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What is ‘learning in the flow of work?’

17 October 2022
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If training or learning development has been extremely disruptive to your team, you’ll know exactly what learning in the flow of work doesn’t feel like.

You might have come across the phrase “learning in the flow of work” if you’ve delved into the world of online learning and corporate training. It sounds interesting and exciting - but what exactly is it, and how can it stop learning from being so disruptive?

First proposed by Josh Bersin, a corporate learning and HR analyst in 2018, learning in the flow of work offers a new paradigm for designing and implementing learning and development programs in the workplace. It has since captured the imagination of the industry and continues to evolve to meet the need for a new way to approach training and upskilling.

Learning in the flow of work is an approach to training and development that aims to better integrate learning into the day-to-day rhythms of workers, and thereby reduce disruption and frustration.

With a learning in the flow of work approach, training is embedded into existing platforms and rhythms of work so that it enhances work, instead of interrupting it.

Imagine this: when your team members have a spare 10 minutes, they use it to log in to the company’s learning platform and learn a new skill or concept.

Or imagine this: One of your team members is out sick for the day. You need someone else to step in and turn on the pieces of equipment the sick team member usually operates. They login to the company’s learning platform and take a 5-minute course on booting the equipment on. The equipment is up and running 5 minutes later.

Lastly, picture this: On the train on the way home from work, your team members check a dedicated channel in Slack or Microsoft Teams where they share blogs and articles they have come across throughout the day, and they catch up on industry news and trends.

Each of these scenarios offers an example of learning in the flow of work. Overall, learning in the flow of work aims to reduce the amount of time workers spend in training by making it more helpful, more targeted, and available when it’s needed.

 

Why is learning in the flow of work important?

Learning is incredibly important for modern workers and businesses.

The opportunity to learn and grow is now the second most important factor for inspiring workers and boosting their happiness and productivity. It’s also rated as extremely important for 59% of millennials looking for new jobs. That is, workers are looking for businesses that are going to support their growth as a professional, in soft and hard skills.

This inverts the common myth that training up employees will simply lead to them moving on once they have the skills they want. Instead, a strong learning and development program actually attracts and retains talent.

Knowing this, many L&D pros are expecting investment in their departments to rise in future, and plenty are throwing this budget towards large catalogues of courses such as Linkedin Learning.

However, a surplus of courses, rather than satisfying the demand for more training, can often be detrimental. Exhaustive catalogues can make searching for the right content, well, exhausting. The courses themselves can often be too long, or not interactive and engaging enough to hold attention.

The old solutions of multi-hour workshops are equally unviable, requiring every worker to stop their work and be available at the same time in the same place. Deadlines and meetings must be reshuffled, and if an important piece of information was missed or forgotten, it can’t be re-visited on-demand at a later time.

And workers already have so little time to spend on training. In 2018, LinkedIn Learning shared that the number 1 reason that employees feel held back from learning is a lack of time. Bersin’s own research found that employees have just 24 minutes a week on average for “formal learning”.

Thus, learning in the flow of work is important because it is a direct response to these demands for better learning opportunities, on-demand, without disruption.

 

Is learning in the flow of work right for your business?

While learning in the flow of work presents a huge opportunity to make learning and development a critical part of a business’s culture, it isn’t the solution for every training need.

If your business has important compliance, safety and onboarding training needs, then optional, bite-size courses will not be sufficient to meet these needs. In this case, a blended approach can be taken, with both microlearning courses freely available, and longer courses with trackable assessments that can be assigned for completion.

If you’re a business of any size looking to attract and retain top talent, and boost the productivity and satisfaction of your teams, then a learning in the flow of work approach could be ideal for you.

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