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Digitize learning part 4 – enable continuous learning at work

As employees, we will need to increase our learning significantly in the next few years. At the same time we have less time over for learning. It is an equation that is difficult and it makes the work itself become the place for learning.

In a series of articles, I describe how technology can accelerate learning. In this concluding article (Part 4), I describe how the technology enables to embed learning and performance support directly at work. Technology also helps us learn more from others and improve working methods themselves using more accessible data and feedback.

In the introductory article I described how the digitization of learning (EdTech) has led to a complex landscape with new phenomena such as LXP, Microlearning, MOOC, LRS, etc.

The question is how we navigate this complex landscape. What systems actually generate benefits for our organization? How do we implement them in the best way? In what order?

My purpose with the series of articles is to show how technology can encourage us along the way from the traditional training organization to self-driven learning at work. My experience is that for maturity, skill- and resource reasons we need to divide the journey into a number of steps:

  1. Digitization of the course content – We digitise large parts of the course content to create higher availability, reduced costs and reduced time in learning for employees.
  2. From knowledge to capability – We shift the focus from “participation” to “capability”. The step includes technology to create better learning transfer and impact in the work.
  3. Address the skill shift – We make large amounts of formal and informal learning available to meet the skillshift.
  4. Continuous learning (this article) – We go from courses as the main source of learning to technology that accelerates collaboration and continuous learning at work.

Step 4 – enable continuous learning at work

Why is this important?

Working life is becoming more stressful and according to Bersin Deloitte we only use 1% of work hours for intentional learning. However, the current skill shift means that we need to increase that proportion drastically. According to the World Economic Forum, we will need to increase time for intentional learning from approx. 25 minutes a week to 5 hours a week. For that to happen, more learning needs to take place directly in the flow of work.

The focus for L&D has been to deliver formal learning, i.e. courses. In reality, this is perhaps 10% of our total learning. The image below is from a survey I use to conduct with customers. It shows how employees have gained the knowledge they need at work. In summary it tells us that employees learn much more from collaboration, experiences and information than from attending courses.

Increasingly complex and unique work roles combined with faster changes also makes it difficult to determine “top-down” what different employees need to learn. This shifts the responsibility to the employee to drive their on learning and to contribute with experience.

What does a transformation mean?

To begin with, this transformation has to focus on encouraging and developing employees’ learnability. To encourage it, we need to work with the culture and leadership of the organization. My articles on “learnability” and “learning culture” describe how the organization can work to build a learning culture and encourage employee learnability.

In order to facilitate learning at work, we then need ensure that learning modules are short, relevant and accessible at work, e.g. in the sales system.

To accelerate learning from each other, we need to establish habits, practices and social platforms for collaboration, interactive meetings, knowledge sharing and mentoring. Finally, we need to build data and feedback into the work enabling employees to continuously improve their performance.

My article “Designing work for learning” offers more insight into what we need to do, to better use collaboration, agile organizations and work itself for learning. In this article, I will describe the technological innovations that can be used.

Technology to use

Short learning modules at work

There are a number of opportunities to embed learning at work. I’ve described some of these in previous articles. For example, in part 2 of the series, I described microlearning from the perspective of repetition and learning effect.

Microlearning also helps to enable learning at work through short modules of a few minutes each that the employee easily can take on the mobile phone. Modules can be scheduled when there is time, eg. on the way to/from work.

It is also important get personalised learning. Several of the tools link learning modules to skills needed at work and measure both the employee’s knowledge and self-judged ability in using the skill. AI then helps to find the learning modules that best fill these gaps.

Other features of microlearning platforms are simple templates for experts and employees to create content and easy search for modules just when they are needed.

Examples of platforms are Axonify, Qstream, Grovo and Surge9.

Video platforms like Panopto, Dreambroker and Microsoft Stream also facilitate learning just-in-time with short videos. Your organization’s own YouTube uses channels to group content into different topics. Videos can also be embedded where they are needed, e.g. in an ERP system or on the intranet. The picture below is from the swedish company Ericsson’s video platform “Eritube”, with channels for all major product and functional areas.

Another category of tools are the so-called Digital Adoption Platforms (DAP). They are used to embed stepwise instructions, video, eLearning, discussions and chat into any web-based system. Examples of platforms are WalkMe, MyGuide, and Enable Now. A DAP evaluates how employees use a system, e.g. what has been difficult, and can then open a short learning module depending on the users actions within the system.

DAP replaces much of the training we today deliver for training on IT-systems and will be an important component of rapid digitization.

Embed learning modules in the flow of work

Platforms like WalkMe are examples of how to embed learning at work, in the IT-systems we use. This is a trend among all providers of learning systems. Cornerstone OnDemand were early on releasing its “Cornerstone for Salesforce“. Through the system, learning modules are triggered to open depending on what salespersons do in the system or their sales performance.

SalesForce is now launching MyTrailhead where learning and development around goals is built into SalesForce with an integrated LXP, project-oriented learning, gamificiation with Badges and feedback and recognition features. I think we’ve only seen the beginning of this trend.

More and more learning platforms are now available inside collaboration platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. Edcast and Loop are available as tabs within Teams (see picture) or directly inside, for example, a Powerpoint. We will soon expect to be able to search for and attend a short course without navigating the course catalogue in the company’s LMS.

Degreed’s solution with a button in the webbrowser is also a way to move learning to work. In the picture, I use PowerPoint and search for “Design Thinking”. I find courses, videos, articles and even individuals interested in Design Thinking.

Support at work does not only apply to those who work in front of a computer. With Augmented Reality (AR), we can offer performance support for physical work, e.g. within technical service and manufacturing. Several companies, such as BMW uses AR to support their service technicians. The technician uses AR glasses and receives instructions directly during work.

Platforms like Microsoft Hololens and Unity make it increasingly cheaper and easier to present information in AR glasses. Microsoft sees AR as an important interface to computers in the future and invests heavily in AR.

Platforms for collaboration

By using platforms for collaboration we expand learning together with others. Social learning functions are now available in most learning platforms, e.g. LMS, LXP and microlearning. The picture below show a typical example where after a lesson we share our own experiences.

Another way to accelerate social learning is to create a collaborative site that is not linked to a specific course but instead to a work team, a role, product area, or another knowledge domain.

Learning from working together is about being able to “working out loud“, i.e. being able to be transparent about your work, asking for comments and feedback. We post documents, plan activities, add comments, videos and interact through chat and web meetings. The image below shows the knowledge sharing team my network Learntech is using.

Platforms for work such as Asana, Trello and SalesForce are increasingly allowing planning, collaborating on goals and activities, following up results and providing each other with feedback during work.

My view is that social learning should be added where collaboration actually takes place, i.e. in Teams, Slack, Salesforce or the platform you work the most in. The social learning that takes place in an LMS or LXP should be linked to courses and content that are there.

Platforms for coaching/mentoring

One way to encourage learning at work is with the help of a coach or mentor. More recently, a large number of platforms have been introduced to make it easier to set up a mentoring program in the organization. Examples of such platforms are MentorcliQ, Everwise, Chronus, Mentorloop and River.

Mentoring platforms make it easy for both mentors and employees who want support with their development or to solve problems. Typical features are:

  • Rich profiles for mentors and employees.
  • Onboarding and support for those who become mentors.
  • Different methods for matching employees and mentors.
  • Scheduling, goal management, and agendas for sessions.
  • Several ways of communicating, such as web meetings, chat and email.
  • Documentation of sessions, such as recording, notes and checklists.
  • Follow-up, evaluation and reporting.

Platforms for experience and feedback

Most learning takes place at work through experiences. As I described in the article “Learnability – develop your learning skills ” we can increase learning by actively searching for experiences, experimenting, reflecting and applying continuous improvements.

With career planning platforms, we make jobs, projects and other experiences in the organization visible.

The image shows a system for career planning, Fuel50. The system recommends roles in the organization based on the employee’s interests and skills. The tool presents what skills are required, what others think about the role, appropriate development activities, and employees who can coach the employee in the development towards the role.

On a personal level, documentation tools like Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, and Google Keep (see picture below) help organize reflections and ideas from work. Reflections and ideas can also be shared with others to collaborate together on ideas for improvement. The tools integrate with common collaboration platforms such as Slack and Teams, which are also platforms themselves for documentation of reflection, ideas and plan improvements.

The support of continuous learning at work is also about clarifying the results of the work and providing feedback so that the employee can make improvements himself. This is the “feedback loop” and is the basis for continuous improvements.

Examples of support of this process are continuous performance management platforms. Best practice is moving away from the annual process of development talks and complicated forms to continuously working with goals and feedback at work. Tools like Lattice, 15Five, Reflektive, CultureAmp or Betterworks offer collaboration around concrete goals (OKR), weekly work planning, continuous evaluations with rich feedback and recognition features, and short weekly 1:1 meetings between employees and managers.

Integration with the organization’s collaborative platform and email means that managing the development with feedback takes place integrated in the day-to-day work.

Features for continuous evaluation of employee engagement with insights support managers in their work. The image below is from WeekDone. Information about team engagement, goal-filling and problems is gathered on a general view for the team as a whole and individual employees.

Outside HR there are also many platforms that encourage continuous improvements. In my article “Designing work for learning” I describe how to provide employees with data on their results, e.g. in sales and business systems.

Other examples ar platforms supporting “Lean” and continuous improvements. Some examples are LeanWay, Rever and Braineet. Those systems support the process of generating ideas, encouraging experimentation, collaborating on improvements, follow-up results, sharing “best practice” and encouraging a culture of continuous improvements.


Introducing continuous learning into work is a major step. It requires a lot from employees who will now run their own learning. This should not only be achieved through formal training, but through collaboration with others and by experimenting and reflecting on their work to be able to learn and make continuous improvements.

For this to happen, we need to start with the culture and leadership and build a learning culture where employees want, have the opportunity to and can learn. In the next step we need to encourage employees ‘learnability“, i.e. motivation and ability to learn not only from training, but from others, from work and the outside world.

Other examples of capabilities and working methods we need to establish are:

  • Integration of data and design of ecosystems for learning (LMS, LXP, Microlearning, DAP, collaborative platforms, etc.)
  • Update the Performance Management process to work continuously and transparently with goals, activities, development and follow-up.
  • Career planning update to become transparent and include not only new roles, but also e.g. projects.
  • Performance Consulting, i.e. for L&D to understand problems and opportunities with work results and create solutions for increased performance (not just courses).
  • Design Thinking and work design. Being able to predict where in work employees need support and what data they need to improve their work.
  • Coaching and change activities to drive collaboration and work in social platforms.
  • Design of organisation and work for continuous learning, e.g. with agile teams.

Examples of benefits

The most important benefits are employees and an organization that is faster in absorbing the rapid (technological) development. More and more industries are fundamentally changing. I am speaking, for example, about the travel industry, computer industry, retail and banking & finance. Success in digitization and the transformation many industries go through requires speed in learning and translating improvements in working methods and offerings.

The image shows the gap between exponential technological development and typical organizations capabilities for change. The gap is just getting wider and many organizations struggle to survive the digital transformation of their industry. Being able to rapidly and continuously learn increases the likelihood for success for the organzation.

Some other examples of benefits:

  • According to ATD and other studies, turnover per employee is 2-3 times higher and profits are 24% higher for those companies that have most developed learning.
  • According to studies from Bersin Deloitte, profit growth is 3 times higher for companies that have the most developed learning.
  • According to other studies from Bersin Deloitte, companies with developed learning have twice the rate of innovation and productivity.
  • Content produced by employees is 3 times faster and 50% lower in costs to produce.
  • Employees of Google, Microsoft and Apple are valued at SEK 80 million (market capitalisation/employee). These are companies that all work extensively with learning culture, experimentation and collaboration. As a contrast, employees of traditional large Swedish companies are valued at between SEK 2-12 million per employee.

How to move on?

In this series of articles I have wanted to describe themes that I think are important for developing a learning organization. I have previously described how we can:

With this article, I complete the description of the support IT provides for learning.

In the next article, I will describe how we create an internal organization with mandates and resources to encourage the development towards becoming a learning organization.

Since these are very new ideas, I value and welcome your comments. Do you agree? How far have you come? At the bottom of the page you will find the comment bar. Please send me an email if it doesn’t work.

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