Empower your team by learning in the flow of work

Empower your team by learning in the flow of work


The way individuals are learning and the way they want to learn is changing.

Employee ranks now consist of more Gen Z and Millennials, who have all grown up as digital natives, with shorter attention spans and whose desire to acquire new information and knowledge quickly has become second nature.

The challenge for organisations is how to adapt their learning and development strategies to meet this need.

We are continuously striving to improve and develop, yet the urgency of work invariably trumps the luxury of learning. Whether it be reading emails, dealing with customers, or supporting colleagues – there always seems to be something preventing us from learning.

Data from Statista indicates that employees around the globe are spending just 39 minutes per week devoted to learning. In a normal working week of 40 hours, that is less than 2%. Sound familiar?

So, how can we integrate learning and development into our working days and lives?

I'd like to introduce the concept of “learning in the flow of work”.

The Need for Learning in the Flow of Work

We know from experience that development and growth are important factors when it comes to job satisfaction.

Continual skills development and personal growth creates less stressed and more productive employees, who are happier and more willing to take on extra responsibilities.

With this in mind, we must find ways to support our teams with their learning goals.

LinkedIn's 2019 Workplace Report made 3 key observations:

  • The number 1 challenge for employees is finding the time to learn
  • 68% of people prefer to learn at work
  • 49% of people prefer to learn at their point of need

Let's consider WHY finding the time to learn is the number one challenge for employees, then later on, we'll look at how to overcome them.

Challenge #1 - Accessibility to Learning Materials

If learning materials are not easily accessible, time is wasted searching for information rather than devoted to actual learning. We must make it easy for employees to find what they need.

Challenge #2 – No Learning Incentives

Although employees must be motivated to learn and have a growth mindset, organisations can still do more to encourage participation. Simple things like gamification, leaderboards, and awards are all ways to get teams engaged with learning and create in-house challenges. It doesn't always have to be about money!

Challenge #3 - Traditional, Macro-Style Learning

It's not possible to have employees spend hours or days out of the office regularly and keep productivity high. Macro-style learning can also lead to information overload and have employees feeling overwhelmed.

Challenge #4 - Lack of Personalisation

Traditional group training makes it challenging to cater to the individual needs of each participant, whereas they may have different levels of experience and/or specific issues they need to address given their individual situation.

How to “Learn in the Flow of Work”

Implementing microlearning into our learning and development plans enables learning in the flow of work, and helps us conquer these four challenges.

If the term ‘microlearning' is new to you, the concept won't be. It's something nearly all of us do daily.

When we want to find an answer quickly, we ‘Google' it. When we want to learn how to do something visually, we watch a Youtube video. And we listen to podcasts when we're stuck in one of Bangkok's traffic jams! These are all real-life examples of microlearning.

Microlearning offers bite-sized, highly-focused learning units with a single objective.

It's not about stripping down content to the bare bones, but about breaking down learning into manageable chunks, like how a 10-part TV series is far more digestible than a 10-hour movie.

With microlearning, content is presented rapidly in a manner which encourages engagement, such as games, videos, quizzes, and animations. It's less overwhelming than a full day training session, allowing employees to stay focused and engaged.

More importantly, microlearning allows employees to learn WHAT they want WHEN they need it.

Microlearning in Practice

Imagine your B2B sales team is about to pitch your product or service to a potentially high-value client.

Wouldn't it be great if, just before the meeting, your team could take 10-15 minutes to sharpen their skills on delivering impactful sales pitches, asking open-ended questions to uncover clients' needs, and learning how to recognise customers' purchasing motivations?

This could be achieved through a short video, a quiz, or reviewing key take-aways from a course previously studied.

They are getting WHAT they want WHEN they need it.

No need for a full-day of training, and best of all, the knowledge is fresh in their minds.

Benefits of Microlearning

Finally, let's shine a light on the benefits of learning in the flow of work.

Supports the 70-20-10 model

We know from the 70-20-10 training model that 70% of acquiring new skills takes place “on the job”. With microlearning, employees are getting the information exactly at the moment they need it and therefore are able to put it into practice immediately.

Increased Retention of Concepts

If you're familiar with the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve (see ‘The Rise of Blended Learning', our previous article in the HR Watch, 7th December edition), you'll know that we lose information over time when there is no attempt to retain it.

Microlearning enables employees to learn and apply the knowledge immediately and directly map the concepts to an action they must perform in their jobs.

Higher engagement with shorter content

The attention spans of our teams these days are becoming shorter and shorter. Providing shorter content of 10-15 minutes keeps employees engaged and more focused on every single topic, as they would be with longer training covering a broader range of concepts.

Employees can have access to a short video, worksheets to review, and summaries of key takeaway points.

Focused on a specific objective

Shorter and specific modules which address a specific learning need improves our learning as opposed to, for example, a Half-day course with three to four objectives.

Final thoughts

The shift in learning style is here to stay. Personalised content aimed at the learner experience is more important than ever. Organisations need to grasp digital transformation with both hands and create a continuous learning culture to survive and thrive in the post-Covid era.

Learning in the flow of work has the potential to be one of the most powerful tools available to business leaders today. Make sure you are ahead of the game.

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