Over the last decade, technological disruption has shortened the half-life of professional skills. Critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills reportedly last five years while technical skills become obsolete even faster. The pandemic has accelerated this trend. As many as 375 million workers (14% of the global workforce) will need new skills by 2030. 

These statistics tell a clear story: upskilling your workforce is a business imperative. 

But accepting this fact isn’t enough. If you want to remain competitive, learning can’t be separate from work. You need to provide opportunities for employees to learn in the flow of work — in the exact moment when they need to answer a question or develop a new skill. 

Here are four ideas to start incorporating learning into the flow of work in your company. 

Workplace learning idea #1: Establish norms to reinforce learning at work 

Learning is simply part of the job now for everyone. Managers need to feel comfortable setting aside time for their own learning — and encouraging their employees to do the same. While this takes some initial adjustment, everyone may be surprised to discover how much they enjoy learning and how quickly it contributes to their sense of purpose

Here are a few ways managers can establish norms around learning at work.

Workplace learning idea #2: Align learning with performance conversations 

Beyond weaving learning into employees’ daily routines, make learning an ongoing subject of conversation among managers, teams, and individuals. It can be incredibly motivating to hear about your colleagues’ learning accomplishments and challenges. These conversations inform managers about what skills their employees possess, which skills the team needs to scale up on, and what opportunities or new projects are possible based on the team’s capabilities. Here are a few ideas for soft skills learning that are relevant throughout the employee lifecycle. 

G – What are your goals

R – What is your reality in relation to your goals? 

O – What options do you have, given your reality? 

W – What specific actions will you commit to?

Workplace learning idea #3: Move away from programmatic and episodic learning 

The traditional approach to workplace learning can be described as “programmatic.” It involves a set schedule that rotates a group of employees through specific training modules. With employees distributed across the globe and learning demands that pop up at any time, this approach no longer works. 

A more appropriate approach puts employees in charge of their own learning. They get access to content like on-demand online courses that they can fit into their schedule. You can still supplement these courses with in-person workshops or blended courses and discussions. 

L&D should be moving in this direction: helping people get in front of their learning needs.

Workplace learning idea #4: Create the time and space for learning at work 

Access to on-demand learning is critical, but it’s not enough. Employees must have the time and space to learn. In fact, 54% of employees said having more time to learn at work would motivate them to learn.

One way to do this is by creating a company-wide block of time where everyone is expected to focus on learning. This could be a set time each week or month. Employees choose how to spend their time, such as taking an online learning course or participating in a group discussion. Everyone can set their email and chat to “do not disturb” to minimize distractions. 

In an office setting, you can create a dedicated learning space like the “quiet car” on a commuter train where everyone refrains from talking, silences their phones, and maintains a sense of peace and calm. In a virtual setting, employees can set themselves up for success by ensuring all other applications are closed and their phone is out of sight.

Keep pace with the accelerating changes to work

The pace of technological change isn’t slowing down. McKinsey finds that it’s accelerating due to the pandemic. In the US alone, around 17 million people may need to transition to new jobs by 2030. 

You can help your employees prepare for the future by making learning a part of everyday work. Need some help developing a roadmap to navigate the challenging road ahead? Discover how innovative HR and L&D leaders are building a stronger foundation for the future in Fast Forward 2021: Why the Future of Work Needs to Be Meaningful.