London UK 2025

Dates and Venue

23 - 24 April 2025 | ExCeL London

17 - 18 April 2024 | ExCeL London

Creating a self-directed learning culture

Monday 20 May 2024

Creating a self-directed learning culture

Helen Marshall
Creating a self-directed learning culture

Thrive’s Roundtable Event at London’s Soho House brought together 20 learning and development leaders from a mix of industries to exchange ideas, confront challenges and share strategies that would lead to self-directed organisational learning culture.

Kicking off the day, Chief Learning Officer, Helen Marshall, sparked meaningful conversation amongst attendees by addressing the following questions:

🤔 What is self-directed learning?

🤔 How will current industry trends shape your approach?

🤔 What is currently blocking your people from being self-directed?

🤔 What are the benefits?


What is self-directed learning?

Starting with defining the term itself, the room discussed what self-directed learning means to them. The common theme was a culture that focussed on empowering individuals to take the initiative and responsibility for their own learning and development - that can apply to both inside and outside of the workplace. 

Instead of relying on formal training programs or leaning on managers, the attendees identified self-directed learning and encouraged their employees to proactively seek out learning opportunities, set their own goals, and develop the skills and knowledge to achieve them. 

This means L&D teams go from pushing initiatives and assigning learning to pulling people in through nurturing, engagement tactics and most importantly being able to easily recommend relevant and personalised learning opportunities. 


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How will current industry trends shape your approach?

Helen set the talking topics of coaching, AI and upskilling for the room to discuss the impact these have on self-directed learning and how L&D could use the latest innovation and technology to drive good learning habits. 



Coaching, which the room agreed can be a bit daunting as a term for learners and managers, was identified as a great way to support learners with their self-driven development journey, through simple coaching techniques. 

By asking the right questions, learners can begin to hold themselves accountable to their goals, figure out where they stand with skills and learn to create a relevant learning plan that they can track and seek feedback with along the way.  



Next up was AI (of course.) Guiding people through technology on the best ways to upskill is going to be a gamechanger for learners and L&D teams alike. Helen shared what’s next on this topic and gave attendees an insight into how Thrive will guide learners on the best and most relevant ways to upskill themselves. Primarily, by having conversations that intuitively direct people to their next learning opportunity, even if they haven't thought of it themselves!

Features like AI-suggested skills and goals that automate the creation of goals with recommended suggestions based on individuals prompts and behaviour will support guiding learners in the right direction. 


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Barriers to a self-directed learning culture 

It's a tale as old as time. We all have a million things on our to-do lists and finding time for self-directed learning can be a real challenge. The most common challenge is employees making time for learning a part of your workflow or daily routine. 

Another barrier is motivation. Staying motivated when you're learning on your own is a huge mindset change. It's not like having a manager assign compliance training that you need to do for legal reasons, or technical training that is required for your role. The challenge is encouraging an environment that supports time, opportunity and want to upskill instead of need. 


The benefits of self-directed learning are stellar

Nurturing initiative: Self-directed learners are more adaptable because they actively seek out new information and skills. 

Employee engagement and happiness: When employees are given the autonomy to control their development and progression, they feel more engaged and motivated. This will lead to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover rates! 

An efficient and skilled workforce: Self-directed learning is highly efficient and personalised. Employees can focus on the specific knowledge and skills they want to develop, leading to quicker and more relevant learning experiences. This also means that skills in the form of interests and passions can be nurtured regardless of job role, leading to a more diversely skilled workforce that develops at the pace of new technologies.

Cost-effective: Investing in self-directed learning can be cost-effective. It reduces the need for expensive, one-size-fits-all training programs. Employees can learn at their own pace and choose resources that fit their needs.


Practical tips for fostering self-directed learning

So, what are some practical tips to start encouraging this culture? Helen Gilbert from Compare The Market & Charlotte Richfield-Betteridge from Specsavers hosted sessions to share initiatives and successes that have worked for them to encourage this way of working (and learning). 


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Time and space for learning: Helen shared some popular initiatives that Compare the Market has implemented and promoted through Thrive which include an optional development day, skills sharing initiatives and an external development fund which helps their learners allocate time within the workday for learning activities. This helps create a dedicated space where employees can focus on self-directed learning without distractions.

Campaigns that pull people in: Charlotte Richfield-Betteridge from Specsavers highlighted how they’ve used Thrive Content to deliver campaigns, set a meaningful development focus and share success stories within communities in their organisation. This has helped grab their learners' attention and keep it! 

Provide the right resources: But the number one rule is making sure your employees have easy access to a variety of quality and relevant learning resources covering a range of topics both broad and business specific. Signposting, a smart tag strategy and personalised recommendations make it simple for employees to find relevant materials for them and support their development.

Support goal setting: Encourage employees to set clear learning goals and find a platform that can help you do this automatically! These goals should always be specific, measurable, and aligned with progression plans.

Encourage collaboration: Self-directed learning doesn’t have to be isolated. Regularly provide a place for peer-to-peer feedback and recognition for employees who take the initiative to learn and apply their new knowledge and share it. This can be through formal recognition programs or informal praise.

The right Learning Platform: Your holy grail. Investing in the right learning management system (LMS) is essential to facilitate self-directed learning. They won't change your culture overnight but they will definitely make executing your strategy a whole lot easier by taking all the heavy lifting out of the points we’ve just discussed. The right modern-day learning platform should be able to; recommend learning content and subject-matter experts linked to specific skills and learning goals, track progress and collaborate with colleagues through social learning and knowledge sharing. 


Enjoyed this article? 

You might want to join us at the next Roundtable, or perhaps you want to hear more about how Thrive can help you foster a self-directed learning culture at your organisation? We’ve got you covered. Get some time in with us and we’d love to talk to you about attending our next event! 


Helen Marshall Helen Marshall

Chief Learning Officer at Thrive

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