Trending ways of working and new learning and development (L&D) tools allow you to slip learning opportunities right into the flow of work. This can contribute to upskilling your employees, which keeps your organization agile in today’s fast changing world. If you want your employees to learn in the flow of work, consider these six proven strategies.
1. Make Learning Accessible
When people are stuck or want to learn something new, they need access at that moment, not weeks later when a workshop is offered. On-demand learning allows your team to obtain the information they can finish the project at hand. Make sure your learning catalog includes a variety of modalities, from the PDF job aid to the two-minute video, and the in-depth, eLearning course to the half-day in-person workshop. Each of these modalities provides different benefits, and a broad offering will meet the needs of many more learners.
2. Build a Psychologically Safe Environment
While humans are wired to learn, we are designed to do so through a series of trials and errors. When it’s not safe to take risks and make mistakes, learning is essentially shut down because we enter what Harvard University’s Dr. Amy Edmondson calls the “anxiety zone.” Several studies show that psychological safety is core to creating the “learning zone” which builds high-performing teams. People need to be able to ask questions, try and fail, and even admit that they need help without fear of being ridiculed or sidelined. Create an environment where learning, in all its forms, is embraced, modeled and supported.
3. Shift From Goals to Problem-solving
Problem-solving is a type of design thinking, where we tinker and adjust as we experiment, improving with each iteration. Consider how project or change plans are usually constructed — most have rigid goals and milestones and rarely, if ever, do they unfold as expected, turning the experience into a series of frustrations. Instead, frame each phase as an exercise in problem-solving. This turns on the reward seeking part of the brain, which enhances creativity and motivation. Prioritize iterating, where each phase harvests the lessons learned, catapulting the team or project forward. What discovery can you encourage in the process of each round? What knowledge was missing from the first round that you can set up to learn in flight in the next? Consider the tools you need and the partners to call in who can inform the next best iteration.
4. Move Mindsets From Fixed to Growth
Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck’s research has examined what differentiates people who succeed from those who don’t. She found that people who don’t succeed tend to have a fixed mindset, meaning that they believe that their inherent traits or characteristics — such as their intelligence quotient (IQ) or people skills — are set once they reach adulthood. Whereas people with a growth mindset believe that they can always get better, that they can always learn something new or practice something more. They also believe that practice and effort are the pathways to improvement and even mastery. Learning in the flow of work gives practice to the growth mindset.
5. Recognize Effort and Contributions
Recognizing effort is part of fostering a growth mindset. The more effort is rewarded, the more likely both the basal ganglia (which is responsible for creating habits) and habenula (which is responsible for helping us learn from previous experiences) will respond in ways that accelerate learning. Gallup found that people are the most motivated at work when they feel that they can contribute their strengths and when others acknowledge or value their contributions. The annual performance review is too infrequent and fraught with other issues to be of value; instead look for frequent opportunities to recognize effort.
6. Build a Path to Mastery
Supporting learning in the flow of work means that your learning offerings should build a path of ever-increasing skills and abilities. Consider a skill continuum that starts at beginner and continues on to intermediate, novice, competent, expert, and master. In addition, there should be multiple entry points so that any of your people can find what they need, and also see their next steps for growth. An effective learning roadmap is both effective and inspirational.
Every organization’s success depends on the ability of its workforce to learn and improve. By empowering learning in the flow of work, you not only maximize your people’s productivity and effectiveness today, but you build the upskilled workforce you’ll need for tomorrow.