Putting work at the center of your learning tech stack

You’re on your second cup of coffee, and it’s only 9am. It’s going to be a long week.

Before hopping on your first call, you check your inbox.

“3 new trainings have been assigned to you,” reads the dreaded email from HR.

Even if you wanted to skip all the videos and go straight to the quizzes, you can’t — the system is too clunky. And many learning experiences are measured by how long you spend on the process.

With so much going on at work right now, how are you supposed to fit in long learning modules

This situation is all too common — something similar has probably happened to you.

According to L&D leader Josh Bersin, the average knowledge worker only has an average of 24 minutes per week for formal learning. Assigning long, tedious courses likely won’t result in high retention and will likely result in L&D resentment.

What employees really need is learning that aligns with their needs, interests, and day. Information needs to be easily digestible, it needs to complement day-to-day work, and it needs to promote practice and reinforcement over time to get a true return on investment (for the learner, and the organization).

We see many teams struggle with learning that's perceived as a hindrance to getting work done, even when the goals of learning teams and learners are often the same.

In this guide, we'll look at how we can take clues from when learners make time for (or need) learning, and place work back at the center of the learning tech stack.  Alignment between "tasks to be done" and learning supports buy-in and provides additional value to learners, provides more valuable data for learning teams, and centers learning around metrics with more verifiable ROI.

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Traditional corporate learning is incredibly disruptive.

To complete virtual or in-person trainings, employees have to completely shut themselves off from the rest of their work or fail miserably at multitasking. To make matters worse, much of what they’re learning isn’t actionable or directly applicable to their work.

Over time, learners start to perceive even the most engaging trainings as a chore that detracts from their productivity — not as an opportunity to hone their skills and grow as a leader. When people actually need training, they won’t want it or know how to access it.

Three issues are at play here: the length of content, the actionability of content, and when it is delivered.

Long-form content simply doesn't "fit" for the kind of just-in-time, contextual learning that employees need to get excited about, retain, and apply what they’ve learned.

It’s a known fact that people learn by doing. The American Society for Training & Development found that the retention rate for experiential knowledge is a whopping 75%.

And employees are asking for more of this kind of training. In 2022, SHRM found that 38% of employees say that aligning training with their job responsibilities would make it more effective.

But how? By addressing employees’ moments of need in the context of their role:

  • Learning something for the first time

  • Learning a new way of doing something

  • Learning how to solve problems

  • Expanding the depth and breadth of a concept they’ve already learned

  • Acting on what they’ve learned

Learning organizations can also be strategic about when you hit on each moment of need by defining specific triggers, such as:

  • Joining the company

  • Gearing up for performance review season

  • Getting promoted

  • Being in the same role for an extended period of time

  • Switching teams

  • Open enrollment kickoff

And you can follow up to ensure your training drives true impact on confidence, application, and mobility.

The short answer is no. 

Historically, LMSs, LXPs, and in-person workshops have worked well for specialist learning. Nuanced, collaborative, and complex topics like data science or video editing warrant longer, in-depth trainings. People get the one-on-one attention and depth of content they need to master a particular skill.

But that specialist learning only makes up 20% of overall learning and development. And traditional methods of delivery don’t scale particularly well, presenting too many barriers to learning for many general audience learners to succeed. There's a place for longform and in-person learning experiences. But the form factor for most learning needs to become smaller.

There's a place for longform and in-person learning experiences. But the form factor for most learning needs to become smaller.

The remaining 80% of L&D is action-oriented, continuous, and fundamental — basically things that everyone in the company needs. Think: onboarding, wellness, leadership, compliance, cybersecurity, and DEI.

For these topics, it makes sense to deliver information in little bites and encourage employees to reflect on and apply what they’ve learned with tools and devices they reliably check, such as Slack or Teams. Most of the time, LMS and LXP platforms end up being overkill.

Microlearning tools can provide employees with useful content at convenient times, avoiding information overload and helping them fit trainings around other commitments.

Let’s draw a parallel here: learning and development should be like a video game. Not necessarily in a gamification sense. But in the sense that learners are on their own quest -- of which learning is only one portion -- and we need learning to support our character as they level up.

Video games aren’t interesting if they have a step-by-step, highly predictable plot. To keep things exciting, video game creators inject curated side quests and unexpected challenges into the player's journey.

When you’re competing for employees’ attention, you need to think like a video game designer, adding customized content arcs, quizzes, nudges, and follow-ups to keep learners engaged. Most of all, you need to focus on delivering value and guiding learners through new actions to make them better at "the game" they're playing.

Here’s how to use smaller units of learning to create “story arcs” that are timely, relevant, actionable. These are our workflow learning cadences:

  • Daily: A learner gets texted a 5-minute interactive lesson and submits their reflections.

  • Weekly: They get another text reminding them of what they learned a few weeks back plus a new way to apply it to their specific line of work.

  • Monthly: The learner gets a set of intelligent course recommendations via Slack, along with an email invite to a relevant VILT program — both of which can prepare them to go for a new leadership role in the next performance review cycle.

  • Quarterly: The learner gets a text thread informing them of a new company-wide initiative and a Slack message congratulating them on their new promotion with 5 tips to succeed in their new role. If they want to learn more, they can tap to request an email invite to an in-depth program in the company LXP. 

After every lesson — even the super short ones — learners can complete a quick survey that can inform future course creation. Maybe they’ve pinpointed a gap in their learning curriculum or prefer one type of content over another. Perhaps they’ve shared some great ways they’ve incorporated learning that you can share with others on their team.

Additionally, simply sending out learning in the right week isn't enough. Learning needs to be contextually relevant. This is where choosing the right learning triggers is important. Because we're trying to position learning inside of work, these triggers need to take place in moments or apps inside of workflows. Let's look at a few examples: 

  • A sales team member creates a new opportunity in the CRM: this would be a great time to inject a small module on record keep best practices. Additionally, if this team member schedules a follow up date with the opportunity, that would be a good opportunity for checking back in to see how implementing the best practices of CRM management actually went.

  • Performance review season is about to begin: an automated cadence refreshing managers on anti-bias principles, and then short reinforcement lessons throughout performance review season could drive outcomes. A "low barrier" follow-up asking for how they applied their learnings will cement their importance further.

  • A team member signals interest in a technical reskilling program: instead of waiting for this program to start, inject small learning moments into the days before hand to ensure this reskilling participant is up to snuff on fundamentals.

Because this form of learning deliver increases the number of moments in which learning can happen, the form factor of learning needs to shrink. Learning creation and delivery needs to be more agile. With agile learning, a host of benefits arise:

  • Allows employees to learn from you and your team to learn from them, keeping everyone engaged and in sync.

  • Enables you to launch and iterate on your learning and development programs quickly, avoiding obsolescence.

  • Helps you continue to frame education in a pragmatic context.

  • Supports learner recall with spaced repetition.

  • Increases overall ROI with higher confidence, adoption rates, and engagement.

There’s a reason people pay attention to TikTok videos. They’re fun. They’re engaging. They’re short. Most importantly, they’re memorable. And that’s because they’re highly relevant to the people watching them.

Marketers have caught on, leveraging this tool to create viral campaigns that keep their brand top of mind.

The same can’t be said for today’s L&D programs; they simply haven’t evolved to fit the needs and expectations of today’s learners. Employees dread watching hours of boring, generic content, and they completely forget what they learned the next day.

The good news is that with a microlearning platform like Arist, you can approach TikTok status. The platform makes it easy to build high-impact microlearning in minutes and adjust them on the fly. With bite-sized modules and custom triggers, you can also personalize training to the individual, providing the kind of just-in-time learning that boosts adoption, employee confidence, and, ultimately, revenue.

Want to get a headstart? Try our AI-powered course creator, Sidekick, or book a demo with one of our learning experts to see the platform in action.

Liz Melton


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to your people

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Build skills and shift behavior at scale, one behavioral touchpoint at a time.

(617) 468-7900


2261 Market Street #4320
San Francisco, CA 94114

Subscribe to Arist Bites:

Built and designed by Arist team members across the United States.

Copyright 2024, All Rights Reserved.

Build skills and shift behavior at scale, one behavioral touchpoint at a time.

(617) 468-7900


2261 Market Street #4320
San Francisco, CA 94114

Subscribe to Arist Bites:

Built and designed by Arist team members across the United States.

Copyright 2024, All Rights Reserved.