Virtual College

Learning in the Flow of Work

Ilkley (UK), March 2022 - The ways in which we learn have changed over the decades, and this isn't just being reflected in educational establishments but in businesses, too. The latest approach is being called "learning in the flow of work", but what is it, and what does it mean for L&D teams?

Learning in the flow of work, a phrase coined by Josh Bersin in 2018, is essentially a way of learning that allows learners to acquire knowledge in a way that meets their needs and learning styles.

In past decades, work-based training was predominately been led by a teacher or tutor imparting knowledge to learners in a face-to-face setting. But with the development of technology and the introduction of eLearning, the way we trained started to change; the teacher became more of a facilitator, and the learner led the way, having more control over the time, place, and pace of the learning.

And it's changing further, again due to technology developments. Thanks to the internet, learners have become "consumers" of learning. Knowledge can be accessed at the click of a button, and we're now used to searching for answers when we have questions, or looking at a YouTube video for tutorials about every imaginable practical skill. And our employees are now expecting that type of learning to feature in the workplace, too.

So, where do L&D teams fit into this model? Their role is certainly shifting. Now they are needed to help implement this style of learning, making sure it's as effective as possible and addresses the learners' challenges and problems.

However, though this learning is essentially self-directed, it can't be all down to the learner. They don't know what they don't know, so to speak. Or they may not know which approach or learning the business follows, so they may search for an answer on the internet and not realise that it's in conflict with the approach that's taken in house.

Therefore, L&D teams need to bring some order and structure to the learning, but in a way that then gives the learners free reign to interact with it as they please. To do this they need to consider the challenges and problems that the learners are facing - and not just at the level of the role but as an individual, too, as learners may differ in their skill sets. Once they've established that, they need to make sure suitable content is created or curated and easily accessible for the learners.

They also need to help set and create the culture and learning environment. Research into the Great Resignation is showing that people are looking for businesses that look after and nurture their staff and their careers. Training is a part of that, so it needs to be a staple part of the culture.

When it comes to establishing this way of learning, L&D teams can learn from the pandemic, which showed that the most successful learning is that which is useful and closer to the point of need. It doesn't have to be all about interactivity, but rather what learning style is the best for the job, and L&D teams can create or curate content to meet this need. As our Director of Sales and Partnerships, Nicole Horsman, said in the second Evolution of L&D report, "Employees are most engaged when they are learning something that is relevant, which is great for supporting the business needs, too. Where appropriate, bite-size learning and microlearning are useful here, resources they can dip in and out of and which easily fit around work responsibilities."