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Learning in the Flow of Work

Over the last month, I have been thinking about learning, specifically what it means to be in a constant state or flow of learning. Not a new concept, nor has it been thought of by me, “Learning in the flow of work” recognizes that for learning to really happen, it must fit around and align itself to working days and working lives. Think about learning coming to us, rather it being a destination or event. This could be searching on Google, listening to a podcast, asking a peer for information, watching a “how to” video on YouTube, reading a blog, and more!

Learning in the flow of work: How are you staying curious and learning lately?

On a daily basis, I am learning. I can’t help it — sometimes it’s by choice and other times it’s due to a challenge. I want to learn a new skills, figure out a new process, work on a technical development, or understand a concept/idea further. What we do at work requires continual growth and learning, you may also call it:

  • just-in-time learning
  • “on demand” learning/training
  • micro-learning
  • open/digital badging
  • micro-credentials
  • upskilling
  • retooling
  • Or {insert some other creative title here}

How we learn formally (e.g. K-12, higher ed, and at work) and informally educate ourselves, impacts our professional lives. Regardless of the industry or sector, we are continually shifting what we need from our professionals and how we need to grow in our organizations. This evolution should and will require all of us to think about learning AS part of our professional life. A degree, certification, or credential will not be the end of your learning journey. Josh Bersin and Marc Zao-Sanders offer insights into how we all need to Make Learning a Part of Everyday Work. This “flow” of learning will not only drive engagement, but also improve employee moral, increases retention of staff, upskill and motivate employees, and raises productivity at work.

I am reconsidering what I think a training program or even a single course might look like. With “the new realities of work”, I think there are both challenges and opportunities to think about what our learner actually need at any given moment. What if we were to think more about the learner and placing the knowledge, skills, and ways to learn so it flows when they actually need ?

As we shift into a hybrid work and with learning being placed in the digital, maybe it’s time to move beyond a course, an event, or event a conference (says someone who just helped produce a virtual conference a couple weeks ago). I want to know how to better empower learners that learning IS part of their professional life, role, and responsibility. I would love to see organizations think about continuous learning approaches based on Deloitte’s Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of Work to offer workers what they need to enable performance, outlined as:

  • Environment: the tools, resources, physical spaces, and virtual spaces workers inhabit
  • Exposure: interactions with people and groups of people, both formal and informal
  • Experience: special work projects, stretch assignments, developmental work
  • Education: classroom, self-paced, and blended learning familiar to learning professionals

Let’s not think of learning as something to get done, but framing learning as something we do in our role at work. Learning should flow in multiple directions and be available and relevant when it is required. The fifth “E” might be an expectation — that is a value, focus, or mission of your organization to state that learning is an ongoing practice and process for the work you do. Here are just some of the MANY questions I have swirling around in my head for learning and training design:

  • How can we be more intentional with learning from the start (e.g. orientation, onboarding, etc.)?
  • What would it look like to place learning as a value for all stakeholders in our organization?
  • How can we align learning experiences to the needs, skills, and abilities of our people we’re training/teaching?
  • What would it look like if we let our learners discover, experiment, and explore WHAT they need to learn WHEN they actually need it?

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