Workflow learning is a relatively new practice that helps HR tackle emerging issues in the L&D field. The growing gap between required skills and existing skills is just one factor that makes learning initiatives important.
A recent LinkedIn study of over 6,607 research and development (R&D) professionals found that 57% expect to spend more on learning this year than in previous years. The statistics show that workflow learning affects the future of employee training. But what does this mean? Let’s review what workflow learning is and why it influences the effectiveness of the business in remarkable ways.
What is workflow learning?
Moving learning into the workflow means providing self-study manuals, resources, and learning materials that employees can access on-demand from anywhere.
Workflow learning supports the productivity of your employees, helping them learn while working. The key to workflow learning is that it happens alongside regular work processes. This means employees can perform work tasks and learn simultaneously. Workflow learning is different from traditional training in several important ways.
How workflow learning differs from training
Workflow learning helps improve employees’ performance when training distracts employees from everyday tasks. For example, when employees face gaps in knowledge, they can look for information in your company’s resources and complete tasks using training materials from your workflow. That’s what workflow learning does: it allows employees to learn when they need it. So, knowledge to search for info is the answer.
With workflow learning, employees don’t need mastering skills because they have access to information when they need it. Thus, to set your employees up for success with learning in the workflow, you need to teach them where they can find the information they’re looking for.
“Wait, but then, it doesn’t look like an alternative to full-fledged training,” you may continue. And still, there are some points to discuss.
Is workflow learning really learning?
Many L&D experts argue that workflow learning isn’t learning. In the strictest sense, they may be correct. A quick search for information is unlikely to lead to a lasting change in behavior, as workflow learning tools rarely assess gained knowledge.
However, according to Josh Bersin, the president and founder of Bersin & Associates, workflow learning focuses on lifelong learning. For workers, “the goal is to search correctly, then learn something, apply it, and get back to work.” Bersin writes that by providing advice and tools that “help us improve our work,” learning in the workflow offers the approach today’s employees really want.
There are three critical drivers of workflow learning:
- Availability. Learning content should be available on any device.
- Relevance and interest. Content should be relevant and attractive to employees, providing a positive learning experience and maximum retention of information.
- Brevity. We live in the world of TikTok, where people of all ages rely on brief instructions to improve their skills. Micro-learning often leads to more memorization compared to traditional learning.
In what scenarios does workflow learning help employees?
Workflow learning helps in situations where employees are stuck at work. Typically, these are moments when employees need to ask a leader or colleague questions to work on a project or create a report.
In these scenarios, your employees can use your learning resources (guides, onboarding materials, or templates) to complete a task through workflow learning.
An excellent set of scenarios where workflow learning helps is the 5 Moments of Need method developed by Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson. This structure helps L&D teams develop performance support tools that can help with the workflow.
- Apply the training when employees need to use what they’ve learned in practice
- Decide when employees need to understand how to deal with an unexpected scenario
- Change the upskilling method when employees need to learn to do things differently
- Deal with new when employees read the onboarding information for the first time
- Add some more learning when employees rely on prior knowledge
Now, let’s move to the practical part of workforce learning, or what misunderstandings may occur during the learning process.
Three warnings about workflow learning for HR managers
Bob Mosher, the CEO and chief learning evangelist at Apply Synergies, offers three tips for organizations considering the learning process in the workplace:
Don’t be afraid to involve workers in new practices and experiences. Focus on productivity and encourage the development of new skills.
Be careful with upskilling. Sometimes, incorrect learning can harm employees because people in the hierarchy may rise to their “level of incompetence” (the Peter Principle). Workflow learning is excellent, and it should make sense; if it hurts, what’s the point?
Think about the results you’re trying to achieve. Determine whether outcomes are operational and skills-based or more strategic and opportunity-oriented.
Workflow learning resources come in a variety of formats. They can be written, visual, or auditory. These features are often digital, making tutorials interactive and improving the user experience. You can try:
- Annotated illustrations
- Decision trees
- Onboarding presentations
- Learning-focused social media channels
- And more.
How to integrate workflow learning
Nine in ten corporations want to integrate learning into work. However, workflow learning doesn’t mean you need to create corporate courses; rather, it’s more about changing the learning strategy and culture. Here are some proven approaches to workflow learning:
- Shorten the content. If you want to incorporate learning into your workflow, you need to create clear and focused content. For example, describe short and well-defined actions or insert links to relevant resources.
- Clean up the mess. If your employees value external content more than internal courses, remove courses that have a low level of involvement and completion.
- Help people find what they want. According to IDC, knowledge workers spend 9.8 hours a week searching for information; if they can’t find it, it’s a waste of time. You can fix that! Create a channel for onboarding, or create a channel with learning materials, guides, etc.
- Keep the learning relevant. Knowledge deteriorates quickly if not applied. Giving short regular reminders helps. Perform regular tests to deepen your employees’ competence.
- Use free content. There’s a lot of free content on the internet. Some leading organizations use free content for workflow learning, such as TED talks and YouTube videos. In addition, HR tech and management companies like McKinsey, HBR, and HRForecast offer free access to blog posts, guides, e-books, templates, quizzes, podcasts, and other content.
Is it worth investing in workflow learning?
The benefits of workflow learning are twofold: on the one hand, employees themselves benefit from retraining, while on the other hand, employers enjoy a more highly qualified team. This leads to:
- Increased job satisfaction
- Improved productivity
- Innovative thinking
- Proactive problem-solving.
According to a 2016 Gallup report, 87% of Millennials said learning and development in the workplace are essential, while 59% of Millennials say the opportunity to learn and develop is extremely important when applying for a job.
Why is this critical? Because by 2025, Millennials will make up 50% of the global workforce, and by 2030, they will reach 75%. Therefore, for companies to compete for the best talent, they should offer opportunities for employee development.
Workflow learning helps companies keep their employees by increasing employees’ self-confidence and trust. The more confident employees are, the more productive they are. IBM research has shown that well-trained teams can increase their productivity by 10%. Allowing employees to do their jobs better is just a smart move.
Your employees can navigate different career paths with the help of a talent marketplace platform such as smartPeople. You and your employees can use smartPeople to monitor how future-proof career paths are and make plans for developing skills. Contact us to discuss this platform.