You know the feeling. You’re in the middle of a deadline at work, things are moving along, and then you smack right into a roadblock. Maybe you can’t figure out how to use a program for a desired task or you can’t find the vital information needed ahead of a client call. So, you somehow figure it out. Of course, this leads to frustration or time wasted struggling to find answers or solutions to problems. Yeah, it’s a moment where you’re forced to learn a new skill or approach, but born out of necessity and stress.
This pressure-induced learning has several problems, being both disruptive and inefficient. The concept of learning in the flow of work, introduced in recent years by research analyst Josh Bersin, offers a better way. The concept rests upon the ability of an employee to quickly and simply answer a question or find a piece of learning material as they continue working.
There are several benefits to learning in the flow of work, such as higher knowledge retention, better productivity and improved engagement compared with other learning and training approaches.
Learning in the flow of work is something that can be applied to your organization, and the following presents some tips to help you get there.
HOW TO BEGIN LEARNING IN THE FLOW OF WORK
Think both big picture and small picture
With more digitalization in the workplace, there comes more data and more methods to experiment with in regards to on-the-job learning. Now is the time to be strategic about how to support learning and training for employees in a transforming workplace. This involves thinking about the big picture, and the small details of day-to-day life.
Bersin, founder of the learning in the flow of work concept, explains that “while the goal of microlearning is to solve a problem, the goal of microlearning is to develop a new skill, obtain a complete understanding or provide context for deeper knowledge.”
Let’s zoom in and start by asking yourself and your employees where common problems are. What daily difficulties need to be addressed? Who needs support, and how and when do they need it?
To begin learning in the flow of work, start by aiding daily moments. And start where the problems are clearly known and identifiable. For example: do members of your accounting team struggle with completing tasks and communicating with other departments? If so, learning in the flow of work would support the accountants to easily have access to relevant information and better get the job done.
So, consider using a tool such as OnScreen, a digital adoption platform which creates custom walk-throughs for users of enterprise applications, such as SAP and Salesforce. Because the instructions are tailored, they serve each individual user in the moment when it’s needed, without disruption.
Then, zoom out and look at the bigger picture. A larger strategy that reflects learning in the flow of work aims to measure impact. Collect qualitative and quantitative data from your employees on how they’re learning, what they’re learning and if they are satisfied.
Consider what your organization’s goals are, and align your strategies and programs with constant learning to achieve these goals.
Shift your intentions
As an organization, with learning, focus more about the effect and less about the activity.
So instead of focusing on how and where your employees are learning, focus on what they are learning. When assessing training or learning sessions, the focus should move away from measuring outcomes related to numbers, attendance and satisfaction with the activities. Instead, look at the problems that are – or are not – being solved with the learning.
Deloitte highlights the forward-thinking journey of HR departments from “old world” to “new world” operations, seen in the image below. This involves transitioning to “high impact HR” that is propelled by “responsiveness and agility”. These are reflective characteristics of learning in the flow of work.
Within your organization, measure the effect and the impact of training and learning efforts. Tracking that data and outcomes will present better insight on your organization. And this is a building block towards a system of learning in the flow of work.
Integrate into current software and programing systems
Integrate learning in the flow of work into programs and software your organization already uses. This helps to integrate training, instructions and help into what you and your employees are already familiar with.
Your organization is most likely using one or more ERP, HRM or CRM systems like SAP S4HANA, Successfactors, or Microsoft Dynamics. To help an employee complete a business task, OnScreen creates a tailored walkthrough, with exactly what the employee needs. The user would be guided through the relevant aspect of the process, and instructions would appear as the user moves through their actions. In this way, the learning and instruction happens in real-time and in the flow of work.
Develop a strong culture of learning
Learning at work matters.
According to a Deloitte survey, 84% of executives considered learning to be important or very important. Across all levels, employees were found to have the expectation that employers would support continuous opportunities for learning. Deloitte found that 90% of survey respondents are redesigning jobs, and the majority favored training rather than new hires to meet their talent needs. So, in order to stay afloat in a changing workforce, employees are going to need to learn.
However, not all learning is created equal.
Learning needs to be meaningful. This means, being an organization that supports employees to learn through self-direction to pursue their personal advancements and worth. McKinsey Global explains that “recognizing that learning includes personalized explorations that tap into emotion and a sense of individual purpose”, and learning in the flow of work supports each employee in learning how and when they need.
As the future of work quickly evolves, so must our approaches to learning and development. The learning needs and expectations of organizations should align with the realities of employees.
To get your organization learning in the flow of work, remember to consider both the macro and micro perspective, focus your perspective to measure impact rather than activity, use what you have and integrate learning into current programs, and develop a strong culture of learning. To do this, embrace helpful tools such as OnScreen, which facilitates users to learn in the moment and learn with assistance tailored to them and their position.
Start thinking about how your organization can support not only learning on the job, but learning in the job.