What Learning in the Flow of Life Means for L&D

A new term has arrived on the digital learning and HR scene – ‘’learning in the flow of life’’ – a concept to describe the ease by which a person might be able to gain new knowledge or skills during his or her quotidian routine. This is a recurring theme in the workplace as training and L&D has become a top priority for many modern organizations.

Those in the HR industry understand the demands for upskilling and reskilling are on the rise in order to keep up with evolving technology and an ever-changing work landscape. According to the annual Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum, within the next three years, more than half of the entire global workforce will require upskilling and reskilling on any given level;  this means the need for continuous learning on the job is critical to business success unlike ever before. This shift is also causing the HR sector to change the way employees learn on the job. But what does this new term, “learning in the flow of life,” really mean, and how can it help to achieve continuous learning on the job and throughout our daily lives?

why learning in the flow of life is important for business

What is ”learning in the flow of life” and what does it mean for L&D?

Learning in the flow of life, a term made popular by Deloitte, is a new idea which recognizes that in order for learning to be successful and really “stick,” it must be designed to fit into people’s daily lives – both at work and outside of it. Think of it as a way of learning, rather than a type of learning. The goal here is for continuous learning to be seamlessly integrated into both the time we spend at work and our personal time – for instance, playing quick, fun games on our mobile devices that test our vocabulary in a new language, and being able to do this during those “fringe hours” when we’re waiting in line for coffee, or on the train to work – rather than having learning be seen as an extra chore added to an already long list of to-do’s at the office.

An increasing number of HR professionals are leaning towards training their existing talent rather than hiring new talent. The Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum also found that when it comes to addressing skills gaps, two-thirds of survey respondents expect workers to adapt and be reskilled or upskilled and pick up new skills as their jobs demand. In the same report, employers also indicated that they are focused on prioritizing reskilling and upskilling as part of their L&D strategy. Clearly, lifelong learning is not only a necessity in our personal lives, but also in our careers. This means that for reskilling and upskilling to truly take shape and be successful, continuous learning and learning in the flow of life will need to be adapted and embraced as part of company culture, and not simply as another type of learning.

work performance and learning in the flow of life

Why is learning in the flow of life important for business?

According to Deloitte’s annual Global Human Capital Trends report, the opportunity to learn is also among the top reasons job seekers accept one job offer over another. Research from LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Trends also shows that talent developers, people managers and executives agree that training for soft skills and improving leadership and communication skills are the most important skills for employees to learn from L&D programs, and the top focus for talent development teams. The same report also found that 94 percent of employees surveyed would stay with their current employers if these companies invested in employee career development through continuous learning and training.

As Learning Management Systems (LMS) and other software applications have been introduced in the workplace and helped to improve general access to information, they have also created an overwhelming amount of content, with specific pieces becoming increasingly difficult to find. In most cases, your LMS may be overflooded with informational materials and employees may want to learn, but not have the time – or lose motivation – because sifting through all this content is exhausting and time-consuming. Already, the average worker spends a large and unnecessary amount of time sifting through emails, being distracted by calls or chats, and so on; so to make access to relevant and helpful learning content be difficult and non-intuitive, will understandably result in loss of interest for would-be learners. In fact, research by Nintex found that on average, workers in America waste two and a half hours per day searching for information. That’s precious time being wasted ever single day that could be better spent on learning and training, to upskill and reskill your workforce.

making time for learning in the flow of life

Make time for learning

Through good design thinking and by delivering personalized learning experiences, tailored to truly fit each learner, learning in the flow of work and life is possible. Let’s take a deeper look into how you can begin incorporating this idea into your learning strategy and ultimately make it part of your company culture long-term.

Keep in mind that workers want to learn but do not have extra time to do so. Make learning as easy as possible for your learners by saving them time and delivering content that is both relevant and easy to find. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Know your content and categorize it; harness the power of macro and microlearning.

Some workers may only have five minutes to devote to learning and training while others may have half an hour or more. Save your learners some time and categorize your content into two categories – macrolearning and microlearning. This way, learners know how much time they will need to devote to learning ahead of beginning a lesson, and therefore a better chance at completing each learning session they start, as they’ve already budgeted time for this. Expose your learners to learning material that will help them develop skills and understand new ideas over time, through steady and spaced repetition. According to the Ebbinghaus Theory, learners can retain about 75% of what they learn but will lose it within a month and only retain 10% if they do not regularly review their learning materials. This is where the term ‘’use it or lose it’’ comes into play. For learning to stick, it must be continuous.

In case it’s helpful, here are also quick definitions of macro and microlearning:

Macrolearning: This type of learning focuses on a larger topic or field that can be broken down into subfields. Macrolearning may take longer than microlearning, but this type of learning is able to provide a bigger picture of any given topic and can be completed as part of an entire learning series. This is perfect for when workers know ahead of time that they need to tackle a bigger subject and have a bit more time to learn.

Microlearning: Microlearning is a subset of macrolearning. It comprises quick bursts of learning and focuses on specific skills or pieces of information. These small chunks of information should be easily and quickly accessible, especially through mobile delivery so that learners can learn on-the-go and save time, or use their time efficiently and learn each chance they have five or ten minutes to spare.

Check out these 5 myths on microlearning.

learning in the flow of life with microlearning
  1. Optimize content for mobile delivery and encourage use of mobile learning. The modern learner is overwhelmed and easily distracted, but also eager to learn whenever the opportunity may arise – whether that’s while waiting at the airport, during a daily commute, or on lunch breaks. Workers need the ability to learn on-the-go, anytime and anywhere. This is especially true for millennials and Gen Z, and it’s worth noting that these cohorts will make up over 59% of the global workforce by 2020. In a Speexx Exchange survey where 1,000 HR professionals were asked, ‘In your view, what is hampering the implementation of mobile learning?’ 17% of respondents said one of their barriers is that they have no BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy. Remove this barrier and your workers will have more time and opportunities to learn throughout the day, both in their personal lives and at work – properly learning in the flow of life.
  1. Make learning part of your company culture from day one. Company culture is something shared, and it’s also something unique and varies tremendously from one organization to the next. Training and L&D programs, then, should also be unique and aligned to fit each organization. Be sure to help employees understand the “why” behind certain lessons and trainings – for overall company performance, business objectives, and their own career development. When the idea of continuous learning is introduced from the moment an employee receives onboarding and is encouraged throughout his or her career, while being tied to performance, learning in the flow of life can be embraced and successfully implemented.

About the Author:

Christina Quintanilla is a Content Marketing Manager for Speexx in Munich, the world’s leading online language learning and business communication skills training service.