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How to bridge the L&D divide and help learning in the flow to flourish

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Course-led learning has had its day. L&D teams need to bring together the right culture, strategy and tools to create the perfect conditions for hybrid success.

24th Mar 2022
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Did you know that as many as 40% of US and UK organisations are still leading with course-based learning strategies? Even more surprising is that, despite this, 92% of L&D/HR leaders agree that access to knowledge on demand is a key driver of business performance.

These were some of the key findings from a Fuse research project conducted in November 2021. The research, which polled 250 senior L&D and HR leaders across the UK and the US, was designed to shed light on the state of L&D in the new world of work.

More than half (55%) of respondents admitted that they themselves need access to knowledge at least once a day in order to perform at work

Is real-time learning a universal reality?

First off, findings showed a significant disconnect between what L&D leaders want their learning to look like, and the reality, which sees many struggling to swap courses for real-time learning on the job. The research also revealed that just 4% of organisations are leading with strategies that enable access to knowledge in the flow of work. In other words, the overwhelming minority. 

When we then look at these findings through the lens of hybrid work, the advent of technology, and the Great Resignation, it’s clear that the case for in-flow learning is open and shut − and especially when the alternative is a traditional course-based approach.

The research confirmed what we already knew: that the course, at least in isolation, is no longer a viable learning solution when the demand for instant access to knowledge is happening at work several times a day. And the best evidence of this? More than half (55%) of respondents admitted that they themselves need access to knowledge at least once a day in order to perform at work. Now that’s pretty compelling. 

What’s less obvious here, is why so many organisations are still languishing in legacy courses − but more importantly, how can corporate learning swap course-based strategies for in-flow learning on the job?

The criticality of learning culture

To answer that, we need to look at the key foundation for corporate learning success: culture. Creating a company-wide culture that values, supports, and nurtures continuous learning and development is a critical factor for success, preceding both learning strategy and even technology. This is not to say the chosen strategy and technology are not vitally important. That goes without saying.

Using modern technology to facilitate in-flow learning can support a culture of continuous learning by shifting the focus from training, to learning

The key takeaway here is that those factors will only optimise learning and performance if they sit on top of a strong learning culture − and it highlights a key correlation: companies that lead with courses are often those that struggle with poor learning cultures. 

Train less, learn more

Let’s assume you do have a strong learning culture. Your people recognise that learning is both valuable to them, and valued by their employer. They’re invested, and they’ve adopted a continuous learning mindset. Now what?

Using modern technology to facilitate in-flow learning can support a culture of continuous learning by shifting the focus from training, to learning. Rather than mapping skills to courses, it’s an approach that empowers modern workers to learn continuously and collaboratively, tapping into company experts’ knowledge to drive performance.  

This is also how we leverage the rich expertise and tacit know-how that already exists within any one organisation. The solution lies not only in unlocking that knowledge and expertise, but making it instantly available to learners on the job. It’s a point that also emphasises how the L&D conversation has moved beyond shrinking the distance between training and application, to one that revolves around acquiring and applying knowledge in real-time. Just imagine the performance, not to mention productivity, gains that come hand in hand with that.

Beating knowledge brain drain

But the benefits don’t stop there. The need to retire legacy courses in favour of real-time learning goes beyond just learning success, extending to numerous wider and business-critical performance drivers.

Nine out of ten (89%) L&D/HR leaders agree or strongly agree that its associated loss of company expert knowledge presents an alarm-bell issue for business

Take the Great Resignation, for example. Nine out of ten (89%) L&D/HR leaders agree or strongly agree that its associated loss of company expert knowledge presents an alarm-bell issue for business. And with most organisations expecting to lose between 10-15% of their total workforce in 2022, brain drain now poses a significant threat to business. In fact, citing the biggest risks to business, 58% of respondents specified reduced innovation, followed by increased costs (43%), and rising employee churn (42%). 

The good news is that a culture of continuous knowledge sharing, underpinned by technology that captures, stores, and makes knowledge readily accessible, can solve this long-standing conundrum. By encouraging subject matter experts (SMEs) to habitually share their knowledge, organisations can capture their tacit know-how and, crucially, ensure that it’s forever available to learners at the point of need.

So there you have it: the answer to successfully swapping course-led learning for access to knowledge and learning in the flow of work lies in creating the right combination of culture, strategy, and technology. Get it right, and it’s a winning business formula.

Interested in this topic? Read Why a learning culture is inherently agile.

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