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Today's employees report they can only dedicate 1 percent—24 minutes—of their work week exclusively to training and development. However, as digital technology evolves, learning and development opportunities will become more accessible, thereby enabling employees to build new skills on the job rather than in a classroom.

Learning opportunities present themselves to employees every day, often in ways that may not seem obvious, such as asking a co-worker a question, referencing an online manual or watching a YouTube clip. “In reality, we are always talking to our peers and managers, we're on Twitter reading and watching content, or listening to podcasts—informal learning is actually happening all the time," says Elvis Ha, manager of product management at Cornerstone OnDemand.

By making learning as seamless as possible in employee's lives, you can ensure employees develop the skills they need to thrive and lead the organization into the future. Here are three trends that are helping to further blend the worlds of learning and work.

1) The Power of Informal Learning

Today, subject-matter expertise tends to reside in each business unit, with learning courses and tracks shaping the way different departments learn. In order to take advantage of informal learning, Ha says this approach needs to shift. “In the future, we'd like to see L&D take on the role of championing expertise across the organization to allow experts and business unit leaders to spread their knowledge and skills to others in a seamless way."

Two keys to harnessing the power of informal learning are integrations and interoperability. Software like Salesforce, Jira, Facebook and Slack are all encouraging productivity and collaboration to happen, Ha says, but those systems must also be able to integrate with existing learning platforms. “Being able to utilize that across systems is going to be powerful."

For example, the integration of Cornerstone Learning and Workplace by Facebook—a collaboration product where businesses and teams can interact via tools such as instant messaging, project-focused groups and live video streaming—seamlessly connects the two platforms.

Cornerstone Learning puts the power of content curation in employees' hands, allowing them to create their own playlists, or learning paths, by collecting both formal and informal learning content such as online news articles or YouTube videos. With the Workplace by Facebook integration, employees can share playlists they've found valuable on their Workplace newsfeed by clicking a button—no need to switch between platforms. Likewise, if they are logged into Cornerstone, sharing content on Workplace is just a click away.

2) The Accessibility of Personalized Learning

Personalized learning creates an engaging experience for employees, placing them at the center of their learning experience by giving them access to exactly what they need to learn when they need to learn it. Today, technology is bringing personalized learning to the masses.

“Artificial intelligence (AI) can give you the individualized attention you need," says Ha. Companies like UPS and Walmart, for example, are using virtual reality (VR) to personalize the employee learning experience. Using a VR headset, UPS drivers in training can safely experience and practice reacting to road hazards they may encounter in the real world and Walmart managers can virtually experience how to manage a hectic Black Friday store crowd.

Being able to practice and experience tasks in a virtual environment integrates learning with work from the start. It's not only safer and more engaging, but it also enables employees to approach learning at their own pace and identify specific tasks they may need further guidance in.

3) Learning as a Natural Part of Work

Providing employees with the tools, content and access to be able to effortlessly learn throughout the day is incredibly valuable to both businesses and employees. “Learning has to be within reach, in your everyday tools and in your everyday life," Ha says. Creating an environment where learning is a normal part of work gives employees the confidence to tackle tasks and projects, develops a strong pipeline of future leaders and keeps businesses on the cutting edge.

But the integration of learning and work doesn't mean employees are left all on their own. Content must be in place so employees know where to can go for credible information. “They need guidance as to what is worth learning and what is the right content to learn," Ha explains. Ensuring validated and engaging content is available and easily accessible—on mobile devices, tablets, etc.—is the basis of making learning an ordinary part of employees' days.

For example, microlearning provides learners with timely, digestible content that is often highly visual such as short videos, quizzes or reference articles. If an employee is servicing equipment at a client location and has a question, they should be able to quickly reference relevant content on their phone to course correct in the moment.

“Learning has to be within reach, in your everyday tools and in your everyday life," Ha says. As those seamless moments of learning begin to happen more naturally, learning and work will truly blend, empowering employees and creating a more active learning experience.

Photo: Creative Commons