Workplace learning with coaching and mentoring
Workplace learning with coaching and mentoring

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

2.1 From skills to skilfulness

There has been increased emphasis within HRD strategy on the need to be more agile and responsive in the face of the rapidly changing environment of work and organisations, especially with the advent of new technologies. Specific skills can quickly become out of date, sometimes becoming obsolete even by the time a formal training programme has been defined, approved and implemented. This has led many learning experts to call for a shift ‘from skills to skilfulness’ (Bigelow, 1995).

Such a shift in emphasis represents a change in our understandings of the agency or responsibility for learning, too. Scholars and practitioners are increasingly focusing on the need for learners to develop a sense of ownership of their own learning objectives, methods and outcomes, rather than relying on these being assessed, defined or mandated by their employer. One of the most crucial aspects of an individual employee’s skilfulness (rather than skills) is a proactive attitude and a willingness to take charge of at least some elements of their own development. This mirrors developments in other aspects of organisational strategy, such as leadership and change management approaches, with their increasing emphasis on facilitating and enabling, rather than directing and mandating.

One of the motivations for these developments is a heightened focus on the ethics of organisational and institutional life, especially in the wake of recent corporate scandals. As Vince (2011, p. 344) puts it, instructional designers now think that ‘passive approaches to learning reinforce passive approaches to managing’. So, if we want our leaders, managers and other employees to question wrongdoing, we need to encourage such questioning in the development programmes we design for them, including enabling them to take responsibility for their own learning by questioning whether a particular programme is right for them.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371