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Lessons about learning in work life after the pandemic

The pandemic has forever changed our working day. For many of us, for example, teleworking from a home office is no longer just a flexible opportunity that the employer provides but a normal part of our working day. A survey from Oslo Met shows that just over 50% want to work from home two days a week or more. The home office will be the primary workplace for many, perhaps without any permanent office space to alternate. This change leads to greater flexibility in where employees can live, and new words such as "workation" also suggest exciting opportunities to mix holiday travel and work.


What similar changes are we taking with us in the way we learn?

When many of us were forced to work remotely from home, our colleagues were no longer as easily accessible. What kind of change did this lead to? For those organizations that had already started with Workflow learning or Performance support using an EPSS (Electronic Performance Support System), there was no drastic change. They had already acquired a digital colleague or digital coach who was always on hand to guide employees when it would otherwise have been natural to ask a colleague for help or look for answers in folders in the office.

Dear children have many names; Workflow learning, Performance support, digital colleague or digital coach. These are all concepts that have been used for a few years, but which during the pandemic have been given new life as solutions to some of the most challenging situations that working life was exposed to when the pandemic hit us. How do we ensure that learning and knowledge transfer are utilized in such a significant change in everyday work?


Person-independent critical knowledge

There's been a sense of security for the people who have had essential knowledge within their organization, an insurance and guarantee for their value in working life. But for organizations, it can be risky to let people "own" knowledge that everyone benefits from and needs. What happens if, for various reasons, this person is no longer as close and available, like during the pandemic? What happens if the person is suddenly not available at all because you change jobs, get sick or go on leave?

Most of us who have had specific knowledge in a work area, for example, as superusers in a system, have probably also experienced how much time it can take off our working day to answer questions and help others in the system. Therefore, it is suitable for both the organization and the employee to document the knowledge and make it easily accessible to all employees to access it digitally when they need it. It is important not only to make the knowledge available but also to make it independent of the person.


Saves time - in the flow of work

Learning at work has, for most people, been synonymous with attending courses and more comprehensive educations. Although many have undergone a digital shift where physical education in classrooms has been replaced by e-learning or NanoLearning, it still means that learning requires you to interrupt your work and focus only on the course for a limited time. However, the Ebbinghaus oblivion curve shows how the knowledge we take with us from a course decreases quite drastically shortly after completion. For many years, the 70-20-10 model has emphasized that the central part of what we learn at work is through more informal channels and when we need to acquire knowledge about tasks we are faced with.

The man behind the method 5 Moments of Learning Need, the educator Conrad Gottfredson talks about the difference between learning during the working day and learning in the working day. By moving learning directly to the workflow (Workflow learning), you achieve benefits in several different ways, and employees do not have to shift focus from productive work while learning. The benefits of learning are more significant when there is a short distance from learning to practice, and you save time when employees do not have to interrupt work to ask a colleague or take a more prolonged course to get answers.

Research shows that it takes at least 30 minutes to regain focus for a task when interrupted. Workflow learning means that the knowledge must be a maximum of 2 clicks and 10 seconds away from the job task you are working on, and the teaching must focus on explaining precisely what you need to know for the job task with which you are stuck. The available knowledge should answer the question: "How do I do it?". Then the employee can keep their focus on what they were working on.

Researcher and author Josh Bersin writes about learning in the workflow as a paradigm shift. He describes how it is important to spend as little time as possible finding the knowledge itself, "learn, apply the knowledge and return to work". A survey from LinkedIn shows that most employees report that they generally feel that they have too little time in their working day. Therefore, they want to learn at their own pace, in the workflow and preferably only when the knowledge is needed. This is compatible with how we behave outside of working life. Do you know someone who quite quickly googles for an answer when they are wondering about something in their spare time?


A new way to learn

For many organizations, the pandemic has led to a new approach to learning. Compared to other events, this change was considerably different. Education has often been one of the first aspects that have been reduced in an organization during a crisis, but it was critical to reaching out with knowledge this time. Many were thrown into a digital transformation carousel that the organization was not really ready for. In addition, there was a new dimension. Now you could no longer just create a course to solve the problem; you needed to involve HR or the education department and ask the question - how do we solve competence problems when everyone works remotely?

The solution was to move learning to the workflow itself and make it available exactly where and when the employees needed it. Knowledge owners and employees who had essential knowledge had to share and make the knowledge available digitally, maintain and keep it updated, for example, in an EPSS. In this way, an ecosystem and a democratization of the flow of knowledge arises, bringing relief to those who have the knowledge and making it available to those who need it - exactly when and where they need it.


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The Author

At the blog, we share inspiration and knowledge about digital learning and Performance Support, and inspiring cases from our customers.

Feel free to contact the author if you have questions or want to discuss the article.

Morten Spaniland InfoCaption

Morten Spaniland