In today’s fast-paced workplace, we want to know things immediately, things that match our needs just as they arise, and then we want to go do something about the know-how we just got a few seconds ago. Not surprisingly, search engines have become our go-to channel for that: research has shown that more than 70% of employees will use online searches, first before anything else, to learn what they need on the job¹. And increasingly, mobile devices are our preferred tools: reseach shows that 91% of smartphone users will use their devices to help them carry out their tasks at work².
So turning to search engines and even other online resources like YouTube, has emerged as a self-directed learning habit commonly found in the workplace. It’s often easier than getting hold of the right colleague to help you out, and we don’t have to leave the workflow to get the answers we’re looking for.
Does training match real-world needs?
There’s great potential here for companies to provide training resources to fuel these existing habits, in order to achieve business outcomes such as improving performance and productivity on the job.
This is because while a lot of companies do provide training through workshops, elearning courses, on-the-job etc., there is typically a gap when employees are confronted with a moment of need – where they have to learn something new or recall specific knowledge that meets a situation they face at work. For instance, remembering how to complete a certain transaction on the POS system.
At the same time, although web searches will give them answers, employees are also presented with an overload of them. How would an employee be able to pick out the best practice from a dozen articles of best practices, and where would they find the time to do so? They’ll eventually go with the quick-fix solution that might end up not matching the company’s standards.
What should businesses do?
Firstly, I think it’s in order for businesses to capitalize on existing learning habits than trying to introduce new ones. And there are several broad strategies we can use to tap into these learning habits, which includes the following:
Microlearning refers to learning in short and effective segments. So instead of a 45 minute online course, think about providing relevant and useful chunks of information that people can quickly absorb in 2 or 3 minute sessions. They can be provided in a variety of formats like short videos, audio clips, quizzes, articles, charts, infographics, slideshows or gifs.
People have their phones on them all the time, and it’s this ubiquity that enables companies to make it convenient for them to distribute and for their employees to access learning content, wherever they are and in the point in which they need to. If employees can’t access content on-the-move, than it’s high chance they’re not going to access it at all.
Unleashing employee experts
The internet provides us access will all kinds of experts, but their expertise may not necessarily match what your company needs, and the advice might even conflict with company standards and values. So a key to consistency in performance boils down to making internal knowledge-sharing as easy as it would be outside the organisation in the online world. Providing digital tools that make it easy for your experts inside the company to share and collaborate.