This year the corporate learning market is going through explosive change: microlearning and adaptive learning systems have arrived, there’s an explosion of interest in learning experience platforms and consumer-like learning environments, and video, audio and small chunks of relevant content are available everywhere.
All this change is positive: We are turning the traditional, page-turning e-learning experience of the past into a dynamic, agile, as-needed learning experience that fits into the way we use the internet. But how do we apply all this to the skills development and training needs of business?
A new paradigm has arrived, one that I’ve written about before and that I call “learning in the flow of work.”
We all struggle with too much to do. The average employee has less than 25 minutes a week to learn. We are working more hours and get too many emails, and we feel inextricably tethered to our phones, email and other work-related platforms. In Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends survey, we refer to this as the “hyper-connected workforce,” and our research shows that we are all struggling to deal with this reality, increasing our stress at work.
Additionally, the proliferation of content and new topics to learn has exploded. We need to learn about cloud-based systems, artificial intelligence, new technologies like blockchain, and hundreds of other new topics and ideas spanning every facet of our careers. As I like to put it, in today’s economy, “the learning curve is the earning curve,” so we are all searching to learn faster than ever before.
On top of all this, a new market of learning platforms has arrived. Learning experience systems, modern LMS platforms, and adaptive and microlearning platforms are now in the market, and these products publish, serve and recommend content in a consumer-like experience, making learning as easy and enjoyable as watching TV.
But how do we use all this technology and content to truly drive results? The answer: learning in the flow of work.
To simplify the concept, think about it this way. Every employee in your company (from sales person to service worker to senior executive) has a learning curve for their job. Some are going through a steep learning curve early in their role, others may have plateaued and be looking for tips and techniques, and others simply want to reinvent themselves. Our job in L&D is to take all this content and insert it into the workflow so each employee can get what he or she needs when it’s relevant, needed and interesting.
Let me give an example. A distribution center worker clocks in every morning. When he arrives, a two-minute learning video appears, asking him to remember a few safety tips or perhaps notifying him about a new process on the production floor. The next day the employee sees something a little different, building on what he learned the day before. Week by week the content becomes more advanced, useful and relevant.
Our main challenge is design. As learning platforms get smarter, we need to design microlearning and macrolearning programs so they fit into them, bringing us closer to employee needs than ever before. In sales, customer service and technical support this problem is fairly easy to understand — it just takes some design thinking and effort to understand true needs.
I’ve been talking with dozens of companies about this topic, and I’m realizing that this paradigm is not only useful, but liberating to L&D. Now, instead of building curricula which we “hope” people will use, we can create programs and experiences that immediately fit into work and that we know will add value every week.
I’m amazed at the number of new tools, platforms, and systems now able to facilitate this new approach. Every software vendor in the training industry is picking up on this trend, and I see browser plugins, dynamic learning tools and easy-to-use interfaces appearing everywhere.
My suggestion to you is simple: Take a few minutes to think about your most important employee audience and how you can embed learning into their flow of work. You’ll find yourself building things that are more relevant, valuable and important. Learning in the flow of work is here — and I encourage you to jump in as soon as you can.
Josh Bersin is founder of Bersin, known as Bersin by Deloitte, and a principal with Deloitte Consulting. He can be reached at editorCLOmedia.com.