Organizations seeking to remain relevant and competitive are faced with ongoing and fast-paced challenges. These include leaps in technology and evolving interpersonal and leadership requirements. Faced with these challenges, organizations struggle to maintain their employees’ knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs).

Traditional, occasional training options are no longer enough to bridge the skills gaps created by these variables.

It’s now imperative for learning and development (L&D) teams to create frequent and diverse learning opportunities for employees.

  • Engaged employees consistently cite learning opportunities in particular — options for professional development as a key aspect they look for in employers.
  • Employees who have opportunities to continuously grow and improve are more engaged. They appreciate the opportunities that create internal movement and mobility. Tenure increases in such firms, deepening the tacit knowledge and talent pool available for employers.
  • Additionally, companies that approach learning strategically can align L&D efforts with enterprise business initiatives, turning the learning function into a vital tool driving business performance.

Why Is it Important to Create Learning Opportunities?

Because the pace of change continues to accelerate, employees have less time to dedicate to traditional learning opportunities. Many teams cannot dedicate days or weeks to long, formal training sessions. The work they do must continuously move forward without interruption.

L&D teams need to shift their focus instead to less traditional learning opportunities and integrate learning into the flow of everyday work.

Like the unstoppable and inexorable force of compounding interest, employers can leverage the power of marginal gains by using small learning opportunities that create huge impacts on employee performance and business impact.

How Do You Create Learning Opportunities and Make Learning a Part of Everyday Work?

As L&D teams seek to transition from traditional training approaches, it’s important to pay attention to the power of learning in the flow of work. Learning opportunities that are folded into the process of everyday tasks are immediately applicable and have direct impact on employee performance. As learning opportunities increase, they become natural for employees. They become part of the job, rather than something extra crammed into employees’ already overloaded workdays.

These learning opportunities can be designed as either a push or a pull:

  • Push learning opportunities are integrated, bite-sized performance support or upskilling — these could include bite-sized learning objects, such as infographics or active coaching by leaders and real-time feedback loops on employee performance.
  • Pull learning opportunities are presented through tools that store information that’s easy to access, easy to search and retrieves exactly what employees need, the instant they need it. Short videos that are accurately titled and tagged are one example of this type of learning opportunity. Content of this nature requires a deep empathy for learners, what they do and how they search for information, so that the content can be organized in a way that makes sense to them.

Flexibility is key when creating learning opportunities that are part of everyday work:

  • Learning programs like these should be available on demand. Frictionless systems that allow employees to search for information they need, when they need it are perfect in this situation. Instead of viewing learning opportunities as courses, L&D teams should leverage the idea of content libraries that employees turn to when they’re stumped.
  • Content libraries and learning opportunities are most useful when they’re not only available on demand but also through any device — computer, tablet or mobile device. Also, such content can be configured so that it can be downloaded beforehand, making it accessible offline. Many employees who work offsite in the field need reference material but have limited access at times.

A challenge many L&D teams encounter when creating learning opportunities for employees is awareness. Humans are creatures of habit and tend to do what they know and are comfortable doing. New learning opportunities, even when designed well, may at first seem foreign and confusing to employees. To combat this, L&D teams should:

  • Run awareness campaigns to alert employees of available learning programs that are less formal than they’re used to.
  • Leverage endorsements from leadership teams. Emails are easily buried and ignored in already overloaded inboxes, but announcements from executives are harder to ignore. Also, front-line managers can, in one-on-one settings, demonstrate the advantages of learning opportunities to employees.
  • Offer shareable learning objects that peers can send to one another. These objects enhance the awareness of learning opportunities for employees. Content shared by a senior team member to answer coworker questions demonstrates the value of informal, in-the-flow-of-work learning opportunities.

L&D teams can also help employees or team managers build personalized learning paths, consisting of the following content:

  • Binge-worthy content that encourages ongoing consumption. The goal is for employees to say to themselves, “I’ll get back to my tasks after one more video.”
  • Immersive learning solutions, which help employees internalize and evaluate content in a safe environment where they can experiment and test new concepts and then apply them in the real world.
  • Content recommended through nudges: These can be simple cues that create a desire for learners to pursue additional information.

Parting Thoughts

The pace of business is increasing, as are the challenges organizations face each day as they seek to maintain a competitive advantage. That velocity of change is widening employee skills gaps. However, L&D teams can take advantage of these uncertain times by creating learning opportunities that fit in the flow of work and support employee needs.

Learn how to design L&D programs that drive business performance.

Download this research brief developed by Brandon Hall Group in partnership with EI Design. The strategies and approaches shared in this research will help you create a stronger link between training investments and performance.