How Learning in the Flow of Work Can Help Remote Workers

online learning helps remote workersHow much time for training do your workers really have?

Two years ago, according to LinkedIn’s annual workforce learning report managers’ biggest training challenge was that employees weren’t making time for learning. This had been an evergreen problem — in 2015, research from Bersin by Deloitte found the average worker only has 24 minutes a week for formal learning.

Now that many workers are working from home, they may have even less time. At home, workers may be distracted by the needs of their family members, their pets, or even by surroundings that aren’t conducive to work. They may not be able to set aside a specific amount of time for training.

One way to solve this problem is by introducing learning into the flow of work.

What is learning in the flow of work?

Learning in the flow of work is a term coined by HR and L&D industry leader Josh Bersin.

It’s the idea that learning should fit into and around a learner’s workday or work life. Rather than asking a learner to take time out from their job to attend learning, learning in the flow of work delivers that learning to them while they’re working.

Or to quote Bersin directly:

“We don’t want people to be ‘addicted’ to the learning platform, we want them to learn something, apply it, and then go back to work.”

Learning in the workflow is an approach to micro-learning, which serves up actionable chunks of learning right when employees need it. This is likely already happening among your employees — when they have a technical problem (especially if they’re working from home and don’t have immediate access to IT) their first stop may be Google or YouTube and not the company Slack. Research from Deloitte backs that up — 70% of workers turn to search engines to find answers rather than turning to a course produced by their employer.

But that’s not learning in the flow of work at all, because once an employee leaves their task to start Googling, they’ve departed the workflow and it may take them a while to get back to it. Studies show it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to a previous task after an interruption. If your team is working remotely, they’re likely already in a distraction-heavy environment, so more interruptions are probably something you’d like to avoid.

What does learning in the flow of work look like?

Harnessing micro-learning — something workers often do independently — may seem complicated from the point of view of an organization, but there are a few ways learning can be offered as part of a workflow, some of which were suggested by Bersin himself in an article in the Harvard Business Review.

Make your learning content searchable

Your workers are used to searching for answers when they need information, but you can’t control the answers they’ll find on Google. You can, however, control the information that you offer internally. By organizing and making your learning content easy to search — by tagging your learning data so that your employees can find what they’re looking for — your team will be able to search modules for the answers they need, and find them quickly.

Offer learning through email and other communication channels

McKinsey Global Institute found that the average knowledge worker spent 28 percent of their week on email. Now that so many are working from home, they’re likely spending time on email as well as Slack and other communication channels. Bersin suggests offering learning through those channels, since employees spend so much work time looking at their inboxes. If they’re spending time on those communication channels, they’re likely to see the learning you’re providing.

Give them learning right in the platforms they use for work

Probably the best way to slip learning directly into your employees’ workflow is to use integrations and APIs that combine your learning management system (LMS) with the systems your team uses for work, so that your courses and learning modules show up in the same screen.

Take a salesperson, for example. Their work requires them to use a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to log the calls they make and keep track of their contacts. If you’re using an LMS — like SAP Litmos Training —that allows you to integrate your courses right into the CRM, your sales team will be able to see their learning paths right next to their work tasks.

This means they won’t need to log into another system to take a module and if they need a refresher on specific information, they can simply look it up right when they need it.

Why is learning in the workflow important?

For many years, workplace learning — both in person and online — has been a destination. It’s something that employees would stop work for, go someplace else for, and spend time on. Now that many workers have been working from home for months, it’s important to provide development that your team can access easily, without taking too much time and effort away from their jobs.

By providing learning in their workflow, you can give them the learning they need without demanding that they set aside a large chunk of time for training — time they probably don’t have.