Perceptions of workplace learning have changed. No longer is it confined to formal training in the work environment. In fact, learning in the flow of work is the new workplace learning paradigm. This article outlines how you can leverage microlearning strategies to foster learning — within the learner’s workflow.

What Is “Learning in the Flow of Work”?

The phrase “learning in the flow of work” was coined by Josh Bersin to address how employees perform new or challenging work tasks: They discover relevant information and resources related to the challenge and set out to learn all they can about it. Then, they apply what they’ve learned to the work situation that launched their learning journey.

The strategic use of microlearning and just-in-time learning approaches makes learning in the flow of work more efficient. It employs processes that make learning seamless and expedites the learning journey to deliver better outcomes. However, learning in the flow of work requires a mix of macro- and microlearning to create continuous learning environments.

Why Is It Important to Support Learning in the Flow of Work?

The current learning paradigm stymies learning and workplace productivity. When there’s an urgent need to perform complex, new or challenging tasks, employees often struggle to find relevant content on the corporate learning platform. Once they find the content, many learners find that it is lengthy or too complex to digest and implement quickly. As a result, they shun formal learning platforms in favor of more expedited forms of learning.

It is vital that organizations lend their support to learning in the flow of work for several reasons:

Employees Learn Better at Work and at the Point of Need

You can typically achieve better learning outcomes when learning happens at the workplace or, if it takes place in a non-workplace setting, when it is critical to an existing work challenge or situation.

It Supports Continuous Learning

Excellence at work occurs when employees strive for continuous performance improvement, which occurs when they learn better ways to do their job and then apply them. Learning and development (L&D) teams, then, should use learning in the flow of work to encourage a continuous learning culture across the organization.

It Can Support a Remote Workforce

Learning in the flow of work is an effective method of learning in the current context, where a sizeable amount of the workforce is working and learning from home. By embracing this model, organizations can support learning even while employees are working away from the office.

Because of these benefits, learning in the flow of work delivers a better value proposition for both the employees and the organization.

Microlearning-based Pillars to Create Flow-of-work Content

Unlike formal learning content, learning in the flow of work requires targeted, concise and focused content. Long-form macro-content just won’t work in these environments. Microlearning content, on the other hand, is ideal for supporting learning in the flow of work. To deliver successful outcomes, the content must align with the following three pillars:

1. On-demand

Because in-the-flow learning is an approach that promotes learning where and when it’s needed, it requires content that’s always available, mobile-enabled, responsive, and fast to learn and implement. Microlearning content, such as short videos and podcasts, summary PDFs, quick references, templates, and checklists are great examples of such content.

2. Accessible

Accessible content is hosted in a place where learners can find it quickly and intuitively. Burying content under layers of file and folder structures or using cryptic naming conventions makes accessing content more challenging.

3. Selective

The learning in the flow of work approach aims to quickly empower learners with the knowledge they seek so they can be productive. Carefully vet and selectively curate your content before hosting it on your learning platform.

Which Microlearning Strategies Drive Continuous Learning in the Flow of Work?

Macro-learning focuses on longer-term, big-picture outcomes by delivering a range of learning content related to different aspects of a theme or concept. This approach has its usefulness in learning in the flow of work. However, L&D professionals can replace or supplement it with microlearning strategies to deliver better learning outcomes.

Microlearning is certainly more effective as an in-the-flow of work learning strategy, because it happens through more focused content, which produces specific outcomes in a shorter time frame. Organizations can use the following microlearning strategies to create a culture of continuous learning — as just-in-time learning and to supplement formal learning:

Immediate Learning to Support “in the Moment” Needs

Use microlearning point-of-need training content, such as short podcasts or “how-to” videos, as performance support aids.

Intermediate Learning to Build Existing Competencies

Use microlearning to supplement the formal training that helps employees improve their performance in their current roles. Short-form content can serve as effective review and refresher training modules, too.

Transitional Learning to Help Learners Evolve Into Future Roles

Add microlearning to your instructor-led training (ILT) or virtual instructor-led training (VILT) before, during and after training sessions. This content might come in the form of training readiness tools, exercises and assessments, and learning summaries.

In a dynamic workplace, employees don’t have a lot of time to invest in formal learning, and organizations seek any competitive edge they can leverage. Learning in the flow of work is the solution, and microlearning offers a win-win for employees and organizations.