7 best practices for implementing just-in-time learning

Today, people value their time above all else. As Richard Branson famously stated, “Time is the new money.” This represents a cultural shift in how people view their time and how they want to consume content. Information and knowledge, which were once scare and difficult-to-obtain resources, are far more accessible to everyone in the “Information Age.”

As technology rapidly progresses, so do our expectations. Today, we expect most information to be available nearly instantaneously, right when we need it.

For example, news and current events were once only delivered in periodic intervals (i.e. – the newspaper and TV broadcasts). Now, we can simply pull a small device from our pocket and find the latest news minutes after it happens. “Just in time” is the reigning mentality of today’s world, which is defined by instant gratification.

These cultural shifts have been a catalyst for how we approach learning and development within organizations. Today’s learners expect training and job-related assistance to be easily available right at the moment of need, as it is with other information sources. This rising expectation has spawned a new approach to training called “just-in-time” learning.

While quite a lot has been written about just-in-time learning over the last few years, companies continually struggle with its implementation. Many recognize the importance of this new method but fail to use it successfully. To help with this challenge, we’ve assembled our 7 best practices for integrating just-in-time learning at your organization.

1. Figure out what’s needed “just in time”

Not all learning needs to be available just in time.  Determining which training resources should be readily available to your team can be difficult, but it is a necessary first step. Before making any decisions, gather any data you may have about common workplace issues, and observe your employees on the job.

Talking to your team and asking for suggestions is crucial, as they are the ones who will ultimately be using the learning solutions, and they have the best idea of what they will need. Walk in their shoes and imagine what information would be the most beneficial for them to have on hand day to day.

2. Assess what’s currently being done

A critical step in planning for improvement is assessing the status quo. What’s working? And what isn’t working? For example, are your managers successfully delegating to their team? Are there any workplace conflicts that aren’t being resolved? What makeshift solutions are employees using to fix common issues? What happens when learning isn’t accessible, and team-members are confused about how to move forward? Questions like this help to further clarify which training solutions should be accessible “just in time.”

3. Organize the categories of learning

Once you’ve decided what types of training to include, begin grouping similar concepts together. As an organization, you’re likely training a wide variety of topics. For example, you might have learning solutions that cover onboarding/orientation, compliance, company values and processes, applications and programs, sales, leadership/management, and customer service.

Organizing the different categories of training helps you consolidate your ideas. This will also help your team find information faster and more effectively when you’ve put together your just-in-time learning model. You want employees to be able to access needed information quickly, so grouping similar information together is a good early step.

4. “Chunk” learning to make it digestible & easy

Long paragraphs of text and drawn-out explanations tend to lose peoples’ attention, so make sure to reduce information down into smaller components. Only include details that are pertinent, and avoid lengthy, difficult to navigate content.

Think about the typical context of “just-in-time” learning. People usually expect an answer right away and need to be able to quickly find and process the essentials.

Making information easily searchable is a great way to make sure the correct lessons are getting into the hands of your team. The faster employees can access and use learning at the moment of need, the happier they’ll be.

Breaking your learning down into small pieces of content (sometimes called “microlearning”) can help make information more digestible. Microlearning is the approach of delivering small bits of information that learners can study at their own speed, and on their own time. Your employees will have a variety of different uses and contexts for training content. Microlearning can empower learners to arrange and tailor standardized content to best meet their individual needs.

5. Provide examples and scenarios, not just information

People learn best when they can relate topics to real-world examples. Providing information without any context can lead to topics going in one ear and out the other. Showing someone how information is actually applied can give them a framework for how they will use it themselves. Practice opportunities can help learners confidently handle the variety of situations they may face on the job.

Make sure that your just-in-time learning focuses on practice opportunities and tangible application. A bulleted list of facts can be useful, but it’s not going to help employees internalize and develop the right behaviors. Excellent just-in-time learning fits within a company’s broader development strategy to help people grow.

6. Figure out where is help needed

Smart organizations focus on their core competencies and leverage outside help for areas that fall outside of it. What are the areas within learning and development your company can handle better than anyone else? What areas would be best served by a 3rd party provider? Where would you be simply “reinventing the wheel” (i.e. – rebuilding something that already exists)?

Understanding where your training gaps exist is a good way to begin assessing what assistance you might need. Does your company have unique processes that are best covered by a fully custom training solution? Are there skills within your company that are not specific to your organization, but are more universally applicable? What topics and skills need to be made more robust and how?

Perhaps you need assistance in figuring out the areas of need. This is where finding the right value-add partners can be a huge help.

7. Find partners who can add value

No one has all the pieces to the puzzle when it comes to organizational health. Finding a partner with complimentary characteristics is a good way to make sure you’re covering all the bases, and that your approach will have the impact you’re expecting. Selecting the right partners is an important decision and selecting partners that will add value is critical.

Advantage Performance Group has been a value-add partner for hundreds of companies since 1990 and leverages a rich portfolio of impactful training, which includes Vital Learning’s just-in-time solutions. Vital Learning specializes in developing practical management skills, with bite-sized and scenario-focused online and blended learning.

Summary

Just-in-time learning is still in its infancy, meaning that we’ve only just begun to realize its full potential. But one thing we do know is that just-in-time learning is moving from a “nice to have” to a necessity. With these best practices and with the help of excellent partners, you can begin to align your organization’s learning strategy with the needs and expectations of today’s learner.

Vital Learning logoVital Learning is an Advantage Performance Group thought leader partner. For more than 25 years, their management and leadership training programs have been used to develop leaders and achieve results at organizations worldwide. Thousands of companies have leveraged their proven process to develop millions of employees. Teamed with world-class affiliate partners, Vital Learning delivers award-winning development solutions that help companies accelerate and grow.

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Todd Macey

President at Vital Learning
Todd Macey leads a world-class team and partner network to deliver award-winning development solutions for today's managers.

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