There was a time when workplace learning involved a short induction followed by an equally short training period; after which an employee was expected to go forth and conquer (be productive). Although employees were expected to become more competent the longer they stayed in a role, learning and development tended to end at the summation of the training period.
Going with the flow
These days, we’re a little more educated; particularly with many businesses suffering from low staff retention rates. Having to regularly replace employees is expensive, bad for morale and ultimately, bad for business. For these reasons learning in the flow of work is now considered to be the optimum way of developing valuable personnel and creating productive teams.
When we talk about learning in the flow, we’re referring not so much to the initial learning of a role when first onboarding. Rather, we’re looking at a process of learning which can be implemented when an employee encounters a new challenge or is faced with expanding their role with new tasks. Learning in the flow speaks to the idea that workplace learning should be an ongoing, evolving and seamless process rather than short, sharp bursts of training.
Why choose learning in the flow?
There are a number of very good reasons for a company to implement this kind of workplace learning, some of these are:
- Change - the forward thinking business is constantly looking to the future and, as such, is constantly evolving and changing. Every change to the business should be matched by its learning processes and, learning in the flow lends itself perfectly to this. Procter & Gamble’s Chief Learning Officer, Ann Schulte, reinforces this idea as she says, “We see uncertain and changing markets whereby rapid cycle feedback and the ability to adapt are competitive imperatives - and all require learning”.
- Effectiveness - it’s long since been proven that practical, hands-on learning is more effective than sitting in a classroom or reading a book. When we ‘learn by doing’, the information is absorbed much more quickly and effectively.
- Continuous Learning - most businesses don’t simply stand still so, it stands to reason that learning shouldn’t either. By implementing a system of learning in the flow, a business is effectively creating a framework for continuous learning as the company grows and evolves.
- Remote Workforces - more and more businesses these days are using remote workforces; not least during 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Learning in the flow is ideal for remote workers as it removes the need to attend physical training sessions.
- Individual - as human beings, we all process new information in different ways and at different speeds. Learning in the flow allows employees to set their own pace, within reason, and to therefore learn more effectively.
- Accessible - content for learning in the flow is stored centrally where it can be easily accessed by employees wherever they may be. This is increasingly important at the moment with the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis and, businesses need to make sure that they’re investing in secure facilities for document storage and sharing.
- Interactive - as learning in the flow is (very much) not about an employee sitting and learning from a book, it offers countless opportunities for interaction between business and employee as well as between employees. The more that employees are encouraged to feedback and collaborate, the stronger your learning in the flow systems will be.
Choosing your strategy
It’s generally agreed that learning in the flow falls into two basic categories which are:
- Macro-Learning - this kind of strategy is well suited to those looking to implement a long-term learning strategy as it focuses on delivering content across a theme or concept and is based on the assumption that employees will be with a company for a significant length of time.
- Micro-Learning - in contrast, micro-learning uses focused, bite-sized learning modules in order to secure very specific outcomes within a limited time frame. Micro-learning is the most commonly used strategy for learning in the flow.
Implementing learning in the flow
For businesses looking to get on board with learning in the flow, experts mostly agree that there are two separate stages to this and, these are:
No, we’re not being rude. This doesn't mean you learn best when you stick your bum in the air! Bottom up learning is the practice of using mindfulness to collate and develop learning experiences - and it’s all about communication:
- Spend time with representatives from every department of the business and ask lots of questions. By finding out what each role entails and, how it fits into the business as a whole, you’re perfectly placed to identify learning requirements.
- Keep a running list of ‘things to learn’ and add to it as thoughts come to you. During any working day, we come across ideas and concepts that can be explored as part of learning in the flow. Take the time to review the thoughts you’ve noted down to see where they might be used to enhance learning in the flow programs.
- Use technology to help you find new learning ideas. Technology is advancing at the speed of light and, there’s always something new out there to help you to create learning experiences. Forums, messaging and online focus groups can all become part of the learning in the flow program.
- Put together a sensible learning calendar to be tailored to each employee’s learning needs. Where possible, discuss the calendar with employees to make sure that it suits their workload and schedule.
This section is all about making sure that employees have all the tools and technology that they will need in order to successfully learn continuously. This means that all systems and technical processes need to be updated regularly to ensure that the assets are there when employees need them. When looking at your company’s technology, it’s a really good idea to create a dedicated channel for use as an online learning space. As well as equipping this space with learning materials and inspirational literature, adding a ‘chat’ area is also helpful as this encourages employees to reach out to one another in order to share their learning experiences.
In 2020, we have a wide range of technology at our disposal and it's important to utilise as much of this as possible. Banco Santander are pioneers of learning in the flow and, Global Head of Knowledge, Elisabette Galli, says, “employees use social media and search in their spare time to satisfy their curiosity, right when they need it. It should be exactly the same at work. We must create corporate learning experiences to match consumer-grade experiences”. This is just one example of the ways in which businesses use popular technology to enhance the learning experience.
It’s in the mail
These days, businesses use email as a major communication tool - both internally and externally. This is the ideal medium for sharing learning updates, news and events with employees to make sure that everyone’s in the loop when it comes to the learning in the flow processes and systems.
Face to face
Although learning in the flow is perfectly suited to remote working, face to face contact should never be discounted. Holding regular conferences, or even webinars, can be really helpful in giving employees a platform to informally share their learning experiences and to ask questions. These can also be useful in promoting a sense of connectivity between employees which can sometimes be lost when a team is working remotely. As much as technology is great, we all need human interaction and, holding the occasional real life event (where allowed) can really work wonders for employee morale.
A new way to learn
At iAM Learning, we’re very much aware of the need to equip businesses with the tools needed to implement solid, long term learning plans for employees. We believe that learning in the flow not only produces a skilled and knowledgeable workforce but, it also creates a heightened sense of job satisfaction as employees are encouraged to explore and expand their roles.
We provide CPD certified (and soon to be IOSH approved) learning libraries which employees can access through their computers, laptops, tablets or telephones. Anything but dull, our learning subscription provides a comprehensive range of learning resources, off-the-shelf courses and outstanding customer support.
We know a thing or two about people
Because of this, we know that your employees don’t want dull and dry learning material which will fail to inspire. When people are fully engaged and interested, they'll automatically retain more information, ask more questions and just generally embrace a system or process. We know that you don’t get that from reading a 90 page booklet or listening to a talk so, instead, our learning subscriptions are packed with daring and challenging content and animated explainer videos to make the entire learning experience fun and inspirational.
We have years of experience of supporting businesses with continuous learning and, we firmly believe that this results in continuous performance improvement in employees. With more and more businesses adopting a continuous learning culture, we pride ourselves on our effective and affordable solutions for today’s workplace.