Learning in the flow of work: What does it look like?

Employees gain new knowledge and skills throughout their workday, enabling them to apply, practice, and retain new skills.

Krishna Gathwal

Krishna Gathwal

Director Advisory, Human Capital Advisory, KPMG US

+1 214-840-2000

The world of work is evolving at a rapid pace, and in turn, changing the skills employees need to perform their jobs. As the rate of change continues to accelerate, learning organizations are challenged to keep pace with the upskilling and reskilling needs of the business. To meet these challenges, learning must become more efficient and readily available at the point of need, and it needs to occur where it’s needed most – in the flow of work.

Context matters

Learning is a natural part of life. Whether it’s learning how to ride a bike, cook a new dish, or use the latest technological gadget, learning is a lifelong process. In the workplace, learning is no different. Employees gain new knowledge and skills throughout the course of their workday – from shadowing a colleague to better understanding a process, accessing a job aid to learn a new tool, or having a casual exchange of ideas in a meeting.

When designing learning experiences for today’s learners, context matters. Relevancy is needed for learning to stick. Learning in the flow of work provides the context learners need to apply, practice and retain new skills.

To create learner-centric training experiences, learning leaders must understand the challenges employees encounter on the job to create solutions that target the right needs. The challenge is that training professionals are separated from the business. Instructional designers and subject matter experts are rarely involved in the day-to-day workflows of employees and have little insight into their needs.

Including employees in the training development process provides learning and development (L&D) with greater insight into the needs of the learner to increase training effectiveness. Learning leaders must also work closely with business leaders to understand the goals and objectives of the business to ensure training is aligned to meet those needs. By accounting for the needs of both the learner and the business, learning leaders are positioned to create more effective and impactful learning experiences.

Increased productivity

The goal of training and development is to help employees develop new skills and knowledge so they can perform better at their current – and future – jobs. But for performance improvement to occur, learning must be retained. Practice and reinforcement are necessary to ensure new skills and behaviors become engrained habits.

Learning in the flow of work enables employees to immediately apply new knowledge and skills to their work, allowing them to quickly solve problems and boost productivity. For example, when an employee encounters issues as they use a new tool to perform a work task, they can watch a few video tutorials or access a job aid with frequently asked questions to immediately troubleshoot the issue. Learning becomes embedded into the employee’s workflow and enhances the performance of the individual.

When the learning needs of employees are met in the flow of work, the overall cost of training will go down for the organization. Employees will not need to take time away from work to attend a formal training program. Additionally, the immediate application and practice of new information reduces scrap learning – or the information learners consume during training that they do not retain or apply on the job. Immediate application means increased productivity for the individual and no wasted spending on the part of the organization.

Measurable impact

To ensure training is providing value to the organization, learning leaders must evaluate and measure the impact of their learning initiatives. Business leaders need to see a tangible value associated with training tied to business outcomes. While measuring the impact of informal learning is a little more challenging than measuring a course, there are ways that L&D professionals can evaluate learning in the flow of work.

For example, learning leaders can identify the specific skills, knowledge, and behaviors that leaders can use to assess performance. A rubric outlining the standards of performance can help managers and leaders evaluate the performance of their employees to determine if behavior change has occurred.

Learning leaders can also pull data from any materials or courses accessed from a learning library or learning management system. Technology enables accurate measurement of learning impact, so whenever possible, learning leaders should utilize metrics within the learning systems. Assessments can also be utilized to test knowledge before and after accessing learning materials to gauge retention.

Fostering meaningful connections

Organizations can empower employees to succeed by allowing them to direct their own learning journey. By enabling employees access to the tools and information they need, organizations can enhance productivity across the business. Learning in the flow of work can help employees foster meaningful connections with colleagues and drive deeper engagement in their work to help them achieve their full potential.

Learning in the flow of work will look different across industries, organizations, departments, and job roles. The complexities of each organization will require unique training solutions. With the rate of change continuing to accelerate, learning leaders have an opportunity to create efficient learning solutions that provide tangible value to the learner and the organization.