Do you have Guerrilla Learners?

by Geoff Stead

You may be neglecting some of your most valuable employees. . .

Marta is young, eager and in a hurry to perform. She has been working for you for 4 years, and is clearly a rising star. She has moved into management, she masters new skills fast, she collaborates well and gets things done. And most importantly, she figures out how to solve new problems.

According to numerous recent studies, Marta is the perfect “future proof” employee. She has the skills that will help your company adapt and compete in this changing world. These include:

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Creativity
  • Flexibility
  • Opportunity Seeking

Marta is too busy getting things done to attend any training classes offered by her company. Instead she uses her network, and own problem solving skills to learn at the exact moment she stumbles. She is the generation that learns however they can, at the moment of need.

Marta is one of a growing number of Guerilla Learners. Guerilla Learners are energized, and passionate about improving their skills, and unconstrained in how they should do that. Results before Process.

So what does this mean for L&D?

The problem is that traditional L&D doesn’t work for Guerilla Learners. They sidestep it. They don’t sign up for a 3 day course in two months time. They don’t even wade through a 2 hour e-learning course. Instead they ask LinkedIn, or turn to Google, or ask a colleague, or go to other public discussion forums.

Guerilla Learners might just be your most critical employees, and yet they are being neglected by L&D – the very people trying to encourage employee learning!

The name “Guerilla Learners” derives from Guerilla Marketing. In the early dot com days, tiny startups were trying to compete with big incumbents with huge marketing budgets. They did so by energetically, and creatively finding new, quicker ways to achieve similar results. Instead of ad campaigns at the superbowl they went with viral YouTube videos, and graffiti. These unconventional ways got to the same result faster, were more cost effective, and became known as Guerilla Marketing.

Guerilla Learners do the same. They are highly motivated to learn, but if the official channel isn’t working for them they sidestep it, to find new and creative ways to solve the problem.

At Qualcomm, our Digital Learning strategy puts these learners at the center of our offering. We are constantly revisiting the resources, and learning on offer to our employees. Learning is seen as “self-serve”, and the role of L&D is a mix of specialist consultancy, as well as content curators. And content does not only equal courses. Content can be content is performance support, micro-courses, or all forms of resources. In the middle of this stands our employee app store. A one-stop mobile-shop for any apps, and mobile channels that you might find useful.

Employees are our most critical resource. We expect them to be highly-skilled, working under tremendous pressure, with a strong sense of urgency and a passionate commitment to quality. They want learning that dovetails into their daily working challenges seamlessly. The big vision behind our Employee AppStore was the creation of an attractive, super-accessible source of performance-enhancing tools that grows, and evolves constantly, feeding their need to learn in our always-on universe of high pressure working. We wanted to make sure that this was not perceived as a new “training program” or “e-learning course”, but rather an opt-in, self-serve resource to help make their work day that little bit smoother, and their learning a bit more optimized.

What are you doing for your Guerrilla Learners?

My suggestion:

  • Help them! Try to get where they are. Speak to them. Find out how, and where they are learning, and try to help them do that even better!
  • Harness their ideas! Don’t stop them, but rather harness their energy and lateral thinking to reposition what L&D are offering so they can contribute to building a shared approach to individual and corporate learning shared across the business as a whole.


What do you think? Would this work for you? Share in the comments . . .

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