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Training days aren’t solving the skills gap – employees want “in-the-flow” learning

David James, Chief Learning Officer - 360Learning

Workers across the UK are potentially being held back because of a growing disconnect between their developmental needs and the training being offered by their employers, according to figures from The State of Learning in the Flow of Work in 2022 report*.

At a time of job market volatility, economic instability, a looming recession and a widening skills gap, data from the collaborative learning leader’s latest research has found workers across the UK, Europe and the US are showing an increasing desire to learn and develop – for their own and their business’ benefit. However, a squeeze on time, a lack of resources and ineffective training programmes are creating significant roadblocks.

In particular, the survey of almost 3,000 employees and L&D decision makers across the UK, US, France and Germany found that two stalwarts of corporate training – online learning, and external conferences and workshops – are no longer seen as effective ways to learn in 2022.

Peer support is in, workshops are out
Online learning which includes eLearning, virtual workshops and massive open online courses (MOOCs), was found to be the most common training method offered by 70% of British L&D teams. Yet it was seen as one of the least effective ways to learn by the staff themselves, with less than a third (29%) of respondents citing this method as their preferred training route.  Similarly, external conferences and workshops, as well as in-house programmes (which were the second most common training types after online learning) were only seen as effective by 37% of employees.

At the other end of the scale, training methods that all fall under the “learning in the flow of work” umbrella, however, were found to be most effective at boosting job skills. More than 61% of respondents said that learning from peers is the best way to learn a job, closely followed by coaching and mentoring (59%), and instructor-led, on-the-job training (53%). Despite this, these methods are among the least common training routes taken by businesses across the UK, practiced in fewer than half of all businesses surveyed respectively.

This is creating a mismatch between what L&D teams deem to be working and what employees actually want.

Taking training into their own hands
Faced with a lack of effective, structured training, the survey also revealed that UK employees are largely being left to teach themselves how to do their jobs. More than 47% of respondents said that they don’t have the time, or are too busy to engage in structured, tailored learning at work – despite having a keen desire to do so – and that the only way they’ve found to effectively fit training into their workflow is by learning as they go, either seeking out help or looking things up for themselves. Almost half of these workers (47%) added that the only way they see their learning and development improving is if their manager lightens their workload.

To make matters worse, the data shows that the learning needs of individuals are, in 67% of cases, not identified until performance reviews. A small yet significant 5% of businesses even said they have no measures in place to identify learning needs.

This is seemingly causing a large number (63%) of UK respondents to take training into their own hands; having to learn on the go and look things up themselves in order to effectively fit training into their workflow.

Learning in the flow of work
Founding theorists such as Gloria Gery, Conrad Gottfredson, and Bob Mosher have been practising learning in the flow of work in relation to performance support for over 30 years. The term learning in the flow of work itself was reframed and renamed by Josh Bersin in 2018. He described it ‘as learning that is embedded into the platform in which people work’, so learners can get specific, relevant and tailored training as and when they need it, via platforms that fit in with their existing workflows and systems.

Bersin found that employees who spend time learning at work are 47% less likely to be stressed, and 39% more likely to feel productive and successful than those who do not. This may explain why the employees surveyed by 360Learning viewed training via informal, “in-the-flow” channels to be so overwhelmingly effective, and necessary. Such benefits may also explain why a total of 83% of L&D decision-makers surveyed by 360Learning cite LITFOW as being either the same or more of a priority compared to last year.

The L&D mismatch
Despite the mismatch between the types of training that are common and those which are seen as most effective, 72% of the L&D decision-makers surveyed said they consider the training their business provides to be effective at the point of need. This suggests that, while there isn’t an absence of training for learners, the perceived benefits of the different types is lacking. L&D teams, therefore, have the opportunity to make programmes more relevant and impactful, without the need for them to stretch resources further than they are today.

Encouragingly, it appears their staff are also keen to grasp such opportunities. The survey findings show there is a strong desire (among 61% of staff) to take advantage of any and all learning programmes, both in order to be better at their jobs (67%) and to keep themselves motivated (63%). This is a positive trend to note from the 360Learning report because it hasn’t always been the case. For many L&D teams across the globe, learner engagement has historically been seen as a common challenge that repeatedly presents itself.

Global Learning in the Flow of Work trends
Across the wider Europe and US data, 58% of all respondents said they take advantage of and seek out every learning opportunity they can. L&D decision makers across all the countries surveyed placed LITFOW as a mid-high priority for the year ahead. The effectiveness of LITFOW programmes was confirmed by 7 out of 10 of these respondents.

Similarly, decision makers across all countries blamed limited resources and budget for holding them back from being able to fully facilitate this shift. As well, all employees agreed that the most effective way to fit learning into schedules is by learning as they go, making the most of opportunities to speak with people and look things up for themselves. This confirms the UK findings that more formal and organised learning is less effective.

German and British respondents said they are too busy to learn at work. French respondents feel the training offered isn’t relevant to their job, and American respondents said there’s nothing stopping them from learning at work. However, respondents from all countries said they would make more time for learning if they could off-load work.

David James, Chief Learning Officer at 360Learning, said: “Our UK and global surveys prove that, while time and resources remain tight and creating the right learning outcomes continues to be difficult, employees have a strong desire for personal and professional development. This is one of the hardest parts of the battle won. Shifting to more immediate, in-the-moment guidance and support is not only seen as the preferred route for many employees, and a priority for L&D teams according to our results, but it’s been shown to have a huge range of benefits for both the individuals and businesses themselves. 360Learning was founded because we know how impactful collaborative and tailored corporate learning and development can be and the results from our survey show that this is a shared ideal. Now we just need to get everyone on the same page.”

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