Learning In The Flow Of Work: Arriving Now

Several months ago I started writing about Learning in The Flow Of Work, an idea based on many trends in the workforce today. (video details below.) Well, I want to give you an update: a lot of progress is happening.

On the technology side, almost every learning vendor is now adding tools to support this paradigm. Filtered is providing learning recommendations via chat. Braidio is delivering workstreams to curate learning. LinkedIn now has live recommendations of learning as you read. Udemy has announced a plugin for Workplace by Facebook. And almost every learning provider is looking at integrations for Salesforce, Office365, and Slack.

Where is all this going?  Let me give you an example using a series of announcements just made this week.

Replacing the Learning Portal: EdCast announced deep integration with Office 365, Salesforce, ServiceNow, and Slack.

EdCast is one of the hot companies in the fast-growing category of Learning Experience Platforms. As I discussed in a prior article, the company’s platform integrates, recommends, and curates all types of information (training, documents, digital assets, people), then recommends and arranges them into learning paths. 

Let me show you what they’ve done. Imagine you have a product like EdCast which has indexed and categorized all the learning programs in your LMS. And you then connect it to LinkedIn Learning, SkillSoft, Harvard Manage Mentor, and all your other content providers. Has EdCast just become your new learning portal?

Well yes, you could set it up that way, and that’s the traditional approach most companies take. Now the LXP has become the front-end to learning, and it’s much more engaging with its iTunes-like interface. But it’s still a learning destination, and you have to have time to go use it. And people don’t have a lot of time.

As I wrote about in the article “Heavy Learners Are Happier Than Their Peers” , the new research I just completed with LinkedIn shows that people don’t spend much time “learning” at work (only 7% spend more than a few hours a week), and they’re quite overwhelmed with emails and messages. So it’s actually hard to make time to go to the “learning portal,” no matter how great it is.

What about a different approach? What if the learning appeared in your “systems of productivity” like Office 365, Salesforce, ServiceNow, or Slack? Thanks to the AI and machine learning interface in EdCast (or another LXP), the content you need is now automatically “recommended” and “displayed” right as you work, based on the text you type or conversations you have. 

Suppose you’re building a PowerPoint presentation about student loans?  You can look up a small micro-learning course on the market as you build the slides. Or suppose you’re chatting with your manager in Slack about the best way to run a meeting? A micro-learning video on leadership could appear. Or let’s say you’re in your company’s HR portal and you’re a case in ServiceNow to get your PC battery fixed? A video on how to upgrade it could appear.

Sounds like magic, doesn’t it.

Well, now it’s possible. Take a look at what these vendors have done:

Learning Integrated with Office365 (EdCast)

Learning Integrated with Slack (EdCast)

Learning Integrated With Salesforce (EdCast)

Learning Integrated with Microsoft Teams (Filtered)

This Is Just The Beginning

There is a lot more to come. Microsoft and LinkedIn are working on integrations like this to bring LinkedIn Learning content right into the Office experience. SkillSoft has a plugin for Chrome that displays learning content while you type into the browser. 

And Microsoft is coming on strong. While I was in Europe recently several of the CLOs I met with told me they are standardizing on Office 365 and Microsoft Teams.  Guess what. Every one of them is trying to figure out how to make Microsoft Teams into an integrated learning experience. 

I’m not saying that learning management systems, learning portals, and online academies are going away. Not at all. But the writing is on the wall:  many of these platform vendors have to learn to integrate, display, and intelligently recommend their content in these real “systems of productivity.” Because that’s where we spend our time.

And this means also displaying and recommending content in the performance management system, compensation and benefits system, and just about every other employee-facing system we use.

The real key will be intelligently recommending the right content to each user in a personalized way. Should the system locate content that matches text? Should the system know your role and tenure? Should it recommend content based on your personal activity history? These are the things companies like EdCast, Filtered, and others are working on – making learning ever-more relevant in the flow of work.

What Algorithms To Use: How Do We Make Content Relevant?

A key part of this new market is making content most relevant for each user. This is tricker than it may seem.

I had a long talk with the engineering lead for Facebook’s ad serving technology and he told me there are thousands of rules that decide what ad you see at various points in time within Facebook.  Google has similar algorithms in the recommendation engine for YouTube and its search ads. Is this essentially the same problem?

Absolutely not. Remember, as I discussed in the last article on the topic, learning is not a problem of enticing you to consume more (advertising clearly is). Rather it’s a problem of getting you to consume less! We want the learning and support materials to be so perfectly targeted that we immediately look at them, learn, and go back to work. 

And there are other issues to consider. I recently met with 50+ L&D execs in life sciences and pharmaceuticals and some of them are very concerned about non-validated or unverified content being distributed to sales or clinicians. Will you want to check and test all the content that’s delivered? I know some organizations will.

It’s going to take some nifty AI, lots of data, and innovative thinking to find ways to do this well. But I see it coming soon. Vendors like EdCast, LinkedIn, SkillSoft, Axonify, Instructure, SAP, Cornerstone, and many others are working hard at this, and I think it will be here sooner than you think.

Stay Tuned

Next month I’ll be launching the research report HR Technology Market 2019 with more information on this technology more. Register here for more information and stay tuned.

As always I would love to hear your comments, examples, and experiences with Learning in the Flow of Work.