The intersection of learning and the digital workplace
Learning has never really been at the heart of most intranets or digital workplaces the way internal communications and collaboration have. Even the increase in intranet-centric self-service and the ability to perform simple transactions provided through integrations, such as booking vacation leave, tend to bypass the learning world. Few intranets allow you to view and book classes – it’s still somewhat peripheral in terms of digital workplace capabilities.
This is starting to change. Recently, at Content Formula, the digital agency that I run, we have seen a lot more interest from clients and prospects wishing to integrate learning into their basic digital work experience, whether through their SharePoint intranet. or in Microsoft Teams. I have also heard about it anecdotally from others in the industry.
The increased emphasis on the integration of learning is a good trend. Training and learning promote efficiency, commitment and minimize risk. Learning needs to be integrated into our digital experiences and be closer to our daily workflow.
What is driving the push to integrate learning into the digital workplace?
There are several reasons for the increased emphasis currently placed on integrating learning into the digital workplace.
Increased focus on the employee experience
We have seen a definite shift towards more holistic thinking with the employee experience (EX). EX is now at the center of thinking about how IT, HR and internal communications teams approach the digital workplace. Learning is a key part of the employee experience and the overall package that employers offer their staff. Developing a better and more integrated digital learning experience aligns with an EX curriculum.
Better opportunities for integrating learning into Microsoft 365, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams
There has been a radical change in how easy it is to integrate learning into Microsoft 365. Learning platforms like LMS365, which already integrate seamlessly with Microsoft 365 and Teams and can also be easily integrated into it. ‘SharePoint intranet, are experiencing a slight increase in interest. Microsoft Viva Learning will create even more integration opportunities and could be a game changer in the long run. Content from Microsoft’s learning paths can also be integrated.
Related article: Microsoft Viva – Who is it for?
The pandemic and the resulting push towards remote working and the hybrid workplace
The pandemic and the new emphasis on remote working and the hybrid workplace have placed more emphasis on learning through digital channels. The move from the classroom to digital training has advantages, as it opens up more learning for all staff and is less expensive than face-to-face. Much of the training itself is also aimed at increasing digital literacy and supporting future hybrid work models, which place even greater emphasis on the integration of digital learning.
Growth of employee applications
The pandemic has also sparked a silent revolution in frontline communications through employee mobile apps. Frontline and field workers who were previously offline can now access digital services through apps on their personal device. Learning can work very well on mobile and be consumed at the right times. Again, this opened up learning channels through dedicated apps (like for LMS365) or through the Microsoft Teams app.
The creation of the digital “one stop shop”
The idea of the ‘one-stop-shop’ – an integrated digital workplace ecosystem – has long appealed to workplace practitioners, although they have struggled to achieve it. In the intranet space, much of it turned out to be a false promise, or even a cliché. But as the maturity of the digital workspace progresses and platforms evolve to include more connectors and integration options, one-stop-shop is now much more achievable. Learning is a great choice for the next onboarding and getting more ROI from your digital workplace.
What does the integration of learning look like in your digital workplace?
There are many options and ideas for incorporating learning into your basic digital work experience, for example:
- Create a learning center on your intranet that is effectively an interface for learning opportunities on different learning systems and resources.
- Add learning alerts and reminders to a custom built-in notification and alert flow through your intranet through Teams.
- Incorporate courses and learning platform resources into your research.
- Creation of web widgets / parts on your intranet homepage, HR dashboard or learning center, for example, covering learning files, upcoming learning and mandatory learning tasks.
- Provide access to your learning platform through Teams.
- Creation of a bot that allows users to find and register for courses.
- Make sure learning is accessible from key menu options in Microsoft 365.
- Activation of learning notifications via Windows 10 “toast” pop-up notifications.
Related article: Successful Learning Programs Are Designed to Surprise
What’s the best way to start?
Now is the perfect time to start bringing learning into the digital workplace, but some organizations aren’t even ready to go yet. If you haven’t considered incorporating learning into your digital workspace, here are some steps you can take:
- Speak to your learning team and different training teams (e.g. IT) to discuss potential integrations.
- Get a solid understanding of learning needs through user research. For example, consider conducting a survey.
- Consider learning in the broader context of knowledge management initiatives, such as communities of practice.
- Look for quick wins and consider which integrations you can achieve more easily with connectors (although APIs expand the possibilities).
- Consider your future roadmap, for example explore the possibilities around Microsoft Viva Learning.
A perfect storm
A storm of reasons is driving companies to bring learning into the digital workplace. Products like Microsoft Viva Learning and LMS365 help make this possible, and the focus on the employee experience and hybrid workplace has made learning a priority. It’s time to act now and put digital workplace learning on the agenda.
Dan Hawtrey is the Managing Director of Content Formula, a consulting firm that designs and builds intranets and digital workplace tools on SharePoint and Office 365 platforms. He has written extensively on most topics related to the digital workplace during many years on the Content Formula blog.