When I worked for a generic drug manufacturer, one of the questions we would constantly ask employees was, “If we currently do things the same way we did them 5 years ago, how successful do you think we would be?” Many would claim that we wouldn’t even be in business, due to the speed of change in that industry.
Those conversations led us to create J.I.T. or, Just in Time, training materials, to support the speed of change and the need to get this information into the hands of the workers. The term, “Just in Time” quickly morphed into on-demand.
Why on-demand learning
What I have come to realize is that change is affecting almost every industry. New businesses, new ways of doing business, and lots of new terminologies.
The other day I was welcoming a group of learners to the development session I was hosting when I incorrectly welcomed them to Friday. It was Thursday. Or, as one of the attendees said “Blursday” which means “an unspecified day because of lockdown’s disorienting effect on time”.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who struggles with this on an almost daily basis! It got me wondering about just how many different terms or phrases have been created throughout this global pandemic?
A quick internet search revealed an overwhelming number. So many that Merriam-Webster announced it was making an unscheduled update to the dictionary because of the many new words and phrases that have been created.
One of the words, while not considered new, has been gaining in popularity in a variety of circles. That word is “on-demand”. (ok, technically two words, but I’ll go with one due to the dash)
Watch most any commercial for a new TV show and you will notice it ends with “and available on-demand the next day”. The huge spike in subscribers to Hulu, Apple TV, Netflix, and more all focus on the benefits of having everything you want and need to see, “on-demand”. This seems to carry great comfort and importance for us.
So, why should learning be any different? In the end, it isn’t!
Do another quick internet search and you will find a wealth of information talking about the value and need of on-demand learning, especially in our socially distanced (Yes, another new word) world.
In reality, this has been a rather hot topic for a few years now. Josh Bersin, for one, has been talking about it for a long time and came out with a noteworthy article in 2017 talking about the disruption of digital learning.
As someone who spent many years creating and delivering classroom content, I knew all too well the challenges associated with assembling a group of people for a learning event. Depending on the learning culture of the organization, it seemed as though the only way to get everyone there and focused was to hold the event at an off-site location.
Holding it on-site and you raised the possibility of a “quick” phone call, a brief update, a client question, etc. none of which could possibly wait until the session was complete.
Fast forward to mid-2020 where the thought of people gathering in a small room for hours on end seems like ancient history.
Benefits of on-demand learning
And yet, there are still many organizations where on-demand learning is still in its infancy if happening at all. While I am known as someone who has never met a microphone or an audience I didn’t like, I am still puzzled by this. There are so many benefits, for the individuals and the organization.
This is a topic that comes up a lot in the work-from-home world that we find ourselves in. People crave connection of some sort and on-demand learning allows someone that connection with purpose, knowledge, and new skills. It shows that the organization has an interest in its growth and success. The bonus for all involved here is that no one has to wrestle with a schedule in order to “fit it all in”.
As mentioned above, with on-demand learning, the learner doesn’t have to worry about having the right amount of time required to complete the session. With on-demand, you can start and stop as much as is necessary – to tend to the schoolwork of their children, the pet who HAS to go outside now, lunchtime, whatever might require your instant attention. Having the flexibility of fitting it into your schedule, as opposed to the other way around, is actually a motivator to completing additional modules.
3. Meeting the demands of the job
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, “I don’t need to attend that course, I’m happy in my role and have no desire to move up.” Well, if you weren’t aware of this before COVID-19, I think it’s pretty evident now – businesses need to do things differently in order to simply survive. Think about it – if your business was operating utilizing the exact same systems and processes as 5 years ago, how many of you would be either well behind your competition or out of business altogether? Learning isn’t just for those who want to be the next VP, it’s absolutely essential to survive, to say nothing of growing.
With the typical classroom learning environment, you can count on someone forgetting upwards of 90% of what they learned in as little as 3 weeks if there isn’t a good sustainability plan in place. With on-demand learning, you have a number of advantages: You can spread the learning out, creating more review touchpoints. You have the ability to easily reengage with the content whenever you have a question about it. You can also utilize your LMS to have a series of support messages sent out over time to participants once they have completed the course, thereby delaying what many call the “forgetting curve”.
Since it seems like it will be a while before things get “back to normal”, whatever that might mean, it makes sense that organizations embrace and dive deeper into the world of on-demand learning.
Provide employees with the flexibility to learn in between all of the other duties that 2020 has thrust upon them. Continue to engage them with a variety of learning options, both enhancing their current skillset and learning new things that are essential to remaining competitive in this new work environment we all find ourselves in, and all at their own pace.
In addition, putting the right support pieces in place so that, at the click of a button on any given “Blursday”, they can reengage with these newly learned skills.