The phrase ‘learning in the flow of work’ was first coined by Josh Bersin in 2018 and is about making learning on the go more accessible in the workplace.
Time is one of the biggest barriers to workplace learning. It often feels like a choice between work and learning, with traditional learning taking employees away from their desks, or key business tasks. With Bersin’s methodology, the keyword is ‘flow.’ Learning that doesn’t interrupt productivity.
Implemented as part of L&D strategy, learning ‘in the flow’ is an effective way to deliver training whilst reducing disruption to employees’ regular work.
What is learning in the flow of work?
Learning in the flow of work provides employees with the content and information needed to perform their tasks – at the time of need. Bersin explains that by making learning a more natural part of an employee’s day job, corporate learning isn’t seen as a destination but, “something that comes to us.”
At its best, learning in the flow of work doesn’t feel like “learning” at all. It doesn’t disrupt day-to-day workplace activity. Using technology and great design, the learning experience becomes almost invisible to the learner because it’s such a natural part of their way of working.
Any employee will tell you this isn’t a new concept. They’ve been using Google and YouTube for many years, quickly accessing on-demand content relevant to their workplace needs. A quick “Ok, Google…” and we have the answers to our questions in a matter of mere seconds.
They wouldn’t regard this as “learning” in the conventional sense. Yet it provides employees with immediate access to quality content and information when they need it to improve workplace performance.
Learning in the flow of work brings workplace learning in line with the age of instant answers and and Bersin predicted it would become the fifth stage in the evolution of corporate training:
- 2018 onwards – Learning in the flow of work
- 2018 – Digital learning. For everyone, all the time, available on all devices everywhere.
- 2010 – Continuous learning. Learning on demand and embedded learning
- 2005 – Talent management. Focused topics to enhance career prospects.
- 2002 – eLearning and blended learning. The move to self-study and online learning
Overcoming employees lack of time for learning
Bersin recognised that the biggest challenge to workplace learning was the employee’s lack of time, citing a LinkedIn research programme of 4000 L&D and business professionals identifying this as the number one issue. This is summed up perfectly in a subsequent HBR article Bersin wrote together with Marc Zao Sanders, “The urgency of work invariably trumps the luxury of learning”.
The significant increase in remote working has made this problem an even more substantial challenge. The latest data from the 2022 Learner Intelligence Report shows that 39% of workers working “in person” pointed to having a lack of time for effective workplace learning. That figure increases to 54% for remote workers.
Learning in the flow of work can address this by seamlessly providing employees with precisely what they need whenever they need it. It removes the perceived investment of time required that deters workers from taking part in learning activities using the more formal training methods.
Supporting the shift to hybrid/remote working
To enable employees to engage with learning in a way that suits them, regardless of work pattern or location, multiple layers of support are needed:
- Communication software: Access to a messaging tool such as Microsoft Teams, Slack or Zoom is crucial. With group chats, teams are far better equipped to support each other with issues and employees are less likely to suffer in silence.
- Digital adoption solutions: Digital adoption solutions like Omniplex Guide act as a helping hand to employees while they learn new tools. Omniplex Guide, for example, is a browser extension that runs over the top of your tools, meaning it’s easily accessible by every employee no matter where they are based.If a new team member needs to learn how to use Salesforce, for example, you can add helpful guides that pop up while they work through the key business tasks within Salesforce. The aim is to provide users with instant support and guidance so that they don’t have to seek out a YouTube video or training course in an LMS.
- A dedicated LMS: In addition to digital adoption, having an organised LMS is key. When users need help, it shouldn’t be a mission to find what they’re looking for. If it is, that’s when they are likely to be turning to Google rather than in-house training.
Invest in a dedicated learning management system and try to make the navigation and visibility of training as clear as possible. Better yet, choose one with a built-in search function that makes it even easier for people to find the training that they are looking for.
4. Clear expectations and visibility: It’s important to be clear about what training and support is available. Be sure to signpost support so it’s easy to find, but also set expectations about how you expect learners to find your training. This can help to reinforce self-learning and also help implement a culture of learning in the flow of work.
Is learning in the flow of work an effective training strategy?
There is a compelling case that learning in the flow of work is the future of workplace learning, it promotes self-learning and doesn’t take as much time as traditional training interventions. With eLearning at its heart, learners can enjoy on-demand, easy access to quality content across a wide range of training and development topics at the point of need.
To be most effective, learning in the flow of work needs to be part of a broader L&D programme, taking its place alongside “up-front”, one-off and more traditional classroom learning methods. Its role lies in dealing with knowledge retention – a significant inhibitor to the impact and effectiveness of learning and development programmes.
The 19th-century German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, in his work The forgetting curve, found that learners forget 70% of what they are taught within 24 hours of the training activity, with up to 90% of information lost after one week.
Much of this decay is caused by a lack of opportunity to apply the learning in practice following its initial delivery. There’s often a time lag between attending training events and using the new knowledge, during which people forget.
By reinforcing the learning in the flow of work, learners are reminded of what they have learned and prompted to apply it when the work is carried out.
How to implement learning in the flow of work
When working with clients to implement learning in the flow of work at Omniplex we apply several critical factors to make it effective as part of a broader L&D strategy.
- Make the content available on demand for employees to choose and self-serve precisely what they need.
Google and YouTube are always available on a browser on any device in just a few clicks. Users have complete control over what they are searching for and can refine their actions to improve the quality of their search. All the options and choices are intuitively laid out for users to scan and select from.
Using a learning management system such as Docebo, learners can easily find and self-serve relevant content on any device on demand. Content can be set out in intuitive libraries using intelligent interfaces that showcase courses and content. Learners are signposted and prompted to quickly find what they need to help them solve workplace problems.
As with Google and YouTube, once employees understand how to access the content, they will do so as a natural part of their working day.
- Create bite-sized micro-learning content
As with Google and YouTube, users often need quick answers to immediate workplace problems.
The content created should be provided in bite-sized formats that address pre-determined issues likely to impede workplace performance.
Overlong, over-complex eLearning content can confuse, frustrate, and deter users who need an instant “in the moment” response.
Articles should be 250 words max. Videos less than one minute. Other visual content, such as infographics and cheat sheets, should have an immediate impact and deal with one or two topics at a time.
Authoring tools such as the award-winning Articulate 360 allow for the easy in-house creation and editing of content across various formats and channels to make them fit for purpose for learning in the flow of work.
- Bring to life in the flow of work-learning content
Google and YouTube are sources of information as well as entertainment channels.
Users enjoy the experience of finding relevant content and are entertained along the journey by the customer experience.
When people are engaged and entertained, they are far more likely to absorb content and learning. This can be achieved with eLearning in several ways:
Use a variety of formats to deliver content. Create engaging animated videos of less than one minute covering two learning outcomes maximum. Vyond’s easy-to-use video animation software is an excellent choice to take a functional message and make it resonate, engaging the learner and providing immediate vital knowledge and information in the flow of work.
Gamification, available in the Docebo suite of services, is another way of generating interactivity to fully engage employees, many of whom will be familiar with its techniques outside the world of work. Users can be trained on the job using well-established gaming techniques to reinforce learning and even gain rewards and recognition for their progress.
- Consider using a Digital Adoption Solution (DAS) in the flow of work
Digital adoption solutions (DAS), such as Omniplex Guide, are a relatively new addition to the L&D portfolio.
Our experience is that this is a huge growth area, with many of our customers deploying these in-app training solutions.
Absolute markets predict a forecasted growth rate of 15% pa until 2027.
DAPs differ from traditional L&D training methods in that they provide in-app training, guidance and content at the point of need.
Users are prompted on-screen with nudges and pop-ups at crucial points when using software programmes in the flow of work to do the right thing as opposed to the wrong thing.
This might mean a steer when inputting data into a field, ensuring it’s in the correct format.
It can explain ambiguous terminology so that the user is guided to allocate the correct status to a customer prospect.
Like SatNav, Digital Adoption Solutions will guide you to your destination via the most optimal route.
Here are some practical examples of how you can support your learners in providing in the flow of work content and solutions.
|Learning topic||In the flow of work example|
|Upskilling – “hard” skills||Self-service downloadable flow charts on how to move from basic Microsoft Excel skill levels to more complicated functions, such as how to create pivot tables.|
|Upskilling – “soft skills”||Tailored individual learning plans, providing access to relevant self-development content to improve communication and leadership skills.|
|Accessibility||Creating content using interactive gamification to help users with cognitive challenges.|
|Managing mental health and well-being||Quickly access an online library with helpful content, e.g. How to manage stress in the workplace video. Simple guides to aid preparation for difficult meetings and conversations.|
|Digital adoption of new software||In-app prompts and training to guide users to correctly use complex CRM software such as SalesForce using Digital Adoption Solutions (DAS).|
|Guiding employees through new workplace practices||On-screen tips, tricks and training to help users with new business processes as part of a digital transformation programme rollout.|
|Onboarding new people||Personalised welcome interactive “tour” with prompts and links to content a new joiner may want to explore themselves.|
Let’s look at a practical application of learning in the flow of work. Take a salesperson using SalesForce, the leading CRM tool, as an example. Typically, salespeople will attend eLearning or classroom-based training sessions on using SalesForce as part of an account-based sales and marketing strategy.
This could involve understanding how to manage complex user interfaces, accurate input data in the correct fields, the various terminology that denotes the status of a prospect and how to run management reports.
The scope and potential for error are high. SalesForce’s recent research highlights this:
A recent Salesforce study found that the average customer’s contact database is composed of 90% incomplete contacts, with 20% of records being useless due to several factors, such as 74% needing updates and more than 25% being duplicates.
Small wonder many organisations suffer problems with frustrated users who struggle to negotiate SalesForce’s confusing workflows and angry managers who can’t rely on the data to draw down accurate management reports to make informed business decisions.
The “learning in the flow of work” solution
By using a Digital Adoption Solution such as Omniplex Guide, people using any popular CRM programme such as SalesForce, ServiceNow or Zensdesk are prompted and guided as they use the software in the flow of work to do the right thing at the right time.
This improves the quality and accuracy of data entry as well as reducing the number of support tickets that would have been raised previously by struggling users.
The challenges of learning in the flow of work
There are some hurdles to overcome when implementing learning in the flow of work. It’s also not going to become the be-all and end-all of workplace learning.
It is no substitute for face-to-face and in-person training that requires time to be taken out of the office. This type of training encourages idea sharing and allows knowledge to be passed on, which can often be invaluable.
The emergence of learning in the flow of work has put a larger spotlight on how different types of training are delivered and how more traditional forms of learning are produced. As a way of delivering learning it is undoubtedly here to stay and it’s now for businesses to decide what role it will play in their overall learning and development strategy.
Omniplex advise large and smaller organisations on the practical considerations for successfully deploying learning in the flow of work. To discuss your project get in touch.
More at Omniplex Learning
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