How The Hartford Has Built a Culture of Workflow Learning.

This blog is excerpted from episode 35 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Bob Mosher and Mark Wagner, vice president of claims learning at The Hartford, sit down to discuss how his organization has integrated workflow learning into their organization and how his teams have used performance support to respond to the current landscape.

Bob Mosher (BM): This is one of our Experience Matters episodes which are by far our most popular, for obvious reasons. It’s when we get folks out there doing great work to step in and share their journey. It is my honor to introduce a dear friend of mine, Mark Wagner from The Hartford. Welcome Mark! Great to have you here!

Mark Wagner (MW): Thanks Bob! I’m glad to be here.

BM: Give us a bit of your background—how did you arrive at your current position in The Hartford, and please also share a bit about how performance support and workflow learning came about in your journey.

MW: Before I came to The Hartford I had a very long learning career at Progressive Insurance. And the cool thing about Progressive was that they had grown so fast for so long it was constantly adding new talent to their organization all the time. And they decided that, “We’re going to grow our own talent organically internally.” And really, the people who are now running the company are all entry-level employees who grew up through their environment and succeeded. So, it was quite the journey for me to see some of those people grow up from young people to all the way to having families and being senior executives. After helping thousands of people learn their job, The Hartford called me one day and said, “You know, we understand that Progressive does a great job of growing its own talent. And we’d like to do that at The Hartford.”

So, I decided to take on a new challenge and take a lot of the things I had learned at Progressive over to The Hartford. And what I’ll say about that—when you have a fast-growing organization, one of the things that’s very important is that you organize your content. You need to make sure people can get to it. So, it was very natural for us to take a performance support strategy at Progressive and I brought that with me to The Hartford.

BM: Excellent! So, let’s move up to the here and now. Tell us about your team and how you have orchestrated yourselves there from your learning at Progressive and in particular, which we’re going to talk quite a bit about, tell us about this wonderful platform that has evolved there called the KMT.

MW: So probably about a year after I was at The Hartford I got the message that the content that people were using internally was in very bad shape. It was kind of scattered all over the place, no format to it, no way to organize it. Compliance teams were involved, process teams were involved, learning teams were involved, and I always referred to it as kind of the “Tower of Babel” internally. So, they were very interested in myself making a recommendation and I already, in my mind, had workflow learning as the key to it. Organize it in a workflow, get the content into one platform, start to gate-keep how the content was organized, and make sure that there was a strategy behind it.

I had actually looked at maybe four or five platforms that were available internally. And then was told, “Wait a minute. We’re going to upgrade all of our Microsoft products.”

And I said, “Oh. I think that if we’re going to get a new version of SharePoint, we could make use of that as the actual platform.”

And because it was already being supported at an enterprise level, I knew I had the backbone. So basically what I had to do was find some of the people that did work with me at Progressive, bring them over to The Hartford, and start to decide how we could manipulate SharePoint in somewhat the way we had manipulated it at Progressive.

But I will tell you this. We did not have that newest platform at Progressive. So, we knew we were going to do some very different things with this new SharePoint platform and the way to harness that is you start to break off a group of your learning professionals and make them a content design group that only worries about creating this new environment.

We did that and built the team very quickly. Initially we started with about five people. Now we are up to ten. They are the ones who are pretty much in charge of the KMT, Knowledge Management Tool. When we started this work we decided to take this acronym to a patent level. So that was kind of cool.

BM: How did you socialize this thing and how has it changed the way that The Hartford views your department and maybe the things you build in general?

MW: I think the first step is letting people know that once you put this into place you are going to integrate it heavily into your new-to-role experiences. So instead of the learning event being, “Let’s throw a bunch of knowledge and a bunch of WordPro documents at you”—or whatever—it’s, “We’re going to help you learn how to navigate your performance support as part of your learning experience.”

And if you think about it, it’s a very natural process because your learning facilitator becomes a person that’s just guiding them through the use of the performance support and then applying scenarios to it. And then, integrating it into live work fairly quickly. So if you take the learning experience first—that “Get good at navigation, get good at figuring out how to search for things,” maybe even throwing in a dose of learning in the moment that’s embedded right in the performance support, you then say, “Okay, now we’re turning our sights to real live work. Let’s get you in a learning lab together and get to some real work.”

BM: Wow. And what learner wouldn’t like that? I don’t understand why this has been rocket science to folks for so long. I’m assuming it was received well by your group?

MW: It was. And as we rolled it out, we did it business unit by business unit. And I would kick it off to the team by saying, “Okay, we now have the KMT for this line of business. Let’s burn the PowerPoints.”

And it truly was kind of, “You don’t need that anymore. Those bullet points that you had in that PowerPoint mean nothing because now you have the steps. Now you have the deeper dives in the knowledge pieces. Now you have some embedded learning right where you need it. This is how you’re going to run your learning experience, not through a PowerPoint.”

It is a little bit of different thinking for the facilitators. They see those PowerPoints as their crutch. You almost have to really take them away. You have to say, “You are going to help people learn how to use this. And this is what our expectations are of you as a facilitator.”

BM: It’s also bringing along the other stakeholders in Learning. Were they okay with it and did you do it?

MW: I’ll be honest with you. It’s not easy and there were times when I’d be in a huddle with a group of facilitators and they would bring up a topic or say something, and then all of a sudden I’d see a PowerPoint being flashed up on the screen. And I’m like, “What is that?” And I’d get responses like, “Oh, I know. I got to dump that…” So, it isn’t like it happens overnight and everybody just drinks the Kool-Aid and says, “Oh yeah, I get it. I’m going to get good at facilitating this way.”

When the learner starts to expect it—that’s very helpful. So, when one group has a KMT and they move into a different line of business and there is a need for some form of learning experience, one of their first questions is, “Where’s my KMT?”

And to be honest, that’s how people sometimes profile their next job. By going to their performance support and saying, “I’m going to nose around in here and see if I can get a feel for what this job is like,” before they even apply for a job. So, it’s kind of worked its way into the culture in, “How I even go about moving my career in a different direction.”

BM: Wow. What a powerful statement to how much a part of the DNA this thing has become. So, this is a perfect segue to my next question.

COVID. Here you are chugging along at The Hartford, stunning the organization, and then our world flips upside down. And now insurance, clearly, is on everyone’s mind.

Tell me what happened there and how you helped handle this shift.

MW: I can give you two different points that were really important. Initially, COVID hits. Our organization which was already a very remote worker type of environment went completely remote. So definitely the KMT took on a real role. It ensured that everybody had what they needed through the performance support to be able to do their job at home. So that was Point 1.

Point 2, which started to become very relevant very quickly, we’re a multi-line insurer and obviously, you have auto and property insurance. You’re not having a lot of losses. People aren’t moving around as much—we’re home. All that volume is going down. But guess what? We have disability benefits. That starts to skyrocket. So, we were being asked very quickly by the organization, “Can we get some help to the areas that are starting to really boil up with a lot of volume?”

We set up classes and moved hundreds of people into those roles to help support the work that needed to be done. And we had the backbone of the KMT to do that fairly quickly. I was so proud of my learning organization because I’d sneak into virtual classrooms and I’d see them quickly getting people up to speed using that performance support. Because they were knowledgeable professionals and had used the KMTs in their own areas, it wasn’t that big of a move for them to be able to do it in another area.

To be honest, we’re hearing things in some of the surveys like, “Boy, I really like this part of the company. I may have found myself a home!” That was kind of cool, to see people say, “I kind of like this part of the business. Maybe I’ll stay here.”

BM: If you are sitting down with a leader who is just starting to guide their team through this, what advice would you give them both strategically and tactically?

MW: I think the first thing is to say, “I want to change the way people learn. And I think I can make it more efficient. We can shorten your time to competency and I can give them a tool that they use both in the learning experience and on the job—all in one. And I want you support me in that journey.” That’s kind of Step 1.

Step 2 is, in my mind, worry more about how you’re going to organize the content than the technology that’s going to help you. If you say at the start, “I need to spend millions of dollars to bring you this vision,” you’re never going to get started. I think the better way to do it is to figure out how can I do this and what technology can support me.

Don’t let the technology stop you from getting it in a format that makes sense and always tie it into, “This is how it’s going to evolve our learning in the company.”

BM: Methodology over Technology.

MW: Absolutely.

Listen to the full episode to hear more on how Mark’s team is using workflow learning and performance support to meet their influx of new claims and to hear what advice he has for learning leaders looking to implement similar solutions.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

Just Start Already…Using the Tools You Have

This blog is excerpted from episode 36 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Bob Mosher and Sue Reber, APPLY’s director of practice, discuss how to get started on building workflow learning using the tools you currently have—no new purchases necessary.

Bob Mosher (BM): I am honored today to be joined by one of my dear colleagues in this journey, a rock star in my opinion, Sue Reber. Sue—welcome, good to have you here.

So, Sue you’re a seasoned instructional designer (ID). When we talk about shifting to a performance-first mindset, what do you think are the common switches they are having challenges to flip?

Sue Reber (SR): It’s a misunderstanding of what performance is and looking at it from the feeling like you can get to performance from knowledge alone.

BM: I love that! You know it’s funny, I was having a conversation with an organization that we are working with, and they mentioned, as I was going through this, “Wait, wait. We can’t do this because we have so much they need to know before they can do.”

Isn’t that amazing? And I said, “What do you mean?” And they said, “Oh, my gosh! There’s just so much our subject matter experts feel that these learners have to know before we dare let them touch or do anything.” So they have this—listen to this—three- to five-day “knowledge” course. They spend three to five days covering SOPs and processes and legalities and all these things.

Why do we come at it from this “know first” thing? Why don’t we get that that’s meaningless without context?

SR: Yep. This the most common thing I hear; I think people are afraid. They feel they are providing the context. They think, “If I give you all of this knowledge, then I’m providing you with the context for you to be able to do the job.” That’s what I see.

BM: That’s really a remarkable insight. Because to us, context is the workflow. They are equating context to knowledge alone, without that context of the workflow.

SR: Yep!

BM: You and I are both in agreement, if I am going to build eLearning, I need an eLearning authoring environment. I’m not going to build eLearning with PowerPoint.  

SR: Yep!

Bob: But, for an EPSS—organizations have the capability to build and implement an EPSS within their organization right now, with almost any tool. Right?

SR: Right. I think that if you flip that switch and think about what is it that people need to do, and really break it down into job tasks, you can build and implement that EPSS capability into anything. You can build it in Word. You can build it in SharePoint. We’ve built it in tons of different things.

BM: But how do I make sure that I make those things do what an EPSS can do?

SR: That’s all about the design. Right? The design is critical and you have to think it through—especially if you are not going to use a traditional EPSS software. You need to really think about what is it that people need to be able to do, how do they need to be able to get to it—to what they need to do—and how can you make sure that they only have what they need and they are not buried in details that they don’t need—but that they can get to those details.

BM: So, it’s principle-based. We have to understand those principles to have these tools do what they do.

SR: Yes, I think so.

BM: So, how does an organization evolve their way to a fully functional EPSS technology framework? If I’m the leader, what’s my plan in getting there, knowing that’s the end game but that I may have to take some baby steps to get there?

SR: I think you have to start where you are. And pretty much, it’s that way with everything, right? What can I do with what I have? You need to really dig into what is an EPSS, what do I mean by that, what can it do, how can it help me? You really need to understand what the principles are behind performance support.

Then, once you really have that down, and that really does take some research and thinking through things. Maybe you’re going to take a look at your existing programs and instead of looking at the training and thinking in terms of training, you’re going to look at what do people need to be able to do. And you’re going to maybe pick some small, little piece of that and you’re going to develop a proof of concept using the software that you have, whatever it is, whether it’s SharePoint or Microsoft Word, or it’s PowerPoint—which I wouldn’t recommend—Confluence, Microsoft Teams, SmartSheets, pretty much whatever you have—figure out how you can best use it. You, however, need to understand that there are limitations because you are not using performance support software.

You are then going to use that proof of concept and share it. I would share it with the people doing the work. See what they think about it. And that’s going to help you make your business case. And then once you have your business case, maybe you’ll be able to build out the rest of the performance support. And implement it. And gather the data like how is it affecting how we do the work. And then you can begin to scale it.

BM: Brilliant!

Listen to the full episode to hear more on Sue’s best practices and experiences around using what organization’s have on-hand to build impactful performance-first solutions. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.

Your Road Map to the Future

This blog is excerpted from episode 34 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher continue the Maturity Model conversation with Carol Stroud, senior consultant at APPLY Synergies.

Bob Mosher (BM): Friends, welcome back to yet another Performance Matters podcast!
We are going to go into one of the more important strategy matters series we've ever done. I’m excited for you to hear the experience of two dear and respected colleagues of mine, Carol Stroud and Conrad Gottfredson.

A lot of great reactions to our last episode, which was on the overall understanding of, and need for, a Maturity Model. 

As promised, we're going to go a bit deeper.

So, let's get right down to this. In your opinions, why is it so important that a Maturity Model has materialized for the industry and frankly even more so in the times we’re living today? 

Carol Stroud (CS): I have always been tactically focused. What I have found over the years is a lot of conversation about good ideas, but a lack of tactical road maps to actually do something about it. I have listened to the same conversations, repeatedly, in the elearning world for probably eight to nine years. They just didn't go deep enough in the tactical way of, “here's how you actually make it happen” in an organization. 

When I learned The Five Moments of Need methodology, I was seeing a similar sort of conversation happen. While at a conference, I was speaking to someone at a coffee break and the individual said, “Well, I get it. I get it's a great idea and I'm really keen on doing it, but I don't know how to do it and I'm not hearing anyone here talk about how do I actually make this happen in my organization”.  I went, “Oh… I think we have a gap”, because certainly I was living that when I was out working with different organizations and trying to help them implement this different way of doing business.

So, over the years as I have worked to help organizations implement the principles and methodologies around the 5 Moments of Need, I began aggregating those “tactical” lessons in an effort to turn this into something that would be usable by other people who are going down this road. So, collaborating with Conrad and bringing his number of years into coordination with all these ideas, it's given us, I think, a very solid grounding in terms of how to actually do this. It's no longer just a good idea. We now explain “how to do it” at several different levels.

BM: This Maturity Model to me really talks about how to do it and how to do it clearly it has a tactical level. But, Con, there's so much more to getting to where you are 'doing it' than that, isn't there? How does this move beyond the tactical to you?

Conrad Gottfredson (CG): Organizations have a natural resistance to change. People naturally worry about the impact any change is going to have on them.  Organizations also have work systems in place that often get in the way. Over the years, we've helped organizations build and implement magnificent solutions that do great things at the outset, but then as we step away and think that they're doing great and it's going to keep growing, it fizzles out due to the resistance and challenges within the organization.

When we transform how an organization learns it requires the organization to change. And what we've been missing is what Carol has been talking about. It is the ability to provide an organization a pathway for navigating that change, and to have it be sustained over time so it can make its way into the cultural fabric of the organization.

We don't want to just be a flash in the pan. We want to really impact the organization and make it last because we know what it can do, not just short-term but long-term.

BM: So, the model pushes us beyond tactical into strategy. Why should we listen to this, you guys? What is this grounded in that makes this maturity model worth the effort?

CS: So, what makes this different is we have looked at the scope of essentially all the barriers that we find in an organization and we’ve looked at what are the right ways to come up with solutions to move through those barriers. So, in that context, we actually look at this from three levels; strategic, tactical, and a technical component of what are the systems and infrastructure that need to be put into place to support this change.

This just isn't a general description, but a very specific view of the organization’s capabilities it progresses across four levels of maturity. It's the comprehensive picture of how everything can be brought together to ensure that the bigger picture is an ecosystem and all the pieces are finely tuned to work fluidly together in the “performance zone” where employees are able to appropriately respond to whatever situation they are in and have all the resources they need in order optimize their work production.

So, ultimately the value that comes back out to the organization is a streamlined, optimized, and well-oiled machine that is able to achieve the objectives of the organization.

CG: This maturity model isn’t theoretical.  We've drawn upon decades of experience to develop it. We've worked with many hundreds of organizations, applying and evolving methodology and practices. We’ve benchmarked with many organizations over the last few years. This has provided us a clear view of where organizations need to go and the capabilities they need to get there.

CS: The other aspect of it is this is founded on The Five Moments of Need Methodology and ensuring that we are getting those resources into the hands of the end performer—at the time they need them. There are other industry standards out there that help support us and roll this out in an organization. For example, we looked at project management and what are good project management methodologies and standards that need to help us ensure that these projects move forward? What are good change management strategies from both a change management and change leadership perspective? What are good measurement and business impact components that need to come to the table to support all this? So, we take our grounded thinking and methodology of implementing performance support and the full Five Moments in Need solution in an organization, and then we wrap the other components around it to ensure success throughout the organization. So, it's not just a one single little micro view of how this works in an organization, it is the broader perspective.

BM: So, team for many people listening this sounds Herculean. These are words we've not used in our industry a lot. We mire ourselves understandably in ADDIE and some change management and technology, words like that. But for those listening, what kind of a mountain is this like to climb? Who’s best to be involved? Is it something that they can do in a week, a day, a year? What's the expectation on their side to get this done in your opinion?

CG: Our benchmarking with trailblazing leaders and organizations revealed this need for a clear road map. These early adopters have made their way, learning through trial and error. So, overall, the time, effort, energy, and cost has been prohibitive for too many organizations. This is what has really prompted us to develop this maturity model.  We see it as a way to help organizations move more quickly and safely to where they need to be. The climb can’t be too steep, especially at the beginning, or it fails, right?

The initial current and future state assessment takes about 12 hours of virtual worktime with the leadership team that has responsibility for supporting through learning and performance support, the work in a specific part of the organization. It doesn't have to be for the entire organization. It can be for a business unit or for a cross-functional area of work. It's just got to be an area where there is need for a road map to gaining and sustaining effective job performance in the flow of work.

Following this assessment, there's some interaction that goes back and forth to transform the data into a detailed road map, prioritizing what to do, and when to do it.

Listen to the full episode to hear how this model and approach is more than a one hit wonder. Learn how it can bring true change to an organization.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.
To try your hand at empowering the flow of work with an actual project, join us at our upcoming Summit.

Why This Maturity Model Matters

This blog is excerpted from episode 33 of the Performance Matters Podcast where Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher take a look at The 5 Moments of Need Maturity Model, how the model originated, it’s growth, and the importance of it’s use to improve organizational performance.

Bob Mosher (BM): Greetings friends, and welcome back to another Performance Matters Podcast. I am honored to once again to be joined by my dear friend and colleague Con Gottfredson.

Today’s is going to be an interesting podcast because what we’re trying to do is add some clarity to the journey toward The 5 moments and Workflow Learning in general. There’s so much buzz out there about doing this, which is wonderful, but at the same time with buzz comes noise and confusion and this pandemic has really challenged traditional learning approaches like never before.

We’ve received a lot of feedback around, “I want to join this journey…my organization wants to be a part of this.”  And then almost the very next thing that follows is, “uh… how do I start?”. Starting is one thing, but everyone doesn’t start from A. Depending on where you are as an organization, depending on your efforts in Workflow Learning, depending on your efforts in The 5 Moments of Need—if you’re just familiar or have the certificate—you’re not starting at A; you might be starting at L, or F, or S! So, part of starting is knowing where you are on what we are calling “A maturity model journey”.
Con can you get us started on what we mean by ‘maturity model’? And why one, frankly, matters when it comes to successfully starting and then making this journey?

Conrad Gottfredson (CG): Well, if we don’t know where we are, and we don’t know where we are going, how in heavens name will we ever get to where we need to be?

That’s what a maturity model is all about.  It’s a map, so to speak, that helps us see where we are and also chart a course of where we need to be based upon the unique circumstances of an organization when it comes to learning. The model provides the means for getting to where we need to be, starting first with an understanding of where we are.

There’s never been a time where we have needed, as you said Bob, the clarity required to chart and make that journey—where we’re impacting an organization’s ability to perform is at the speed of change. Enabling effective performance in ever-changing work environments really does matter. The maturity model we’re talking about today is that gift that helps us know where we are and where we need to go to accomplish this.

BM: Let’s clarify a word that we’re going to use throughout this, and it is ‘Capabilities’. A lot of maturity models are based on competencies. As we will outline the model in a bit, we have taken an intentional pivot on capabilities.

Why is that word rather than competencies, so important to us and this model?

CG: Well, for us the word ‘capability’ is more tactical. Competency tends to have a broader meaning that’s more difficult to target and measure. So, capability is where we’ve determined that we need to focus on because that is something we can tactically pursue, achieve, and measure.  

BM: To ensure we’re all comfortable, let’s put the stake in the ground here. This maturity model is not something we have created out of thin air, there is a lot of rich history behind it; it started as far back as June 2015! When we first started talking about this and many of you, if you are not familiar with it, we’d love to have you join, we have this very rich performance support online community which has been around for well over 15 years, and along the way the organizations that were members of that struggled with this challenge of knowing where they are, where they want to be,  and how to get to get there. The model we developed then was more immature relative to now, in many ways because we were so focused on performance support and we failed to address the entire learning and performance ecosystem. But, we had a performance support advisory council made up of five wonderful industry professionals that were heads of very large learning organizations. They worked together, as practitioners, to come up with ways in which we could look at this. So, that was the beginning of putting this into some form of order, and as you’d hope it has matured quite a bit since then.

Con, let’s talk a bit about the benchmarking data that we’ve also worked on. How has that come into play as an important part of the effectiveness of this model in your opinion?

CG: In January of this year we looked at the work that had been done on the maturity model by the performance support community and we also began to look at the rich data that we had gathered over the two years of benchmarking work that we’d done against The 5 Moments of Learning Need and it’s broader view of role learning and performance support can and should play in organizations. This includes, of course, Workflow Learning.

So, we began in January with real intent looking at the benchmarking data that we have gathered from two benchmarking summits, and with some significant work created what we now have as a model for determining where an organizations is and needs to be to adapt, learn, and perform at the speed of change.

BM: And the key thing, I think out of this, is it spells out the next steps you would take in your journey to level-up.

On that note, Con, could you please share the fundamental layout of the maturity levels?

CG: We’ve identified four stages of the journey.

Stage 1 is where most organizations are today in the traditional learning model, looking at Workflow Learning, but not quite being where they need to be with all those capabilities—all the way up to the summit, the 4th stage, which is where every organization ought to strive to be. Certainly, it’s a daunting summit to just go after and climb to, so the model presents levels of capabilities, if you will, to reach that summit to the degree that organizations see that they need to get there.

The good news about all of this is that the maturity model allows an organization to realistically and systematically make their way along this journey, because that’s really what it’s all about. It’s a journey of developing capabilities in a prioritized way based upon the readiness of the organization to allow you to get to where you need to be.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about the three categories of capabilities, how best to assess your current state, and one of the most critical capabilities needed in today’s landscape.  
Don’t forget to subscribe to The Performance Matters Podcast to stay up-to-date on all the latest conversations and guests in The 5 Moments space.
To try your hand at empowering the flow of work with an actual project, join us at our upcoming Summit.

“The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be”

By: Dr. Conrad Gottfredson

Yogi Berra got this right.  Events can change the future. We’re just experiencing that. Certainly, the future of organizational learning isn’t what it was three months ago.

Keith Keating's recent LinkedIn posting of the “15 Evolutions of Learning” suggests a current state that at first read appears to put us in a place where we ought to be.  It reflects a thoughtful analysis of trends emerging from traditional learning chatter. But Covid-19 has changed the future of what learning needs to be. It is forcing needed shifts in Keith’s “Now” list below.   I’ve provided brief descriptions of a “NEW FUTURE” state that modifies Keith’s list just a bit.

Today, more than any other time in the history of organizational learning, we need to recognize that performers need to know and do to perform effectively on the job.  When all is said and done, this is what organizations need from us: an adaptive workforce that is performing effectively all the time no matter where they are. This can only happen if employees have the knowledge they need as they perform in their flow of work at the moments of Apply, Solve, and Change.  What organizations don’t need are workers performing job tasks with limited supporting knowledge.  For example, it’s dangerous to perform a blood transfusion if the person performing that task doesn’t understand blood type compatibility.  Learning  “What to Know” and “How to Do” are both required to achieve effective knowledge enriched job performance.

Forty-five years ago, I watched, with interest, the battle between behavioral (instructional/teacher centered), cognitive (learner centered) and experiential (performance centered) theorists.  All three areas of research made sense to me.  They still do.  Real growth and development doesn’t happen unless the learner chooses to learn and there are many things we know, from cognitive research, that can facilitate how efficiently and effectively learners learn.  In addition, there are principles of instruction/training that absolutely facilitate efficient skill development. There are many things we know, from behavioral research, that can facilitate how efficiently and effectively we teach and train people.  Of course, in the case of experiential learning theory, the learning/training principles associated with cognitive and behavioral camps are useless unless all of it is orchestrated properly to enable effective job performance (where experience is primarily developed.)
What’s desperately needed today is an ecumenical approach that doesn’t pit teaching against learning.  What we do shouldn’t be centered on one side or the other.  Instead we need to effectively employ the fundamental principles of teaching and learning in our efforts to enable effective performance, collectively and individually in their flow of work.

In recent months, we have watched organizations move into triage mode shifting learning from Brick and Mortar to Virtual.  Although this rapid move is completely understandable, most organizations are awakening to the reality that all learning moved all online isn’t an effective approach.

Workflow learning is learning while working at the 5 moments of Need. It is made possible through the discipline and associated technologies of performance support. We recently spoke with a visionary leader who the past few years has developed his organizations capabilities to learn in the workflow.  His company had a department whose work stopped completely due to the Covid-19 outbreak.  Because he and his team had established a performance support infrastructure to enable learning in the workflow, he was able to completely pivot the work of that entire department into a different work-stream in a matter of days.

We have over 10 years of experience blending learning events (whether brick and mortar or virtual) with workflow learning.  The outcomes have always proven superior. It’s what’s needed today and going forward.

There is no way to accomplish all we need to accomplish in a timely manner with the limited resources allocated to Learning and Development. So when we step into the world of workflow learning we need to be prepared to collaborate with the full range of players in the business in order to get the job done and sustain and optimize our solutions long-term. This may include SMEs but is most certainly not limited to them. Business Matter Experts can include high performers who are actually doing the work, front-line managers, and anyone else who participates in the work that’s going on. This is a crucial shift that requires our partnering with the business in ways we haven’t traditionally done.

Never before has the need for employees who can adapt to change been more valued, and needed.  Today, a person’s competitive advantage isn’t defined only by formal credentials, or by informal skill inventories.  Both can actually be helpful.  But today, an employee’s value to the organization is also determined by personal learning agility—meaning the ability to adapt—to unlearn, relearn, and then perform effectively at or above the speed of change. 

Every experience of our life contributes to our learning.  When we perform successfully, fail at something, overcome a challenge, adapt to a new way of doing something, or seek additional understanding or knowledge, we are learning through experience.  Why, because we are integrating and encoding that experience into our remarkable receptacle called a brain
It isn’t enough to just capture content or knowledge. We need to capture experience in a way that allows transferal of that experience to other workers. Fortunately, workflow learning methodologies requires us to map the workflow where experience is best developed.  This mapping and the associated technology provides the infrastructure we need to then capture best practices and lessons learned from the most experienced performers and make that experience available to others at the moment of need.

Most approaches to blended learning remain tightly tethered to a formal learning experience facilitated with multiple formal learning modalities (e.g., blending eLearning, OTJ Coaching, video learning, Instructor-led training (virtual or face-to-face), etc.. A true blend of learning must take into consideration the entire learning process across all 5 Moments of Need.  For example, a complete learning solution must support learners as they transition from the initial stage of learning New and/or More to the Moments of Apply and often Solve as they begin to transfer what they have learned in their flow of work. Furthermore, as learners become more proficient in applying the knowledge and skills they learned during training to the work they perform, there are often times when performers must change how they go about their work.  In those instances, they need to unlearn and relearn while performing work in the workflow. 

So, the real blend must include provision for supporting performance and learning in the flow of work while working.   

It isn’t and shouldn’t be about Push or Pull.  Both are needed.  I’m a huge proponent of adaptive learning (which is a push.)  And, the smarter our solutions become the greater opportunity we have to deliver informed push. But at the Moments of Apply and Solve, especially, performers need the capability to pull what they need, within 2clicks, 10 seconds. 

A properly designed EPSS is a digital coach that is available all the time wherever technology can go. This certainly doesn’t rule out managers providing coaching. But frankly, a digital coach is often more reliable and more up to date as well as more present. Besides we need self-reliant performers in the workflow. And we know that in today’s world, we can’t guarantee that a manager can be present, every time a worker needs coaching.

A mentor provides life and work guidance; opens up opportunity and makes growth and development resources available.  Mentors inspire, lift and motivate. They clear the path for fueling employee engagement.  Managers are in the best place to do this kind of mentoring.  This is something that managers can do that technology can’t duplicate very well, if at all.  

In ever changing work environments, scheduled learning certainly isn’t responsive enough.  A personal disposition towards lifelong learning is a great step forward, but can carry with it lethargic learning practices.  What’s needed is a daily commitment to dynamic learning.

At any moment, organizations must be ready to respond to a crisis or threat of any magnitude.  In 2008 Timothy R. Clark and I authored a research report addressing this very need.  In that report, Tim provided the following questions to help employees and their leaders determine the degree that they were dynamic learners.
  1. To what degree do I look to myself rather than the machinery of the organization to govern my growth and development path?
  2. To what degree do I have a personal growth and development plan?
  3. To what degree do I aggressively embrace feedback?
  4. How collaborative am I in my approach to learning?
  5. How proactive am I in how I learn?
  6. How fast am I at unlearning?
  7. How comfortable am I with failure?
  8. To what degree do I use failure as an opportunity to learn?
  9. How confident am I in the very act of not knowing?
  10. To what degree do I believe that the biggest job risk I can take is to cease to grow?

There’s certainly required learning.  I’m all for desired learning.  But at the Moments of Apply and Change, especially, there is “needed” learning to fill the learning gap that has suddenly surfaced in the flow of work. This is what Learning at the Moment of Need is all about. 

We’ve always advocated a performance rather than training focus.  But, it’s always been performance in the context of the workflow.  It’s possible to focus on performance and miss the workflow.  I’ve seen many great performance based courses that fail to align to how learners need to perform in their flow of work. We know that results in a disconnect when learners attempt to transfer what they learned to their actual jobs.

Outcomes actually might work here as long as those outcomes deliver business impact. Traditional learning has struggled to directly connect to business impact.  But, the moment we step into the workflow with a performance support infrastructure, we have in place the ability to measure impact targets such as:


A focus on consumption is definitely short-sighted when it comes to developing, expanding, and reinforcing the growth and development of people. Engagement is a much wiser focus, with this caution.  Traditional approaches to employee engagement generally involve an industrial model of dependency where organization assumes primary responsibility for fueling employee engagement. 

We are living in a time of disruption and discontinuity.  This absolutely requires an engaged workforce where employees own their own engagement; where their engagement generates from the inside out. This alters the role of the organization.  The organization must empower employees to fuel their own engagement by removing all barriers that can interfere with this ownership.  (See )

Real learning is anything we do to develop, expand, or reinforce our growth and development in any and all aspects of our life no matter where it occurs.

There’s nothing wrong with event-based learning as long as it’s instructionally justified. And, we have been embedding learning in the workflow for many years.  We’re seeing wonderful tools that provide tailored rapid access to the full range of learning deliverable.  What’s unique about true workflow learning is that learning occurs while employees are actually performing the work of the organization.  This workflow performance learning is the missing capability required for these changing and challenging times.  It’s not a replacement for all the others options we have at our finger-tips, but as a key blending partner with all event-based and workflow embedded modalities.

I hope these NEW FUTURE comments will open the door to the rich and necessary discussion. We need to fearlessly take on this vital journey. We must boldly and thoughtfully move forward.

For more resources, attend our upcoming virtual/in-person Summit, visit our website, and join the conversation.