On-demand learning improves retention and application and provides employees with what they need, when they need it. This article outlines how you can leverage on-demand learning to improve learning in the flow of work and step up the application of learning on the job.

What Is On-demand Learning?

On-demand learning occurs outside the traditional structure of training courses and live classes. It consists of information and content that employees find, consume and apply in the flow of work.

For example, a customer service agent may review the terms of a cell phone’s warranty during new hire training, but the details of a warranty may be impossible to remember after the first pass. Therefore, the company’s training department may implement a series of searchable short, text-based FAQs so that customer service agents can quickly find the information they need to answer customer questions, in the moment. In this way, on-demand learning would support the customer service department’s goal of high customer satisfaction and shorter call handle times.

Consider another example: A software vendor adds to its solution suite a new application to enhance its customers’ business outcomes. The sales team is expected to communicate with potential customers, identify problems they’re trying to solve and match those needs with the applications their company produces. Sales team members can scan a library of short, informative videos that summarize each application, its purpose and case studies. With this on-demand learning approach, the company can forego expensive and time-consuming traditional courses, saving time and increasing the effectiveness of the sales staff.

In both scenarios, on-demand learning content is immediately applicable and leads to the application of learning. In this way, it saves both the learners and the organization time and leads to increased effectiveness.

The Challenges of the Modern Workplace

Many modern learners feel overwhelmed for several reasons. Employers expect them to do more with less — for instance, sell more with less travel, close more tickets with fewer escalations, and produce better products in less time and with cheaper materials. On top of these pressures, learners face a barrage of never-ending distractions:

    • Smartphone alerts.
    • Email requests for support and information.
    • Co-workers located across multiple time zones.
    • Virtual meetings.
    • Reminders for mandatory training (like compliance training).
    • Global pandemics and civil unrest.
    • Complications due to working from home with children and other family members.

These distractions exact a heavy toll on employees and their productivity. The human brain cannot multitask. Instead, it switches tasks, resulting in lost focus. On an average, it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds for people to return from an interruption to a state of flow that facilitates maximum efficiency, creativity and effectiveness.

Even small distractions can disrupt a flow state. Today’s learners may experience hours of lost productivity due to email and text messaging alone. They are faced with continuous, fast-paced change, and skills and technologies continue to evolve, making it more difficult to remain relevant in competitive markets.

Why Is On-demand Learning the Key to Train the Modern Learner?

Today’s learners need and expect time to develop themselves on the job, in the flow of work. In addition to pay and flexibility, one of the job benefits most desired by employees is support for professional development. These employees are less satisfied with traditional modes of training and require on-demand learning.

Enterprise-supported on-demand learning helps employees feel supported and appreciated. Once they reach a flow state, they may run into situations where they need additional information to complete or enrich their task. Rather than being a distraction, on-demand learning helps them maintain their flow. Formal training solutions, on the other hand, distract and disrupt flow states.

On-demand learning offers several benefits:

    • It transitions learning from “push” to “pull.” No longer do employees require external motivation; they seek learning on their own.
    • It increases the quality of work as employees sharpen their skills and explore available knowledge.
    • It helps learning and development (L&D) professionals maintain the quality of formal training programs. You can use subject matter experts (SMEs) to contribute and review content contained in the performance support systems employees turn to for on-demand learning.
    • It facilitates the application of learning by making performance support systems as accessible as possible.
    • It incorporates a blend of content types, from short text- and image-based articles to videos and access to managers and mentors, as well as in-depth, self-paced eLearning and print resources for more complex topics.
    • It gives employees the time to master technical skills, including low-risk experimentation and practice.

What Strategies Can You Use to Drive On-demand Learning?

To support modern learners in this hectic world, employers should use these strategies to drive on-demand learning:

    • Implement self-paced online training and mobile learning, including apps.
    • Incorporate microlearning strategies by keeping learning objects as focused and abbreviated as possible.
    • Enable learners to personalize their on-demand content, curating and sharing when appropriate. Curated and user-generated content can be a great asset as L&D teams build more formal training programs.
    • Share content in a social learning context, and create social pressure for employees to increase the application of learning and modify behavior.
    • Include stories, such as through case studies and user scenarios.
    • Replace formal training with informal, on-the-job and on-demand learning.
    • Create easy-to-access knowledge hubs, sometimes called performance support systems, to which employees can quickly refer for knowledge.
    • Encourage deep work by fostering a culture of continuous learning.

How Can You Step up Learning Application With On-demand Learning?

It can sometimes seem difficult to drive learning application, but the following on-demand learning strategies will help:

    • Encourage learning in the flow of work. Just-in-time learning increases learning application.
    • Create awareness of on-demand learning. Showcase on-demand learning by sharing messages from leaders from the top of the organization that highlight success stories.
    • Create forums where employees can share knowledge, lessons learned and curated content.
    • Invest in a learning portal that is accessible on any device.

Modern learners are faced with a myriad of challenges — increasing pressures, rapidly evolving roles and changing market demands, and social and device-driven distractions. On-demand learning counters those challenges, helping employees apply their learning and enhance their on-the-job performance and success.

Want to learn more about how to drive informal learning in a remote working environment? Download this infographic, which shares nine strategies to drive informal learning in a remote working environment.