Making Learning a Part of Everyday Work

As the business world rapidly evolves, driven by automation, AI, and new job models, the need for continuous learning has become an economic imperative. CEOs recognize that acquiring new skills is their biggest challenge, and employees consider development opportunities as one of the most important factors for workplace happiness. We are an instinctively curious species, constantly seeking ways to improve and grow. While recruitment is a zero-sum game, learning is a rising tide that benefits everyone.

However, the urgency of work often takes precedence over the luxury of learning. A recent study found that employees waste a significant amount of time on non-job-related emails, and traditional corporate learning portals are underutilized. Learning is often relegated to the important-but-not-urgent quadrant of Eisenhower’s 2×2 matrix. On average, knowledge workers only allocate five minutes a day for formal learning. So, how can we integrate learning into the daily workflow?

The Flow of Work: A New Paradigm for Learning

The concept of “learning in the flow of work” offers a solution to the challenge of incorporating learning seamlessly into our daily routines. With 780 million knowledge workers spending 6.5 hours a day in front of a computer, it is crucial to leverage this time effectively. By aligning learning with the flow of work, we can create a continuous learning experience that enhances productivity and drives individual and organizational growth.

Understanding the Flow of Work

While everyone’s work experience varies, there are commonalities among knowledge workers. They spend 28% of their time on email, 19% gathering information, and 14% communicating internally. These activities make up 61% of their work time. It is evident that knowledge workers are constantly absorbing and sharing information. Recognizing this, learning in the flow of work entails making learning experiences seamlessly integrated into their daily tasks.

Bottom-Up Learning: Empowering Individuals to Learn

Individuals play a crucial role in driving their own learning in the flow of work. By adopting certain practices and mindsets, they can create a continuous learning experience that enhances their skills and knowledge.

Practice Metacognition and Mindfulness

Being aware and present in daily tasks can significantly enhance learning. Actively engage with colleagues and notice their tactics and techniques. Seek insights from product managers and salespeople, and actively seek feedback from peers. Embracing these learning experiences can foster personal growth.

Maintain a To-Learn List

Capture learning opportunities by maintaining a list of concepts, thoughts, practices, and vocabulary you want to explore. Bookmark relevant resources in your browser and revisit them when you have moments to reflect. Utilize spare moments, such as commutes, to read articles or experiment with new ideas.

Utilize Tech-Enabled Tips

Take advantage of technology tools that provide context-relevant research or suggestions for formatting and analysis. Tools like Google’s Explore within Google Docs can enhance your learning experience. Be open to recommendations and leverage them to enhance your knowledge.

Calendarize Dedicated Learning Time

Allocate a specific portion of your work schedule for dedicated learning time. Communicate the importance of learning to your colleagues and agree on a sensible proportion of your workweek that can be devoted to learning. Timebox this learning period and stick to it consistently.

Subscribe to High-Quality Newsletters

Choose a small number of high-quality, hyper-relevant newsletters that align with your role, industry, and interests. Select newsletters that provide valuable insights and information. Unsubscribe from newsletters that do not meet your expectations or add value to your learning journey.

Contribute Actively to a Learning Channel

Engage in a learning channel where work actually happens, such as SharePoint, Slack, or Teams. Share new and interesting content with colleagues and provide context for the information you share. Tag individuals who will benefit from the content, and foster a culture of active learning and knowledge sharing.

Top-Down Learning: Enabling Organizational Growth

While individual efforts are crucial, organizations must also play an active role in promoting learning in the flow of work. By implementing certain strategies and leveraging technology, companies can create an environment that supports continuous learning and development.

Ensure Accurate and User-Friendly Knowledge Systems

Recognize that employees often turn to external platforms like Google and YouTube for information. Invest time in curating and improving internal knowledge systems to make them faster and more useful. Clean up cluttered websites and ensure that search results provide relevant information. Enhance the usability and accessibility of internal knowledge platforms.

Share Content Internally

Leverage technology to capture and distribute organic learning that occurs within the organization. Algorithms can identify valuable content shared between employees and redistribute it to a broader audience. By scaling the benefits of shared knowledge, organizations create a culture of collective learning.

Leverage APIs for Learning Integration

Take advantage of the API economy to seamlessly integrate learning content into employees’ workflow. Platforms like Slack, Teams, and Atlassian offer open APIs that allow for the integration of learning-oriented technologies. Utilize integrative technologies to deliver relevant learning content directly to employees.

Establish a Dedicated Learning Channel

Create a dedicated online space for learning within your corporate communications software. Encourage business leaders to contribute meaningful content and actively promote the channel. When leaders take an active role, the importance of learning becomes more apparent and resonates throughout the organization.

Consider Conversational Interfaces

Implement chat interfaces that provide contextually relevant learning support within primary workflow software. Intelligent chatbots can offer real-time assistance and guidance, enhancing the learning experience without disrupting workflow. The more relevant and useful the chatbot, the more seamlessly it integrates into the daily routine.

Place Learning in the Inbox

While email may seem mundane, it remains a significant component of the knowledge worker’s day. Utilize personalized emails to deliver learning content directly to employees. As privacy regulations tighten, inboxes become less cluttered, and personalized emails become more valuable for learning purposes.

Insights from Learning Leaders

Learning in the flow of work has garnered attention from chief learning officers worldwide. These leaders recognize the importance of learning and development in today’s rapidly changing landscape. Here are insights from three learning leaders who are championing this new paradigm:

  • Ann Schulte, Chief Learning Officer at Procter & Gamble (P&G), emphasizes the need for continuous learning to adapt to uncertain markets. P&G focuses on providing easy access to relevant and applicable training that aligns with the immediate business context.
  • Helen Smyth, Group Digital Learning and Design Manager at Sainsbury’s, highlights the importance of design thinking in creating effective corporate learning solutions. It is crucial to align learning products and services with the practical realities of daily work.
  • Elisabetta Galli, Global Head of Knowledge, Development & Talent Management at Banco Santander, advocates for creating a learning ecosystem that mimics consumer-grade experiences. By incorporating learning in the flow of work, organizations can upskill their workforce in real-time.

Embracing a Culture of Continuous Learning

Learning in the flow of work is a powerful lever that organizations can utilize to drive growth and success. By empowering individuals to take ownership of their learning and implementing top-down strategies, companies can create a culture of continuous learning. Embrace this new paradigm and ensure that you and your organization are at the forefront of the learning revolution.

Additional Information: Incorporate relevant statistics and case studies to support the importance of continuous learning in the workplace. Provide real-world examples of organizations that have successfully implemented learning in the flow of work. Offer practical tips and strategies for individuals and organizations to integrate learning seamlessly into their daily routines.

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