Vice President, Learning Research Leader
Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP
After decades of adapting to the corporate training model, workers may struggle to identify learning moments while they're working because they’ve been programmed to think that learning happens only in the classroom. This behavior is a key challenge to reinventing learning. How do we help workers see that they’re developing throughout the work day and thereby recognize and value learning in the flow of work? A shift to learning that is organic and “calm” will be less disruptive and more recognizable. It will also help workers perform, engage, and be less overwhelmed. Your organization can accomplish “calm” learning using the following approaches.
1. Empower workers to choose how they learn, when they learn, and with whom they learn.
It's important to communicate a self-directed and organic learning philosophy. One way to do this is by embedding storytelling in the process. Sharing real-life examples of self-directed approaches to learning at work will help encourage workers to be both autonomous and proactive in their growth.
Another way to empower workers is by facilitating exposure, connection, and belonging both digitally and in real time. This type of exposure includes introducing learning elements centered around building relationships and creating interaction. Collaboration enables workers to team up with subject matter experts or project leaders and access information immediately with minimal disruption.
Further, offering a marketplace of learning choices encourages self-curation. This illustrates trust in employees and allows them the freedom to choose how and when they learn, and with whom. By giving workers ownership of their development, this empowerment of choice can align workers with learning.
2. Help workers recognize the learning that's naturally happening.
Learning takes place all the time, everywhere—both inside and outside the traditional classroom setting. But workers are often unaware that they're actually learning in the flow of work. To help workers recognize that learning is an ongoing process, organizations can integrate learning experience platforms and Learning Record Stores (LRS) powered by the Experience API (xAPI). These tools capture evidence of informal learning activity and help make it visible to individual workers and their organizations. The platforms also provide a personalized experience that helps workers curate learning content.
Another method to help workers realize that they're learning at work is to incorporate reflection activities as a structured practice in the organization's learning philosophy. These can include manager check-ins, team meetings, and day-to-day work processes. They should be designed to help individuals recognize what was learned—including what went well and what could be improved—and how the learning impacted the individual, the team, and the organization.
Further, talent practitioners can conduct frequent rituals or ceremonies that reinforce this realization that learning is happening in the flow of work. Some examples include leaders telling stories about their own learning mistakes and promoting mindfulness as a wellbeing practice.
3. Make learning "calm" instead of stressful and disruptive.
When learning is stressful and disruptive, it can be counterproductive. One way to help make learning “calm” is for the learning to require only some of the workers' attention, not all of it. For example, instead of using video walkthroughs to teach workers new skills and processes, digital adoption platforms could provide text-only prompts during work.
Professionals should provide personalized and relevant learning content that delivers only the information necessary to help workers. Avoid extraneous communication—when irrelevant information is staged in front of workers, they are likely to either disengage or spend unnecessary time making sense of the content.
A less-intrusive learning function is able to communicate effectively without speaking. For instance, organizations can place a sales-enablement tool that is green-lit when everything is on schedule. Leaders can identify scenarios where nudges are appropriate and required, but they should avoid over-nudging.
Learning should not be viewed as a stressful activity that workers would rather avoid, nor should it disrupt the workflow. Learning should help people perform their jobs better and make the work easier.