Learning & Development, Recruiting

The Future of Work: Continuous Learning

With the lingering effects of the pandemic exposing organizations to an urgency to upskill and reskill employees, the big questions HR leaders and executives are facing are what the future of work looks like and how to retain productive employees. The fact is, more than half of the workers who left their job in 2021 left because they didn’t have an opportunity for advancement, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Continuous learning is the process of learning new skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis and can help keep employees engaged at work.

Many traditional workplace training methods do not implement learning reinforcement or continuous learning. As a result, these methods are overall ineffective for the modern workforce. With continuous learning, employee knowledge is the result of multiple learning events spaced out over time—a process enabled through microlearning, which, in turn, allows for better employee engagement and increased knowledge retention. Unfortunately, many companies are still operating under traditional workplace training methods that simply do not work.

Why Traditional Training Methods Need to Go

With most employees operating in a hybrid or fully remote work environment, employee burnout is at an all-time high. Traditional training methods don’t translate well for remote employees. Daylong remote training courses, misaligned onboarding, and reading handouts and packets full of information are not resourceful or engaging, and employees will most likely forget what they learned by the next week.

In today’s digital age, too much information is shared with people, making learning at work much more difficult. People become overwhelmed and instantly disengage with learning programs, resulting in wasted investments. In addition to lacking effectiveness in the hybrid/remote era, traditional training methods lack efficacy in providing continuous learning, and employees can be left feeling inadequate in their roles. One Gartner study shows that 70% of employees report they do not have mastery of the skills they need for their jobs. The bottom line is that traditional training programs are outdated, mundane, and ineffective, leading to employees’ seeking new work opportunities or, even worse, quiet quitting.

The viral term “quiet quitting” has young professionals rejecting the idea of going above and beyond in their careers. These quiet quitters may think they are preventing or curing burnout by doing less work, but better options exist. According to Qstream’s “2022 Workplace Learning Report,” nearly half of the respondents—specifically, over 500 U.S. business managers representing a variety of industries and company sizes—think their employees would rather be offered more comprehensive and effective learning and training opportunities than be paid more. Instead of companies offering more money to keep their talent or avoid this quiet quitting mechanism, they need to invest in modern, digital-first workplace learning programs to meet the needs and expectations of today’s workforce.

How Modern, Digital-First Workplace Learning Programs Can Increase Employee Retention  

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for decreasing employee burnout and increasing engagement and retention, implementing a modern, digital-first workplace learning program that provides continuous learning and empowers employees with a sense of value can certainly help.

Forgetting is a natural phenomenon, and proven through multiple studies, the scientific Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that in as little as 30 days, 79% of knowledge is forgotten. It is simply a matter of how the human brain works. Interval reinforcement is a proven way to combat the forgetting curve. When information is presented to humans over spaced intervals of time (the spacing effect), humans can significantly increase knowledge retention, and employees are more apt to change their behaviors in a way that will positively impact business outcomes. Digital-first workplace learning programs that leverage neuroscience-based microlearning are designed to combat the forgetting curve and provide continuous training.

Providence St. Joseph Health, a national, Catholic, not-for-profit health system driven by a belief that health is a human right, revamped its approach to workplace learning in 2019. Providence took an innovative approach to learning and development (L&D) to meet the training and development needs of its distributed workforce, consisting of hundreds of thousands of caregivers across 50 hospitals and 800 clinics in 6 states. The organization implemented knowledge reinforcement solutions to its workplace training initiatives to help caregivers review and retain critical compliance education content. With microlearning, Providence was able to deliver an increased average engagement rate of 93% while boosting retention of key content to 90%. By implementing a modern microlearning platform, Providence’s employees were able to receive training that boosted overall engagement and retention of crucial knowledge.

Why Continuous Learning IS the Future of Work

By continuously focusing on targeted topics, a set of knowledge, or know-how, continuous learning helps to keep employees up to speed and able to recall and apply that information when needed. Microlearning enables continuous learning by ensuring reinforcement of critical pieces of knowledge are pushed out in calculated and repeated intervals. This method of training ensures that people have the right information at the right time to execute their job properly. It is no longer an option for companies to modernize their L&D programs—it’s a necessity.

HR leaders, managers, and business leaders need to find a better way to offer learning opportunities, as the Workplace Learning report found that 58% of respondents say their organization needs to make it easier for employees to learn. This concludes that managers believe their L&D programs don’t fault on the content alone but that programs struggle to deliver content in a way that promotes knowledge retention.

Finally, as employers navigate the future of workplace learning, it is clear organizations must fix their learning culture to evolve alongside the ever-changing workplace. Organizations must leverage modern, digital-first workplace learning, such as microlearning, to invest in their employees’ careers, ultimately fighting burnout and increasing engagement and retention. 

Jason Mundy is the Vice President of Marketing at Qstream, which is responsible for global marketing strategy, brand, product positioning, and growth marketing. Mundy is a strategic and innovative business-to-business (B2B) technology marketing executive with demonstrated international leadership success for direct and channel sales of recurring revenue product portfolios, including software-as-a-service (SaaS), consulting, managed, professional, education, and customer success services for cloud, software, and hardware. Before Qstream, Mundy spent most of his career in customer success and marketing roles at EMC and Dell, most recently leading global marketing for Dell’s advanced services and consulting business. Mundy received his BS in industrial manufacturing engineering from the University of Rhode Island and his MBA from Boston University. He’s based in Boston.