The imperative for a more continuous approach to learning is growing. More than half of all working adults now acknowledge the necessity of learning throughout their lives and careers. Millennials, likewise, cite learning and development as the most popular workplace benefit.
But while the urgency to upskill exists across the enterprise, the time to do so may not.
According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report, employees who spend five or more hours per week learning are more likely to know where they want to go in their careers, find greater purpose and feel less stressed. The same report suggests, however, that finding those five hours to learn presents the biggest barrier to making good on the promise of learning at work.
Historically, L&D professionals have tried to solve the training-time conundrum in one of two ways: by setting aside dedicated time for learning or by integrating opportunities for learning into what talent and learning expert Josh Bersin calls the “flow of work.” But, as it turns out, deciding between the two approaches presents a false choice.
Technology now allows for the creation of shorter learning sessions delivered through social and mobile channels. Unbundled, online content can be delivered in quick bursts that are integrated into the flow of work and unlock the sort of repetition and “focused learning” that neuroscience tells us matter.
At the same time, the layering of social and collaborative tools means that integrated learning can actually spark the high levels of engagement that a growing body of evidence indicates is necessary for cognitive retention and understanding. And in doing so, companies are responding to demand from a growing majority of learners who — according to the Workplace Learning Report — value the opportunity to connect with instructors or peers during online courses.
So as the world of work tilts toward a future that is increasingly on-demand and digital, the rise of online learning is upending the historic dichotomy between workplace learning categorized as either formal or informal. More than one-third of talent developers report spending less on instructor-led training than they did three years ago. And more than half have increased their spending on online, on-demand tools and resources. It is a shift buoyed by demand from Gen Z and millennial employees, who are 10 percent more likely than their older peers to prefer fully self-directed and independent learning.
Learning in the flow of work should not, however, be confused with the rise of multitasking, which reportedly costs employers $650 billion a year. Because while employees want to be self-directed learners, the data suggests that they also need — and greatly value — guidance from their managers about when and how to best pursue learning opportunities. With good reason, three-quarters of employees surveyed by LinkedIn say they would be more likely to take a course assigned by their manager.
We’ve always known that employees want to devote time to training and development but that a lack of time stands in their way. Historically, finding the right balance between engagement and integration, effectiveness and access, has required costly tradeoffs in both outcomes and efficiency. But the Workplace Learning Report suggests that the field is evolving as learning and development leaders make the move toward a more integrated approach — without sacrificing the benefits of dedicated time for learning.