facilitators with more knowledge of pedagogy would provide activities for learners to complete at regular intervals. More commonly, they would deliver the class much like a university lecture, talking from the front for the majority of the time. 


Art Kohn, Ph.D. in cognitive science, writer, and corporate training consultant, explains that if a facilitator doesn’t target content to the individual learner, they will be uninterested. 

He adds that millennials, who “are accustomed to seeking out information on an as-needed basis and are unwilling to attend to material that is not immediately interesting and valuable.”

Digital platforms offer participants a different learning experience, and the chance to take ownership of their learning, rather than being led throughout by an instructor or facilitator. 

Research conducted in schools clarifies that “ownership of learning refers to the development of a sense of connectedness, active involvement, and personal investment in the learning process.”  

To look into this further, we are going to explore how learning and development professionals can create the right environment for employees to take ownership of their learning. The next step is to equip individual learners with the skills necessary to learn independently.

Lay the foundations for ownership of learning

The learning needs across an organization can be vast. New graduates might be experiencing a steep learning curve in their first full-time job. The more experienced members of staff might suddenly have to learn entirely new technical skills.  

In this environment, employees will learn best when they can direct their learning. But, before they can become autonomous, an organization needs to develop its learning culture. 

Towards Maturity, an organization assessing the effective implementation of learning innovation found that in an unparalleled era of change for organizations, there is an excellent opportunity for L&D to deliver strategic value.  

Organizations can achieve this using their “Transformation Curve” roadmap, which describes how they can develop their learning culture. They summarise the journey into four stages: Optimizing Training, Taking Control, Letting Go, and Sharing Responsibility. 

Researchers also identified six dimensions that impact upon an organization’s capacity to transform:

  • Governance and decision making: aligning of learning strategy to business goals and objectives, with the smart use of evidence to support decision making.
  • Formal learning: building an efficient, active portfolio of formal learning resources to address skills gaps and support learners’ career development.
  • Informal and social learning: encouraging the interchange of ideas and mutual support to support personal and business goals, collaborative problem solving, and innovation.
  • The role of the learning professional: adopting business-focused and tech-savvy facilitation of L&D through blending performance support, training, and expert advice and guidance. 
  • The role of the manager: driving the achievement of organizational goals and championing transformation and committed to individual and business advancement through learning.

The final dimension is directly related to employees being accountable and responsible for their learning:

The role of the individual: ensuring that self-directed learners are purposeful, curious, confident, social, connected, adaptable, and take ownership of their L&D. 

How to encourage learners to take ownership

For employees to be able to take ownership of their learning, it is essential to give them a voice in the learning process. They can only become independent and progress at their own pace if they are provided with the tools, time, and scope to do so by those responsible for learning and development. Below, we outline ways in which your organization can support employees with developing their learning skills: 

1. Focus on developing skills for learning

Before employees can make choices about the direction of their learning, they need to feel confident. Learning to learn is an ongoing process throughout life, and we can always improve our ability to take on new information. 

Focus on showing employees how to review their strengths and weaknesses relevant to their role. Successful learners also need to have the right mindset and be open to making mistakes. 

2. Provide learners with the appropriate tools

Employees also need to have access to engaging content and a wide range of learning materials. Each learner’s journey is personalized. While there will be overlaps in the information each employee needs, they will require access to a well-stocked content library. The Go1 Premium platform is home to a growing collection containing thousands of learning resources. 

3. Allocate time for employees to explore and learn

Allocating time for professional development is also beneficial for staff retention. Opportunities for ongoing learning and growth are vital for employees to feel invested in their organization. Ultimately, human beings function best in environments that allow them to grow. 

Deloitte’s 2017 ‘Global Human Capital Trends’ report found 42 percent of millennials are likely to leave their organizations because they’re not learning fast enough. The data also reveals that among millennials, the “ability to learn and progress” is now a key element in their perception of a company’s brand.

4. Ask employees for their opinions on the direction of strategy

For employee voice to be a useful tool in learning and development strategy, staff members need to feel comfortable giving honest feedback. They also need to be confident that those in leadership will take their views on board.

Both leaders and employees should be able to discuss different topics in a spirit of collaboration, which leads to goal setting and strategic planning.

A one stop shop for all things training, Go1 makes it easy to compare the best training options available, and find the right resources for your professional development, compliance and business training needs. 

Encourage your learners to own their personal development training, by giving them the flexibility to search and select courses that reflect their professional interests. This helps your employees take the learning outside of the workplace, so they can access it whenever and wherever they want.

Go1 helps millions of people in thousands of organizations engage in learning that is relevant, effective and inspiring.
Latest stories and insights