RESEARCH ARTICLEFour Practices to Embed Learningin the Flow of WorkJulie Hiipakka, Vice President, Learning Research LeaderBersin, Deloitte Consulting LLPChelsey Taylor, Lead Advisor, Learning and CareerBersin, Deloitte Consulting LLPOverviewLearning opportunities that support performance in real-time and are in syncwith the work itself create opportunities for workers to learn in the ﬂow of work.The convergence of learning and work has been occurring for more than a decade.In the last year,1 this phenomenon has earned the moniker learning in the ﬂow ofwork.As learning and work converge, organizations are trying to shift from a focus oncourses, curricula, and programs to enabling worker performance and productivityin ways not measured in hours and completions. This challenge is magniﬁed bychanges in work itself—unpredictable, full of conﬂicting priorities and distractions,structured around cross-functional teams, more project-oriented, and lessdirected by a middle manager.2 This article introduces four leading practices thathigh-performing organizations are using to help workers increase performanceand productivity without stopping, disrupting, or removing them from their work.In This Articleorganizations anticipate worker needs by understanding the work and howa Howit gets doneWhy high-performing organizations augment performance with data,a knowledge,and guidancea The importance of staging the delivery of learning opportunitiesa How organizations leverage and recognize learning in the ﬂow of worka Examples from leading organizations that have put these practices into placeCopyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved.Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkWhat Is Learning in the Flow of Work?In the 20 years since the paradigm of e-learning was ﬁrst introduced, theworld of learning and development (L&D) has been altered considerably.The advent of social media, readily accessible video tools, and thepervasive use of search engines to answer questions have changed theL&D landscape (see Figure 1). Organizations must now confront a criticaldecision: evolve how, when, and why workers learn, or risk falling behindin a world of work deﬁned by continuous disruption. The L&D function canhelp maintain and develop a high-performing and productive workforce,which has the opportunity to impact the entire organization by shapingresilient, cross-functional teams capable of responding to—and gettingahead of—disruptions.2Copyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved. Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkFigure 1: Evolution of Training and DevelopmentJosh Bersin has described learning in the ﬂow of work as the “ newparadigm for corporate training” because it addresses how organizationsactually operate.3 Learning in the ﬂow of work embeds learning into thework itself, rather than removing workers from their jobs. Does this meanthe end of traditional learning methods? Absolutely not. Traditionallearning will continue to add value to organizations. With just 24 minutesavailable each week for learning4, the opportunities lost by not providinglearning in the ﬂow of work are enormous.Source: Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2018.High-performing organizations have recognized that learning is alwaysoccurring—both formally and informally. Capitalizing on those informalmoments is how performance and productivity gains can really matter.Learning in the ﬂow of work enhances learning opportunities continuouslythroughout a worker’s day. According to a recent study5, two-thirds ofrespondents prefer to learn at work and nearly one-half prefer to learn atthe point of need.Learning in the ﬂow of work extends beyond advances like worker-driven,on-demand learning. High-performing organizations enable workers toﬁnd the content they need on a learning platform by staging that contentwhen and where they need it. To do this, these organizations ﬁrst developa deep understanding of the roles and tasks of each worker. Then, theyare able to determine where in the natural ﬂow of a worker’s day to placesuch learning opportunities.3KEY POINT: Learning in theﬂow of work enhances thelearning inherent in thework itself.Copyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved. Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkIn the following sections, we look brieﬂy at these four leading practices: Anticipating workers’ needs by understanding what workers doAugmenting worker performance with actionable and relevant dataAccelerating learning opportunities by placing meaningful tools andinformation in the ﬂow of workRecognizing, encouraging, and leveraging learning in the ﬂow ofwork to empower and reward workersAnticipate Workers’ Needs by UnderstandingWhat They DoWhat are workers doing every day?Job descriptions, competency frameworks, and organization charts aresometimes leveraged as tools for understanding what workers should bedoing and situating that particular job within the context of the broaderorganization. However, work changes so often that these tools don’t reﬂectwhat workers actually do. Consequently, high-performing organizationsare taking this a step further by applying the tools and techniques ofdesign thinking to observe and speak with workers throughout theorganization so that they may more deeply understand how their workersactually spend their time (see Figure 2). As they do so, they seek to answerthe following questions: What tasks are workers performing throughout the day?What do these tasks look like?What do all workers in the organization do?How does work vary from one part of the organization to another?With which teams and managers are workers interacting?Where are the pain points in workers’ routines?What facilitates the work?Without a granular understanding of how work is conducted in theirorganization, companies cannot leverage learning into the ﬂow of work.Understanding the work at the function, role, and task levels allows highperforming organizations to shift the focus away from solely what workersneed to be learning for the future and toward what actually enablesworkers to perform well now.4Copyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved. Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkFigure 2: Worker Pyramid: Learning What Workers DoSource: Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019.Developing journey maps is one way of illuminating how workers spendtheir day. After compiling their data, high-performing organizations buildjourney maps of the actual processes their workers experience throughoutthe day (see Figure 3).5Copyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved. Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkFigure 3: Worker Journey Map: Example of a Store Associate Selling Mobile DevicesHigh-performing organizations also build employee personas. This designthinking technique involves creating a ﬁctionalized person based on realpeople within the organization. For instance, after compiling data on callcenter workers, an organization could develop an ideal proﬁle of thoseworkers in order to understand their needs, wants, and common painpoints as they go about their tasks (see Figures 4 and 5). Personas arepowerful because they are tangible and actionable.Source: Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP, 2019.Design-thinking techniques are not only about the learning problems aworker faces. Journey maps and personas create a dynamic andempathetic understanding of an organization’s workforce. Thesetechniques eliminate guesswork, instead deﬁning what workers do so thatperformance and productivity solutions can be developed, tested, andimplemented. Anticipating the needs of workers hinges on understandingthe nuts and bolts of people’s work on the ground. By itself, anticipatingneeds does not put learning into the ﬂow of work—but it is a necessaryantecedent for achieving this goal.6Copyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved. Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkCase in Point: Deutsche Telekom UsesPersonas to Inform Training6Deutsche Telekom faced numerous challenges as it prepared itself forunprecedented digital disruptions within its industry. To enhance theoverall employee experience and spark innovation within the HR space,the company interviewed and observed its workers to identify the needsand challenges facing its workforce across organizational units andinternational borders.The insights from the interviews and observations and real-world testingled to the development of 22 prototype personas. The persona tool hasbeen used to target and enable training formats and learning methodsbased on employees’ needs (see Figures 4 and 5).Figure 4: Deutsche Telekom Persona UsageSource: Deutsche Telekom, 2017.(cont’d on next page)7Copyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved. Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkCase in Point: Deutsche Telekom Uses Personas to Inform Training6 (cont’d)Figure 5: Example Personas at Deutsche TelekomSource: Deutsche Telekom, 2017.8Copyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved. Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkCall to Action Get out from behind your desk to see your workers in action. Watchthem to observe what the work is and how they do it.Observe, ask, and listen to identify pain points and enablers. Surveysare a tool to use at scale, but interviews create higher levels ofempathy and connectivity.Worker experiences vary widely across the organization. Observe avariety of workers to really understand the diverse experiences andchallenges of workers in diﬀerent functions and roles.Work changes all the time, so observation and listening must beongoing. Ask about how the work might evolve to anticipate whenand how workers’ needs could change.Augment Worker Performance with Actionableand Relevant DataHigh-performing organizations readily share data and knowledge with andoﬀer guidance to their workers. When these organizations also take thetime to deeply understand work roles and tasks, they are positioned tooﬀer relevant, actionable information that leads to improved performanceand productivity.7As the world of work experiences incredible disruptions, the workforce ofhigh-performing organizations is able to adjust their performance in realtime. Consider the experience of driving a car: newer vehicles have adashboard providing real-time data on speed, engine temperature, andfuel level and provide alerts for low tire pressure, washer ﬂuid levels, andoil. The latest models also have GPS data, lane alerts, and rearviewcameras. From the moment a driver gets into the car, signals, alerts,warnings, and reminders allow the driver to adjust in real-time. Thisinformation is relevant only to driving the car in its current location.Similarly, high-performing organizations know from their journey maps andpersonas which information is critical to share and which distractions toﬁlter out.Identifying Relevant DataHow do organizations know that their workers are receiving the right data?High-performing organizations develop relationships with data expertsacross functions and informally audit the data that is being captured.8Gaining access to cross-functional people metrics requires an outside-inpartnership mindset and an emphasis on building trust with businessleaders.9Qualitative data, such as feedback from peers or managers, is just asvaluable as quantitative data when it comes to augmenting performance.Our High-Impact Performance Management study shows that highperforming organizations provide workers with real-time peer feedbackabout their performance and contributions—helping them understandstrengths and opportunities for improvement.109Copyright 2019 Deloitte Development LLC. All rights reserved. Not for distribution. Licensed material.
Four Practices to Embed Learning in the Flow of WorkCase in Point: Cellular Sales Improves BusinessOutcomes by Sharing Real-Time DataCellular Sales is a mobile device reseller with 5,000 employees across 675locations in North America. The company’s challenge was retainingassociates and providing career growth and incentives. Previous programswere administratively burdensome and did not impact the business.The organization implemented a tool so that associates and managerscan view their performance against nine key performance indicators 24 /7. The system also oﬀers real-time coaching prompts within the tool tohelp them hit their goals. The company saw improved sales where the toolwas in use; they also observed that workers’ engagement in their rolecorrelated to participation in the performance tool. When workers beganusing the tool less frequently, managers would meet to assess if theworker was disengaged.Call to Action Identify and look for ways to leverage the quantitative andqualitative performance data already being collected by yourorganization outside the L&D department.Share people data that relates to functional areas’ operational goals.Share performance data with workers by placing it around theirworkplace (physical) and in the software systems they use(technological).Accelerate Learning Opportunities by PlacingMeaningful Tools and Information in the Flowof WorkHow learning is delivered to workers in the ﬂow of work will impact howmeaningful the learning becomes. High-performing organizationsappropriately stage information, tools, and support. Overwhelmingworkers suddenly with learning opportunities or with inappropriatedelivery methods causes workﬂow to break. In-the-ﬂow approaches occurin four contexts—environment, exposur
According to a recent study 5, two-thirds of respondents prefer to learn at work and nearly one-half prefer to learn at the point of need. Learning in the ﬂow of work extends beyond advances like worker-driven, on-demand learning. High-performing organizations enable workers to ﬁnd the content they need on a learning platform by staging that content when and where they need it. To do this .