What is "learning in the flow of work" and why is it the most important idea this decade?


You check your email inbox.

Mandatory team-wide training session next Wednesday, 9am-2pm.

You check your calendar and immediately groan when you see three meetings that now need rearranging. And if they need rearranging, then that deadline is going to be so much harder to meet, which means…

Your thoughts begin to spiral.



You see a message from one of your floor team members.

Can you remember whether you’re supposed to flick this switch before or after you shut this machine down?

Hmm, I can’t remember. Let me just check the training course, you reply.

You pull up the course. It’s an hour long. It contains everything you could possibly want to know about operating the machine. You can’t skip to the part about shutting it down. Either you spend an hour clicking through irrelevant screens, or....


If either of those scenarios feel familiar, you’ll know just how disruptive training and upskilling can be. You’ll know exactly what learning in the flow of work doesn’t feel like.

You might have come across the phrase “learning in the flow of work” if you’ve delved into the world of online learning and corporate training. It sounds interesting and exciting - but what exactly is it, and how can it stop learning from being so disruptive?

First proposed by Josh Bersin, a corporate learning and HR analyst in 2018, learning in the flow of work offers a new paradigm for designing and implementing learning and development programs in the workplace. It has since captured the imagination of the industry and continues to evolve to meet the need for a new way to approach training and upskilling.

What is learning in the flow of work?

What is learning in the flow of work?

Learning in the flow of work is an approach to training and development that aims to better integrate learning into the day-to-day rhythms of workers, and thereby reduce disruption and frustration.

With a learning in the flow of work approach, training is embedded into existing platforms and rhythms of work so that it enhances work, instead of interrupting it.

Imagine this: when your team members have a spare 10 minutes, they use it to log in to the company’s learning platform and learn a new skill or concept.

Or imagine this: One of your team members is out sick for the day. You need someone else to step in and turn on the pieces of equipment the sick team member usually operates. They log in to the company’s learning platform and take a 5 minute course on booting the equipment on. The equipment is up and running 5 minutes later.

Lastly, picture this: On the train on the way home from work, your team members check a dedicated channel in Slack or Microsoft Teams where they share blogs and articles they have come across throughout the day, and they catch up on industry news and trends.

Each of these scenarios offers an example of learning in the flow of work. Overall, learning in the flow of work aims to reduce the amount of time workers spend in training by making it more helpful, more targeted, and available when it’s needed.

Why is learning in the flow of work important?

Learning is incredibly important for modern workers and businesses.

The opportunity to learn and grow is now the second most important factor for inspiring workers and boosting their happiness and productivity. It’s also rated as extremely important for 59% of millennials looking for new jobs. That is, workers are looking for businesses that are going to support their growth as a professional, in soft and hard skills.

This inverts the common myth that training up employees will simply lead to them moving on once they have the skills they want. Instead, a strong learning and development program actually attracts and retains talent.

Knowing this, many L&D pros are expecting investment in their departments to rise in future, and plenty are throwing this budget towards large catalogues of courses such as Linkedin Learning.

However, a surplus of courses, rather than satisfying the demand for more training, can often be detrimental. Exhaustive catalogues can make searching for the right content, well, exhausting. The courses themselves can often be too long, or not interactive and engaging enough to hold attention. 

The old solutions of multi-hour workshops are equally unviable, requiring every worker to stop their work and be available at the same time in the same place. Deadlines and meetings must be reshuffled, and if an important piece of information was missed or forgotten, it can’t be re-visited on-demand at a later time.

And workers already have so little time to spend on training. In 2018, LinkedIn Learning shared that the number 1 reason that employees feel held back from learning is a lack of time. Bersin’s own research found that employees have just 24 minutes a week on average for “formal learning”.

Thus, learning in the flow of work is important because it is a direct response to these demands for better learning opportunities, on-demand, without disruption.

Why is learning in the flow of work important?

How can you implement learning in the flow of work?

There are a range of ways that a learning in the flow of work approach can be implemented. 

#1 Get budget and buy-in

Pivoting to learning-in-the-flow of work is a long-term investment. It is likely to require new training software to facilitate the approach, as well as strategic communication with your teams so they understand their role in the approach. As a result, a clear budget and buy-in from your company’s leaders is critical.

#2 Create bite-sized courses

This step is key to a learning in the flow of work approach. With so little time to spend on learning, key information simply cannot be buried in hour-long courses.

Instead, take large courses and break them down into bite sized ones. Known as a “microlearning” approach, a bite-size course may cover a single process or idea, and be just 5-10 minutes long. This structure allows workers to dip in and out, finding exactly the information they need, when they need it.

#3 Employ AI-powered search

Breaking down courses into smaller chunks inevitably results in more courses. That’s why it’s critical to find an eLearning platform with an easily searchable catalogue. Solutions such as HowToo offer AI-powered search to serve up the most relevant courses in a course library to cut down the time workers spend searching for the right course.

#4 Capture knowledge proactively

Businesses know that their most important asset is the knowledge, skills and experience their workforce already has. Yet all that walks out the door when employees move on, leaving an expensive hole to fill in their wake.

When learning becomes an integral part of work, so should sharing knowledge. Encouraging workers to invest their learning back into the system by creating and sharing small videos or courses creates an incredibly valuable body of company-specific knowledge that is highly relevant to other team members. Not to mention - it doesn’t leave when they do!

#5 Find the right eLearning platform

An eLearning platform will allow you to host and share a library of training courses with your team. Preferably, it will also allow you to create courses, and allow administrators to track and report on learner engagement. Learners must be able to log on to see and complete available courses.

The right eLearning platform can make or break your new learning in the flow of work strategy. Learning in the flow of work aims to reduce barriers to learning - if the platform is difficult or unappealing to use, the strategy is likely to collapse at the very first hurdle.

The right platform needs to be:

  • Quick and easy to access (e.g. quick to load, single sign-on).
  • Available on any type of device ( desktop, mobile, tablet).
  • Intuitive to use (no training required).
  • Efficient to use (e.g. AI search, personalised dashboards).
  • Scalable (grows as you grow!)

With the right platform, friction to learning can be reduced, and workers can be inspired to incorporate learning into their day-to-day rhythms of work. 

Is learning in the flow of work right for you?

While learning in the flow of work presents a huge opportunity to make learning and development a critical part of a business’s culture, it isn’t the solution for every training need.

If your business has important compliance, safety and onboarding training needs, then optional, bite-size courses will not be sufficient to meet these needs. In this case, a blended approach can be taken, with both microlearning courses freely available, and longer courses with trackable assessments that can be assigned for completion.

If you’re a business of any size looking to attract and retain top talent, and boost the productivity and satisfaction of your teams, then a learning in the flow of work approach could be ideal for you. 

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Aug 12, 2021
Learning Culture

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