The rise (and rise) of on-demand learning

“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.

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 – 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 and always-on
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? These on-demand learning benefits should get you over the line:

  • 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.

For further information on how ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll can help your organisation meet the learning needs of an “always-on” workforce, 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.