Chapter 2: Two-Thirds of Brits Want to Go It Alone—but They Need a Little Help
In this chapter, we focus on how far UK L&D teams have come in implementing learning in the flow of work and offer recommendations on where to go next.
The data in this chapter represents responses from 500 UK employees (learners) and 250 UK L&D decision-makers.
Corporate training: Is Learning in the flow of work a priority for UK L&D leaders?
Over two-thirds of L&D leaders surveyed believe their team is effective in providing corporate training programs at the point of need and 47% say implementing learning in the flow of work is a high priority.
This suggests that many UK L&D leaders consider their learning resources to be available at the right time, however they continue to look for ways to improve.
This is reiterated by how L&D teams currently identify learning needs. The majority of respondents (67%) say learning needs are identified in performance reviews (typically quarterly, six-monthly, or annual basis). There is an opportunity for L&D teams to collect learning needs in real-time, ensuring resources can be provided at the point of need.
When comparing self-assessed priorities against last year’s priorities, we found that a significant number of respondents (27%) report learning in the flow of work to be more of a priority this year than last year, while 58% say it’s the same priority as last year.
This suggests the UK skills crisis is a key driver for learning in the flow of work remaining a priority. L&D leaders have identified point-of-work as a key method of delivery to effectively close skills gaps. This would align with what managers say is the main reason why they recommend L&D training courses to direct reports, “to improve skills for their role” (35%).
What actually helps UK employees do their jobs better?
There’s a good reason why implementing learning in the flow of work solutions should be a high priority—it’s genuinely the best way to support employees in improving the outcomes of their role and most importantly, it’s what learners want. And we have the numbers to prove it.
Peer learning and on-the-job training—two key delivery methods
When we asked learners which types of training they found to be the most effective, “learning from peers” (61%) was the most effective, closely followed by “coaching and mentoring” (59%) and “instructor-led on-the-job training” (53%).
Interestingly, these types of training that include elements of learning in the flow of work were more effective than online learning (eLearning, virtual workshops or massive open online courses [MOOCs]): just 29% of respondents said this training type was effective, despite this being the main type of training learners had received at their current organization.
Just 29% of respondents said this training type was effective, despite this being the main type of training learners had received at their current organization.
Similarly, employees report in-house development programs as one of the main types of training they have received (46%) but only 37% of people say they are effective, showing L&D teams have 63% to improve in how they deliver in-house development programs.
These findings suggest that there is definitely not an absence of training for learners but rather that there is a need for L&D programs to be more relevant and more closely distributed to the point of need to ensure effectiveness. This is supported by a recent Fosway study on digital learning realities which reported that only 1 in 3 organizations support learners' on-the-job learning more than occasionally.
People finally want to learn—but do they have what they need?
It’s good news that there isn’t an absence of training in UK organizations, particularly because our survey shows that people want to pursue learning opportunities—over half of respondents (61%) take advantage of every learning opportunity presented to them, despite learner engagement being a common challenge that repeatedly presents itself for many L&D teams.
Furthermore, when asked what the strongest drivers for learning at work were, 67% say “to help me do my job better” and 63% say for “continuous learning to keep me motivated and confident at work.”
With so much learner motivation, L&D teams have an opportunity to better support employees as they approach unfamiliar situations and challenges while the outcome of this is a key method in improving overall business performance.
Great learning is all about timing
Many of the new challenges we face as learners occur at key stages in our employee journey—stages such as onboarding, becoming a manager, transitioning to a new role, or learning a new system, software, or process. That’s why timing is such a key aspect of getting learning in the flow of work right. So, what did UK learners have to say about getting the right learning resources at the right time?
When it comes to supporting new hires with great onboarding, 31% of respondents say new starters are provided with guidance and support as and when required suggesting learning in the flow of work is present and 22% say they have an extensive onboarding program lasting 90 days. However, 20% say it’s up to line managers to organize onboarding with limited involvement of L&D. This suggests there’s room to improve the consistent delivery UK onboarding support.
While 37% of respondents say new manager development is continuous, 15% say manager training is provided only when there is availability on a management course, and 12% receive training in the weeks after a manager takes on their new role. Just 4% of respondents say their manager training happens in the weeks leading up to the person taking on their new role and 1% say manager training occurs in batches twice yearly.
Just 4% of respondents say their manager training happens in the weeks leading up to the person taking on their new role
These findings suggest that there is a risk that manager training is not being offered at the right time. If a manager receives training in the weeks after they take on the role or worse when there is availability on a course, they are likely to already have faced challenges with no answers on how to deal with situations.
This is reinforced by what managers say about their training. While 55% of managers say their formal training was somewhat easy to apply to their role, 24% say the training came either too early or too late, and a further 42% say it was too generic and not specific enough to the situations they faced in their role as a manager.
This suggests a need for UK L&D teams to better understand the individual’s context and challenges and for learners to access the training before or as and when problems arise.
Barriers to succeeding with flow of work solutions
Our findings suggest that UK L&D leaders are well on their way to more closely supporting employees at the point of need–but there is still room for improvement. This is likely due to the barriers L&D leaders report in implementing learning in the flow of work solutions.
The main challenge in facilitating flow of work comes as no surprise—49% of respondents say limited resources and budget are an issue. The second most cited challenge reported is limited support from leadership—23% say they don’t have buy-in from senior leaders on how L&D structures training programs.
The main challenge in facilitating flow of work comes as no surprise—49% of respondents say limited resources and budget are an issue.
A major element of advancing learning in the flow of work comes down to being able to leverage integrations with learning management systems and business tools like Slack, MS Teams, and Salesforce. But building these integrations takes time and resources, something which L&D teams have less and less of—and 20% of L&D leaders also report limited technology and integration capabilities as a challenge to facilitating learning in the flow of work.
But technology does offer a way for L&D teams to offer a more consistent and impactful flow of work solutions.
Most respondents (63%) learn as they go, making the most of opportunities to speak with people and look things up for themselves. Only 21% schedule time for online learning and 14% commit to a day of training once per year. This demonstrates that L&D teams need to work more closely with learners to provide support as and when they need it as this is the most effective way to fit learning into their schedules.
Only 21% schedule time for online learning and 14% commit to a day of training once per year.
In addition, learners report a lack of time (47%) and training that isn’t offered in a way that fits their workflow (18%) as the two main barriers to learning at work. This again suggests that L&D teams need to grab learners' attention by providing them with solutions to solve an immediate problem as and when they’re carrying out their day-to-day responsibilities.
Is learning at work as accessible as it should be?
L&D leaders should also focus on making learning more accessible. Although 41% of learners say it’s somewhat easy to access learning at work, 83% of learner respondents say they would be very likely or somewhat likely to engage with learning at work if courses were easier to access than they are today.
Similarly, 47% of learners (the highest percentage) also say that if they could learn during work hours and/or their manager helped them offload work, it would encourage them to make more time for learning at work. Furthermore, 31% of respondents also say they’d dedicate more time to learning if it actually helped them to do their job better, reinforcing the requirement for flow of work solutions.
4 Practical recommendations for moving forward
Our survey highlights that guiding and supporting employees at the times they need it (and in the places they need it) is the most effective way to help people perform and get better results.
While we’ve made plenty of progress already, UK L&D leaders have the opportunity to more closely help employees overcome their challenges to thrive in unfamiliar environments and situations. Here, we provide four practical recommendations for moving forward with learning in the flow of work.
- Encourage peer learning: Our survey results reveal that peer learning is the most effective way for employees to learn how to do their job. Promoting a culture of peer learning in your organization contributes to your company’s growth and allows every team member to have an exponential impact on the company.
- Identify learning needs in real time: As part of decentralizing the learning process, organizations need to find ways to identify learning needs in order to fulfill those needs, ideally in the flow of work.
We found that only 23% of respondents have a process of collecting learning needs in their LMS, instead waiting for performance reviews to come round to understand what employees need support with. Gathering learning needs should happen continuously in real-time, so investing in a learning needs tool is well worth it.
- Leverage technology and integrations: L&D leaders should consider building business cases for integrations with business tools such as MS Teams, Salesforce, Slack, and HRIS systems to meet learners where they are and provide resources in the platforms they use daily.
- Get leadership buy-in: Start with a small pilot project that aims to improve the performance of a cohort of learners quickly. The data from this pilot will be critical in gaining approval from senior leadership teams and making learning in the flow of work an ongoing priority.
For more practical recommendations on getting learning in the flow of work right, check out our six-step playbook. You’ll learn:
- What mistakes to avoid
- Why uncovering evergreen problems and critical points of failure using data is the first thing you should do
- How to understand your learners better
- How to leverage subject-matter experts to facilitate learning in the flow of work
- What types of resources work best for flow of work