‘Learning in the flow of work’: The silent revolution

‘Learning in the flow of work’: The silent revolution

  • Sam Humphries, Senior Manager |

Learning is critical for employees and employers alike – but it doesn’t come without its challenges. The barriers to learning that currently exist within most organisations are as familiar to L&D now as they were ten years ago.

Have you ever found yourself voicing any of the below statements?

  1. I have to ‘go’ somewhere for learning, I have to navigate a system I have no interest in and it takes too long to get there.
  2.  The learning content is too long and doesn’t answer my question, and I can’t find anything that does.
  3. I have to find time to commit to learning – by attending a course or finding an hour to click through an e-learning module.
  4. Apparently, this learning system has loads of great features, but I don’t know what they are and I don’t have time to find out. I’m already active on lots of other forums.
  5.  No one I know outside of the L&D team uses it except when they are told to.

These barriers have already been solved by smart online user experiences and fully integrated desktop software suites. Learning is not a special case.

Many learning technology providers have looked to tackle these barriers and meet consumer demand for innovation with a UX refresh and a rebranding exercise. I’ve lost count of the number of firms pitching me ‘the Facebook of learning’ or ‘the Netflix learning experience’. But why would I go to yet another corporate version of Facebook when I already have one, and why would I want to use the ‘Netflix of learning experience’ when I don’t use the real Netflix for learning.

Learning in the flow of work is the concept of embedding learning directly into the desktop experience of day-to-day working. It’s different to traditional approaches to learning technology, which are primarily driven by Learning Management Systems (LMS), Learning Experience Platforms (LXPs) and e-learning content. It focuses on placing learning into ‘work’ applications such as email, collaboration software, IM, and search functionality – enabling a ‘silent revolution’ in the way that we learn.

The key drivers for learning in the flow of work are the removal of the technological and psychological barriers to learning. In our personal lives, we learn constantly without the need for assigned ‘learning time’.
Consumer technology facilitates learning in a fast, convenient, and compelling way. Corporate technology demand is driven by this consumer experience. Organisations have already invested in the tools to provide that experience in many facets of work. Those tools can also provide learning. No additional platform is required.

The search bar on your desktop can provide learning results, your HR chatbots can provide learning advice and your inbox can do your scheduling. Learning content can be delivered within collaborative workspaces – and communities of practice can be created within those same virtual spaces you use to work. Learning content can be atomised in 20 second chunks, mixed with knowledge management content, and integrated with internal knowledge banks and communities.

Demand for speed, consistency and personalisation will make this a reality quicker than we might expect. And, within industries which can be slower to adapt, this can be achieved through integration and enablement of existing infrastructure.  So why is this a ‘silent’ revolution? Because it is in a sense the removal of fanfare around learning and learning technology. We will no longer have to strive for adoption through launches and change programmes. Instead, by removing the barriers to learning it becomes a part of working practice, in the same way as accessing a document or scheduling a meeting. No one talks much about how these activities operate because they are instant, seamless and integrated.