Workflow Learning – Taking Steps towards the Future of Learning
The corporate learning and development community is quite unanimous on one issue: most of our professional learning happens in the context of our daily jobs. Just like the adult learning theory captures it, humans learn by building on their experiences in a high-context environment. However, acknowledging the existence of workflow learning is soon no longer enough. In the hyper-connected and real-time corporate environment of the future, organisations need to start nurturing learning in the flow of work. Traditional corporate training approaches are not fast nor effective enough to respond to the constantly changing environment and evolving skills requirements. Instead, we have to embed learning as a process to our daily workflow as well as corporate culture.
Luckily, what has changed within the past few years is that nowadays we have the technology available to support this new type of learning. To lay out the concept and required change of mindset further, here’s how we at Learning Crafters see the evolution of workflow learning.
Workflow learning will force us away from course-centered design
An aspect where corporate L&D shown a great lack of imagination over the past decades is the innovation of new learning modalities. It is, it has been and unfortunately will likely continue to be all about courses for many. Do you have a skill gap in your organisation? Develop a course! Do you need to overcome a performance slump? Develop a course! Developing a course – or a formal training activity of other kind – seems to be the first and often only solution learning professional can think of. Yet, this solution will quickly render itself obsolete when we need to embed learning in the flow of work. Courses and formal activities are dramatically too slow, cumbersome and inefficient to respond to the workflow learning needs of the future. Organisations can no longer afford the productivity lost by subjecting their employees to lengthy training interventions.
Now you’re probably thinking: “if not courses, what’s the new ‘unit’ of learning?”. A potential answer to that is performance support resources.
Performance support resources will be at the core of workflow learning
The new era of learning is all about performance – finding ways to keep the organisation performing at its maximum efficiency. In a fast-paced environment, learning in the flow of work is about incremental, yet constant updates and refreshed to skills and capabilities. To enable this kind of incremental development, we need to shift our mindset from courses to resources. Instead of large courses abundant with content, we need to curate a library of performance support resources to support experiential learning in the flow of work.
Performance support resources are concise and specific curations of knowledge that learners can access and query quickly. After a quick query at point-of-need, the learner can then go on to applying the new knowledge immediately, hence translating the newly learnt concept into a positive use experience. Furthermore, there are number of different easy-to-use technologies to support the process. This is a natural and powerful helper for behavioural change, as the application and impact is immediate and visible.
This type of learning might sound familiar. And you’re not alone. In fact, we’d argue that this is how most of our personal learning takes place today. Whenever a problem, need for new knowledge or learning arises, we do a quick query (e.g. Google) to a library of resources (Internet) and solve the problem on the spot using the new knowledge. Unfortunately, organisations tend to limit this type of learning due to a variety of reasons (security, compliance etc.). However, in terms of existing resources, many companies have already taken a perhaps unacknowledged step towards this.
Microlearning is a good way of approaching performance support content
Many organisations have implemented microlearning initiatives in the past few years. By doing so, they’ve also created a good baseline of content for performance support resources. After all, performance support in workflow learning is all about accessing knowledge in a compact format fast and conveniently. However, microlearning doesn’t just mean cutting the longer course into smaller fractions. Rather, you should design each activity with a very specific objective in mind.
For more on building effective microlearning, read our tips here.
Another reason why microlearning works so wonderfully for performance support is the ease of content curation. Rather than delivering long-format courses, you’re addressing specific problems. You can even leverage on a lot of free resources available. The key is to keep it concise and accessible, however the greatest emphasis being on searchability. If your learners cannot find the resources they need in a very short amount of time, that’s not much of “support”, is it?
In conclusion, while we see the movement towards more workflow learning -oriented practice, it’s important to remember there is no one-size fits all. There will still be need for “formal” learning activities. However, the possibilities of integrating learning into the business processes at a more fundamental level brings about interesting performance considerations.
Are you experimenting with learning in the flow of work? We would love to hear your success stories! You can always get in touch with us through here.