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RedThread’s Research Rings True: In the Age of Disruption, Learning Needs to Get Agile

Roberta Gogos
Jan 05 2022

Alpha, Beta, Delta and now Omicron: you’d not be blamed for having visions of a Greek tragedy colliding with an episode of the Transformers, but to businesses, it just spells one thing: constant and unpredictable disruption. On the plus side, disruption has been a catalyst to a new age of innovation, operational resilience and a wave of acceptance and change as businesses face up to many hard truths. 

Perhaps one of the hardest truths is that learning and development hasn’t been working as well as most companies would like to admit, nor has it been boosting the bottom line in the way that L&D-driven performance should. 

Beyond that, continual disruption is exposing the cracks in many companies’ L&D strategies: the pandemic has forced most L&D functions to bin formal, in-person learning, and to try and get learning online as quickly as possible. In many cases, this move failed as companies have realised that swapping in-person courses for online course-based learning isn’t working.

There have been many lessons learned, and our friends at RedThread Research have been leading the way in delving into the key trends surrounding learning methods during this time of unparalleled disruption. Their new report, Next-gen learning methods: What to use, how to choose, and when to cut them loose explores how companies are leveraging learning methods in different ways to help employees develop. 

What we like best is how well RedThread’s research complements much of the research we’re doing here at Fuse, as well as our in-flow focused approach to learning-driven performance. Read on to hear more about the synergy our recommendations are producing with future-focused learning leaders today.

L&D is struggling to swap courses for real-time learning

Bet that got your attention, right? It’s actually the top headline that came out of our most recent research study, where we polled 250 senior L&D and HR leaders across the UK and US. Our shows that many organisations are struggling to replace legacy courses with the modern business demand for real-time learning.

It’s a big issue, because as RedThread discovered in its research, formal course-led learning hasn’t (for the most part) supported the ways employees learn for some time now. As report authors Heather Gilmartin Adams and Dani Johnson put it: “survey after survey has shown that employees learn more through the informal stuff—and therefore rely more on it—than the heavy, expensive courses L&D functions have tended to focus on.”

What they call ‘the informal stuff’ is what we call ‘in-flow learning.’ It’s quick learning in the flow of work, and it allows employees to apply knowledge at the point of need. It’s also shown time and time again through successful Fuse customers that it’s got the power to boost productivity, performance, and profitability.

How in-flow learning works hand-in-hand with the logistics of the new ways of working

We often write about our passion for the effectiveness of in-flow learning. Whether it’s Fuse founder and president Steve Dineen talking about The Power of Knowledge at the Point of Need, or Fuse CEO Luke Oubridge talking about Why You Need to Flip Your L&D Budget on its Head (to strike a better balance between out-of-flow and in-flow learning) - we’re big believers in our learning approach. 

However, an area we haven’t covered before and which RedThread does beautifully in its next-gen learning methods report is how well in-flow learning is suited as a learning approach in today’s new ways of working. Whether we’re talking hybrid, remote, or a flexible working environment, one thing is for certain: traditional course-led learning isn’t adaptable or flexible enough to cater to anything but a 100% in-person workforce. 

The reality is that (as according to RedThread) it’s also not agile or responsive enough, and in today’s unpredictable and rapidly changing world, learning has to be able to pivot on the spot and keep up with upskilling and reskilling initiatives. It needs to be continuous and several steps ahead of the disruptive landscape we’re living in. 

With in-flow learning at their fingertips, employees are well positioned to flex and adapt as necessary, but the harsh reality is that most companies aren’t lining their employees up for success in this area. Our own research found that despite 92% of respondents agreeing that access to knowledge on demand is a key driver for business performance, as many as 40% of organisations are still working to course-led learning strategies, and just 4% are leading with real-time learning on the job. 

In the age of disruption, it’s time to pull out the stops to do what it takes to become agile. The new ways of working are here to stay.

An employee development framework for agility

We’re big fans of RedThread’s Employee Development Framework (pages 10-38 of the report) and what struck us more than anything is how well the framework lends itself to agility in learning. 

RedThread describes the framework as: “the behaviours orgs should be enabling in their employees in order to have a solid learning culture. We use this framework to make sense of the world of employee development and to help leaders identify any gaps they should be paying attention to.”

The Employee Development Framework shows that L&D functions should focus their time on enabling employees to: 

  • Plan: Understand their career options and the development they’ll need to get them where they want to go
  • Discover: Find the opportunities and content that will help them develop the knowledge and skills they need to take their career in the direction they want
  • Consume: Easily access relevant learning content—a challenging feat, given the amount of content available
  • Experiment: Practice new knowledge and skills on the job; try, fail, and learn from that failure
  • Connect: Learn from one another to gain new knowledge and skills
  • Perform: Learn on the job and improve performance at the same time

The framework really works for us on two levels: firstly, it reflects the value we hold in our approach to learning, where employees should be able to easily find and use knowledge that is personalised to their learning paths and goals. It maps well to some research we ran not long ago with Brandon Hall, where we explored the idea of why personalised learning in the flow of work is critical for business success

The framework also highlights the value we hold in social learning, which is a fundamental pillar of Fuse. Social learning is at the heart of engagement, and at Fuse, it’s at the heart of learning and development as well. Both our Joules and Seasalt case studies really show the importance of social learning, especially amid lockdown conditions. 

However, what the framework also highlights, and what we’ve begun to really value in this new reality we’re all working in, is just how important it is to have all of these elements working together in order to gain the new knowledge and skills you may need at the drop of a hat. Our own research tells us that the most important success factors for upskilling on the job, are the ability to find and share knowledge (68%), followed by access to learning in the flow of work (58%.) 

These are only a few of many, many key takeaways from this brilliant report. We encourage you to download it today and share it with your colleagues to see if your current learning methods are working for you. What you may learn that could help your organisation to improve the results it’s reaping from L&D. A little agility is likely to go a long way, and if you need a bit of help in getting started, reach out for a chat today. 

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