How Learning in the Flow of Work Can Help Today’s Employees

  • 4 Min Read

Enabling learning at the point of need is an important part of a progressive employee learning strategy.

Learning and development (L&D) has become a hot topic at the CEO level. A solid and progressive learning and development strategy is increasingly being seen as foundational for organizations—indispensable for growth and talent retention, and a catalyst for improved corporate earnings. Enabling learning in the flow of work is an important part of that.

What’s driving the C-suite’s appetite for learning?

There are many business drivers feeding an increased appetite for enterprise learning, says corporate learning expert Josh Bersin, Founder and Principal Bersin™, Deloitte Consulting LLP.

“Consistently over the last 40 to 50 years, the United States economy has become focused on service-based work. By far, the fastest growing jobs are in professional services and the services field, for instance, sales and brand management,” says Bersin. “These roles are all about training and continuous learning.”

At the same time, he notes, the work environment has become more complex. Employees in companies large and small feel bogged down, unable to catch up.

“This overburdening of our staff is actually slowing productivity,” says Bersin. “Economic productivity, which is represented by the output of dollar per labor, grew at zero percent over the last quarter. This is a very bad sign indeed.”

Bersin attributes the lack of productivity to numerous causes but highlights the fact that technology in the workplace is expanding at an increasingly rapid rate, which in turn is making people busier and presents new distractions.

“People are getting less sleep. Forty percent of Americans now admit to being stressed at work and mental health and anxiety issues are becoming commonplace. In short, there’s simply not enough time in the day to get what needs to be done…done.”

In the past, employee learning used to happen in the evenings after work. People had the luxury of being able to invest hours in learning new things. However, in today’s dynamic, fast-paced work environment, the average employee only has 24 minutes a week to devote to learning.

Adding to the learning challenges that come with an increasingly busy workplace is the fact that people are living and working longer. Where in the past employees had a three to five-year linear career trajectory, today, employees move horizontally across functions, which means they are frequently moving into new roles. This type of cross-function career progression demands radically different forms of learning.

“Learning programs of the past, built for upward career movement and incremental progress from novice to mastery, simply are not enough anymore,” says Bersin. “We need to create a more dynamic learning environment that helps organizations and their employees contend with these shifts while providing high fidelity learning when needed.”

What is learning in the flow of work according to Bersin?

‘Learning in the flow of work,’ a concept introduced by Bersin, is where learning is discoverable by employees at the point of need and delivered in small “bite-sized” chunks on demand. Bersin notes that bite-sized learning is more relevant, more applicable, and likely better retained than large chunks of learning.

“Science shows us that what we use we retain,” he says. “We also know that people retain knowledge when they can return to the information over a span of time.”

But Bersin also notes that learning in the flow of work doesn’t always have to be delivered in small bite-sized chunks.

“Research shows that the more micro things we do, the more the need for macro learning grows. This is how humans thrive. We couple big learning with small learning. And eventually, we want to be credentialed to signal our mastery of certain skills. Then, we become the master and the source of learning and shift to mentoring and coaching others.”

So what are the implications of learning in the flow of work for platforms, vendors and L&D pros?

“For LMS (learning management system) vendors, the workplace paradigm has essentially shifted out underneath them,” says Bersin. “As we cycle up and down through career changes, the industry needs to create a system and a learning environment that accommodates macro and micro learning.”

With a modern learning platform, organizations can do just that. They can provide employees with more opportunity for learning in the flow of work by easily creating custom learning content to facilitate on-demand bite-sized learning, encouraging peer support and regular coaching and mentoring, providing strategic content curation, and offering a better-designed employee learning experience overall.  L&D program facilitators can even monitor learner behaviors and interactions. And, based on data, they can also stage strategic interventions, offering up intelligence-driven learning suggestions to employees, make more informed decisions around how to adapt learning so it’s better suited to their individual learning needs, and ultimately drive more intelligent conversations with learners.

Curious to learn more about Josh Bersin’s views on how to enable learning in the flow of work?

Watch the webinar