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Why Now's the Time to Integrate Learning Into Your Digital Workplace

July 19, 2021 Learning and Development
Dan Hawtrey
By Dan Hawtrey

Learning has never really been at the heart of most intranets or digital workplaces in the same way that internal communications and collaboration have. Even the increase in intranet-focused self-service and the ability to carry out simple transactions delivered through integrations, such as booking annual leave, tends to side-step the world of learning. Few intranets allow you to view and book courses — it remains somewhat peripheral in terms of digital workplace capabilities.

This is starting to change. Recently at Content Formula, the digital agency I run, we've seen far more interest from clients and prospects wanting to integrate learning into their core digital workplace experience, either through their SharePoint intranet or in Microsoft Teams. I’ve also heard about this anecdotally from others across the industry.

The increased focus on integrating learning is a good trend. Training and learning drives effectiveness, engagement and minimizes risk. Learning should be integrated into our digital experiences and be closer to our daily flow of work.

What's Driving the Push to Integrate Learning in the Digital Workplace?

Several reasons are behind the current increased focus on integrating learning into the digital workplace.

Increased Focus on Employee Experience

We’ve seen a definite shift to more holistic thinking with employee experience (EX). EX is now a focus for how IT, HR and internal comms teams are approaching the digital workplace. Learning is a key part of employee experience and the total package that employers offer their staff. Crafting a better and more integrated digital learning experience aligns with an EX agenda.

Greater Opportunities to Integrate Learning Into Microsoft 365, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams

There has been a sea-change in how easy it is to integrate learning into Microsoft 365. Learning platforms like LMS365, that already integrate seamlessly with Microsoft 365 and Teams and can also be brought into the SharePoint intranet with ease, are seeing an uptick in interest. Microsoft Viva Learning will create even more opportunities for integration and may prove a game-changer in the longer term. Microsoft’s own learning pathways content can also be integrated.

Related Article: Microsoft Viva – Who Is It For?

The Pandemic and Resulting Push to Remote Work and Hybrid Workplace

The pandemic and the new emphasis on remote working and the hybrid workplace has put more emphasis on delivering learning through digital channels. A move from the classroom into digital training offers advantages, in that it opens up more learning for all staff and is less expensive than face to face. A lot of training itself is also about increasing digital literacy and supporting future hybrid working patterns, which places yet more emphasis on digital learning integration.

Growth in Employee Apps

The pandemic also brought about a quiet revolution in frontline communications via mobile employee apps. Frontline and field employees who were previously disconnected can now access digital services via apps on their personal device. Learning can work very well on mobile and be consumed at convenient times. Again, this has opened up channels for learning via dedicated apps (such as for LMS365) or via the Microsoft Teams app.

The Creation of the Digital 'One-Stop Shop'

The idea of the “one-stop shop” — one integrated digital workplace ecosystem — has long enticed workplace practitioners, although they've found it hard to pull off. In the intranet space it’s proven largely to be a false promise, even a cliché. But as digital workplace maturity advances and platforms mature to include more connectors and integration options, the one-stop shop is now far more achievable. Learning is a great choice for the next integration and getting more ROI from your digital workplace.

What Does Learning Integration in Your Digital Workplace Look Like?

There are plenty of options and ideas for how to integrate learning into your core digital workplace experience, for example:

  • Create a learning hub on your intranet that is effectively a front end to learning opportunities across different systems and learning resources.
  • Adding learning alerts and reminders into a personalized integrated notification and alert feed via your intranet through Teams.
  • Integrating courses and learning platform assets into your search.
  • Creating widgets / web parts on your intranet homepage, HR dashboard or learning hub — for example, covering learning records, upcoming learning and mandatory learning tasks.
  • Providing access to your learning platform through Teams.
  • Creating a bot that allows users to find and register for courses.
  • Making sure learning can be accessed from key menu options across Microsoft 365.
  • Enabling learning notifications through Windows 10 ‘toast’ pop-up notifications.

Related Article: Successful Learning Programs Are Designed to Surprise

What Is the Best Way to Get Started?

Now is an excellent time to start to integrate learning into the digital workplace, but some organizations aren’t even off the starting blocks. If you haven’t considered integrating learning into your digital workplace, here are some next steps to consider:

  • Speak to your learning team and different training teams (for example in 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 wider context of related initiatives in knowledge management, such as Communities of Practice.
  • Look for quick wins and consider the integrations you can achieve more easily through connectors (although APIs widen the possibilities).
  • Consider your future roadmap, for example investigate the possibilities around Microsoft Viva Learning.

A Perfect Storm

A perfect storm of reasons is pushing businesses to integrate learning into the digital workplace. Products like Microsoft Viva Learning and LMS365 are helping make this possible, and the focus on employee experience and the hybrid workplace have moved learning up the agenda. It’s time to act now and get learning in the digital workplace on the agenda.

About the Author

Dan Hawtrey is the Managing Director of Content Formula, a consultancy that designs and builds intranets and digital workplace tools on the SharePoint and Office 365 platforms. He has written extensively on most topics related to the digital workplace for many years on the Content Formula blog.

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