Learning in the Flow of Work
INSIGHTS – Josh Bersin
The average employee spends just 24 minutes a week learning. New processes can help bring learning into the workflow.
Research shows again and again that lack of time is the biggest challenge for workplace learning. On average, knowledge workers carve out just five minutes for learning each day. So, how can we make learning part of the powerful current of the daily workflow? The answer is what I call, “learning in the flow of work.”
Learning in the flow of work brings relevant learning to employees when they need it and within their everyday work systems. If learning professionals practice good design thinking, we can build solutions and experiences that make learning almost invisible as employees go about their jobs.
LinkedIn recently surveyed more than 4,000 professionals at all levels to see how workplace learning could be improved. Of the 2,200 employees included in the survey, 68 percent said they prefer to learn at work, 58 percent want to learn at their own pace and 49 percent want to learn at the point of need.
This research is consistent with O’Reilly, which also finds that approximately 50 percent of all learning interactions from its technical community is in the moment of need.
When you consider these statistics and combine them with Deloitte’s finding that the average employee only has 24 minutes a week for formal learning, it’s clear informal “in-the-flow” learning is necessary for success.
Consider applications such as sales training, safety training, leadership development and all types of technical training. What we ultimately want to do is embed learning into the systems in which employees typically work. The systems can then offer up relevant learning and coaching when needed, without requiring employees to stop what they are doing and go to a different system.
For example, a large distributor has more than 20,000 sales and service professionals around the world. All employees use Salesforce as their daily system for work and activity tracking. Think how practical and efficient it would be if Salesforce could promote and recommend learning whenever a representative opens an opportunity, or if it suggests simple videos or tips to help remind others how to price, manage or close a deal. This kind of solution is available in the market today. Genentech is working on such a solution now.
In the field of safety and operational training, there are now adaptive learning solutions that deliver two- to three- minute videos daily as an operator checks into work. The learning is carefully curated, spaced and designed to deliver an outcome. Answers to questions provide the system with enough information to determine what comes next.
Systems such as GitHub, Stack Overflow and O’Reilly Safari essentially do learning in the flow of work already. Exciting new tools such as WalkMe, GuideMe and EnableNow analyze behaviors in various applications and offer realtime guidance and performance support without an employee even asking.
I’m not saying this is all push-button-tooperate yet, but it’s coming fast – especially as more and more vendors provide plugins to productivity tools such as Slack, Outlook, Salesforce and G-Suite.
While learning in the flow of work is not necessarily the solution for every training need, I believe it’s the paradigm to design around whenever possible.
Josh Bersin is an independent industry analyst and founder of Bersin™ by Deloitte. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.