Is the Future of Workplace Learning Agile?
The traditional approach to learning and development is out of date and doesn’t account for the changing nature of work. To stay ahead of the competition, learning and development (L&D) leaders must adopt an agile approach to training. That means modernizing their solutions to deliver training programs at the speed of business.
An agile learning approach keeps employees’ skills fresh with learning content that aligns with the market’s rapid changes. Look at many successful businesses today and you’ll see a common thread: they have an agile learning culture. For employees to feel empowered to learn, you must give them access to the resources they need, especially as those needs change and evolve.
Agile learning is an imperative for workplace learning
The techniques that enable learning agility — speed and flexibility to change — are central to ensuring employees can develop the skills they need now. How does agile learning compare to traditional workplace learning methods?
- Agile learning is stickier: The biggest appeal of agile learning is that L&D leaders can break lessons down into small chunks, spaced out over time. Research from Harvard Medical School shows that a staggered approach to learning helped medical students and residents filter out irrelevant information while improving overall learning and promoting long-lasting retention.
- Flipping the classroom boosts continuous learning: Before employees start a new training program, assign online courses that introduce new and related concepts as pre-work. Agile learning allows teams to reduce overall classroom learning time. Group class time can then focus on role-playing practices or other hands-on activities.
- Agile learning is more time-efficient: Instead of weeks-long training in a classroom and away from their other priorities, online learning allows employees to consume bite-sized learning on the go. This type of learning also isn’t tied to a schedule. No need to wait for a scheduled class session, learning can start as soon as employees need it.
7 steps to creating an agile learning environment
As you develop your approach to building an agile learning culture in your company, consider these seven steps based on research from Gartner.
Step #1: Use a learner-centric approach
L&D leaders should center training opportunities on the ones doing the learning — the employees. Let employees create their own upskilling goals. Then, allow them to plan their workdays so that they’re meeting their professional and learning goals.
Step #2: Give employees permission to learn
You’ll find many employees welcome the opportunity to learn new skills, while others will resist. L&D leaders must signal the value of learning for both the employee’s career growth as well as the business’s future success. A company culture that embraces agile learning offers employees explicit permission to take time to learn. Managers should work with their employees to identify learning needs and even help them make room in their schedules to learn.
Step #3: Offer on-demand microlearning
To sidestep the challenge of employees not finding time to learn, offer on-demand learning resources in short formats. “The ability to self-pace,” Gartner notes, “[and] revisit key concepts during a point of need or combine with other content into effective learning pathways make agile learning possible.” For learning teams that lack the support to make content themselves, many online learning providers offer micro-learning content and customizable learning paths.
Step #4: Repurpose existing internal training
You don’t need to start a training program from scratch. Adapt your company’s existing programs to your learners’ needs. Edit down a course into short modules to offer microlearning. Or, if your employees are working from home right now, rethink group learning programs as pre-recorded on-demand videos.
Step #5: Blend content, coaching, and experiential learning
Gartner finds that effective agile learning is a blend of microlearning, coaching, and on-the-job experience. Promote social learning by pairing learners with peers who have demonstrated expertise in a subject. Have your internal experts offer shadowing sessions, recorded Q&As, or group coaching to others.
Step #6: Cultivate communities of practice
Build off of the coaching ideas from the last step and encourage employees to regularly share experiences and teach one another. When learners feel supported they’ll be more confident with their skills and ready to weave their training into their work.
Step #7: Embed microlearning in the flow of work
In an agile learning environment, learning is available whenever possible. Short learning sessions as an employee needs it allows them to apply their learnings and help transform the business.
Take your agile L&D program to the next level
Agile learning is a must for the modern workplace and learner. Once an agile learning culture is built, the right tools and practices allow it to continuously evolve with ease.
Now, time to build that agile learning culture. Follow the framework from our Train Up Your Team with a Skills Academy book to build a program where employees receive in-depth training that supports their career growth and your company’s long-term strategy.