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Learning in the flow of work

by Susan Dumas - February 6, 2019

'Learning in the flow of work' is a concept where learners can easily access answers or short pieces of learning content that will help them to do their jobs at the point of need. Learning in the flow drives productivity, engagement with learning and knowledge retention. Providing digital learning content in this way is possible using a learning experience platforms to curate custom learning content in a strategic way.

Top challenge for L&D: Not enough time to learn

In a Josh Bersin's survey of 4,000+ L&D and business professionals when asked people how their workplace learning could be improved, the most common issue was that people 'do not have enough time to learn'.

“Getting employees to make more time for learning” was the #1 challenge they cited, and among the learners who responded, 58% want to learn at their own pace and 49% want to learn in the flow of work.

Learning is at the heart of personal and organisational growth and improvement - how can we make it part of our learners daily flow? With modern learning experience platforms it is now possible to make learning part of the flow of learners day.

What does learning in the flow of work look like?


Learning and development touch points with individual workers are too few and infrequent to influence everyday performance and efficiently (or continuously) build the capability required in most organisations.

Never mind about whistling while you work – learning while you work is in demand. So why not make it easy for employees, and set the pace with learning that is controlled, effective and recorded? “In the moment of need” learning works best when the information being sought is given quickly and with context. Simply googling is far from enough.

Bersin cites research from O’Reilly which found that around 50% of all learning interactions from one company’s technical community (software engineers, analysts, and other technical professionals) involves “in the moment of need” technical support. These are people who understand the basics of their jobs but want pinpoint information, code snippets, or other quick answers to technical questions they face right now.

The essential elements of effective learning content

Simply using internet research (and all it entails) when learning on the job can sometimes lead to the gross simplification of functions that are just not that straightforward. This, in turn, causes employees to make judgements on matters that require much greater, more in-depth consideration.

Video-based sites like YouTube are appealing to L&D, employees and business leaders because they’re free, accessible on mobile devices, and offer a simple way to learn how to do things. But if you're a business leader whose hopes for on-the-job learning hang on YouTube and Google – beware! These platforms do not equate to effective training. 

A combination of the five elements below must be present in order to maintain an effective (and therefore cost-effective) programme: 

1.  Context and relevant examples
2. The opportunity to practice in a test environment
3. The opportunity to apply the training to real-life work situations
4. Consistency across all information given to employees
5. The opportunity to pace the learning

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Collaboration in learning is the key

In this age of collaborative, two-way communication, nobody is ever going to appreciate being instructed (without being consulted) to attend a training course. Individuals have very different learning patterns and behaviours; so, instead of having a one-size-fits-all approach, why not engage with employees through a process of collaborative consultation, to see which learning approach most appeals to them? After all, if employees have a clear preference for one learning medium over another, listening to them will result in a win–win situation for everyone – because people always learn more in an environment they feel comfortable with.

The bottom line is that we all need upskilling, now more than ever. The world is changing at an incredibly fast pace across all sectors of industry. No one can afford to stand still, thinking that they have a sufficient skillset to get them through their careers.

Equally, people now have much more access to information resources than ever before; it stands to reason that training delivery methods need to be much more interactive, innovative and engaging, beyond simply disseminating information that is already widely available.

So, go on: be brave. Offer your employees the training they need – in the moment of need! And remember, reports of the death of training are greatly exaggerated! Training (however it is called) merely changes in the way it's delivered and perceived, just as every industry must change and adapt to new technologies and new thinking. Banking was still banking when it went online, and training will still be training no matter what methodologies we use to deliver it. But the more open-minded you are in your approach to training, the better it will be.

Want to find out more about how 'learning in the flow of work' can have a huge impact on your organisation? Get in touch now for an informal chat about your needs. 


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