Collaboration, communication, and integration - learning in the flow of work

It has been 4 years since Josh Bersin introduced the concept of ‘learning in the flow of work’. Is it fair to say that the impact of the pandemic on learning and work has moved us on considerably to making ‘learning in the flow of work’ a reality?

Since 2019 companies have been seen to embrace the use of collaborative tools such as MS Teams, Zoom, and Google Slack to facilitate remote working. Reports indicate that MS Teams has around 115 million daily active users and a Slack report shows around 12 million active daily users are engaging with the platform for around 90 minutes a day.

Technology has proved to be a genuine enabler in the work and learning environment, where employees can collaborate and communicate as and when they need to.

From a development perspective, employees often run into situations where they need new information to support their workflow. The use of collaborative tools enables people to access support and knowledge to learn in the flow of work. It also enables them to make more informed decisions faster because they have access to what they need when they need it.

As learning professionals, if we embrace this concept, what are the implications and challenges?

Learning management system v collaborative tools

Employees’ expectations are shifting to being able to learn and access resources as and when they need them. Training available on learning management systems is often viewed as a ‘bolt-on’ to the working day, leading to a sense of frustration about work that is not done while hours are spent completing compliance training. Chasing the 100% completion rate for eLearning becomes a task in itself for learning professionals. The target is often impossible to achieve because compliance training can be categorized by the employee as ‘important but not urgent’ (see Eisenhower’s decision matrix). So how can we respond to the learner that has a need that is ‘important and urgent’? Particularly as this is where engagement will be at its optimum level.

Learner-led learning

Make your learning portal easy to use. Employees are frequently looking for information, so make your learning portal user-friendly and useful. If there are barriers to accessing what employees are looking for, they will go to Google and YouTube looking for answers. If this is the reality in your workplace, you have little to no control over the quality of the information that is being accessed and used.

Create a video content library. On average, people want to spend no more than 5 minutes looking for and accessing the answers they need, so make resources easy to use, easy to find, and relevant. People go to YouTube for a reason – research shows that video is the preferred medium of choice for bite-size learning. Embrace this and create a video content library with validated and engaging material. See Lime Vine for examples.

Consider a chatbot. Adding a chat layer could be an effective way to combine learning with work. The more intelligent the chatbot – the more useful it will be. This will also provide information on what people are looking for. Useful internal resources can be developed off the back of this information.

Use technology to enable organic learning. For example, an article or a video about negotiating complex contracts that was shared between two managers could be shared across the wider workforce using a collaborative tool. The key to success is having resources that are easily accessible and easily searchable.

Corporate-led learning

Which tool do people use most frequently? Is it your SharePoint or another intranet site, is it Yammer or other social messaging tool, or is it email? Wherever people go this is where bite-sized learning can be delivered. Encourage naturally active sharers and influencers to post and promote new content. If those contributions come from senior leaders, this will promote the message that learning is central to business operations.

Place learning in the inbox. Email is still an essential tool in an employee’s day. So, although it’s an unglamorous solution, the sparing use of personalised emails may be the most effective way to deliver learning to your employees during their working days.


Learning in the flow of work is one of the most powerful levers available to businesses today. It is an exciting new wave of innovation that can be embraced by leaders who are willing to change systems, processes, and culture in order to lift the capability of their workforce.

According to research from Deloitte, organisations that implement learning in the flow of work regularly experience greater business outcomes because they are better able to adapt to changes in the environment.

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