The rise (and rise) of on-demand learning

Learning and development

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Conversely, if something isn’t working, change it; to expect a different outcome from doing the same thing over and over simply doesn’t make sense. Going by that logic, it’s increasingly apparent that something isn’t working in the business world and needs to be changed: learning & development.

Traditional approaches to L&D have been designed around structured programs that fail to address moments of need. Courses and classroom training often require significant planning and any sense of urgency – not to mention learner enthusiasm – is long gone.

Fortunately, this is changing. New approaches – such as informal learning and learning on-demand – are being adopted, their uptake fuelled by new technology and digital natives who have grown up never having known life without the internet.

Fortunately, there has never been a better time to embrace on demand working than during the pandemic (we’ll touch on this a bit more later).

Before we look at learning on-demand in more detail, let’s look at how learning typically takes place in an organisation.

70 20 10 model – it’s time to focus on the 70%

Most HR professionals are aware of the 70:20:10 model for learning & development. This suggests that approximately 10% of all learning takes place in formal training. This formal training, typically done infrequently throughout a career (at most a week or two per year), forms the basis for foundational knowledge about the job, organisation, and technical topics. 

In addition, approximately 20% of learning comes from materials and systems: existing processes, books, manuals, procedures, systems, and embedded methodologies. This 20% comes from doing and reading, with information provided in both structured (ie a website) and unstructured (a manual) form. 

The most critical learning component, however, is “on the job”. Around 70% of learning takes place when people talk with their managers, with peers, find experts, and as HR thought leader Josh Bersin puts it, “make mistakes”.

Bersin outlined the critical importance of this 70%: “If we consider the goal of corporate training to create “masters” in each discipline, then we must realise that we cannot optimise the 10% formal training and 20% of process and information without focusing just as heavily on the third area, the “coaching” and “on-the-job” learning activities.”[1]

There’s a strong element of self-direction required to really capitalise on the “on the job” learning. In addition to learning from managers, mentors and peers, the employee themselves must be open to proactively pursuing learning. Self-learning turns the traditional “top-down” approach (with its less than enticing classroom scenarios) on its head and empowers staff to create a more personalised training journey – one that they find continually stimulating and motivating.

On demand learning and on demand training


This is where on-demand learning comes in. The power of on-demand learning is in its name: on-demand means it’s available anywhere and at any time. It’s not only self-directed, but also social, continuous, consumable, informal and highly relevant. Not surprisingly, the key drivers of this shift are the “always-on” Gen Y and Gen Z, who have also been branded “consumer learners”. They expect to instantly access and consume content online. Whether it’s Snapchat, Netflix, or your LMS, engaging content should only be a few clicks away.

Research[2] backs this up: 68% of employees prefer to learn at work; 58% prefer to learn at their own pace; 49% prefer to learn at the point of need.

Content delivery through an LMS is clearly the best way to provide on-demand learning. ELMO Learning Management, for example, enables managers and employees to keep track of all learning activities, including eLearning modules, instructor-led training and discussion groups. ELMO Learning Management also provides employees with access at any time and on any device to over 400 pre-built eLearning courses in the ELMO Course Library; alternatively, organisations can create their own bespoke online learning content with ELMO Course Builder.

It makes sense to align development opportunities with employee aspirations, and to engage employees through the platforms where they are already spending their time. Still not convinced it’s time to revisit traditional approaches to L&D?

Importance of on demand learning for remote working

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, organisations across Australia and New Zealand have had to operate fully or partially remotely. This shift has been called ‘the world’s biggest remote working experiment’.

Organisations have had to pivot and redefine fundamental policies and practices to facilitate and maximise productivity while working remotely. Although there have been challenges, there are also opportunities – especially when it comes to learning.

Due to its nature, on demand learning has been a saving grace during the pandemic, enabling many organisations to promote upskilling and development of their employees in order to fill skills gaps and address new challenges that have arisen. Employees can complete on demand learning from their homes, in their own time, at their own pace. What’s more, without having to commute into the office, many employees have regained precious time and energy which can be funnelled into development initiatives.

According to ELMO’s 2021 HR Industry Benchmark Report, which is based on a survey of 1800 HR professionals in Australia and New Zealand, the top HR challenge for organisations was ‘upskilling, cross-skilling or reskilling employees’. This suggests that despite some organisations being in a position to resume recruitment efforts, many are looking at alternative ways to fill resource gaps through development initiatives.

Benefits of on demand learning

  • Industry-specific training

Courses can be tailored to suit the needs of specific roles or industries.

  • Efficiency

The courses are designed to be short and effective, ensuring maximum knowledge retention in the shortest amount of time.

  • Multi-platform access

Course material can be access on any device, which means that learning can take place anywhere, at any time.

  • Optimised learning and retention

The newly acquired knowledge is put into practice immediately, thereby improving learning transfer from theory into practice.

  • Tailored professional development plans

Managers can ensure employees receive training that matches their specific needs and career plans, to help them upskill, cross-skill or remain compliant.

Learn about the benefits of a learning management system (LMS).

ELMO Software (ASX:ELO) is a cloud-based solution that helps thousands of organisations across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom to effectively manage their people, process and pay. ELMO solutions span the entire employee lifecycle from ‘hire to retire’. They can be used together or stand-alone, and are configurable according to an organisation’s unique processes and workflows. Automate and streamline your operations to reduce costs, increase efficiency and bolster productivity. For further information, contact us.


[1] “A New Organizational Learning Model: Learning On-Demand” by Josh Bersin

[2] 2018 Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn

Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.
Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.