When recruiters for the global staffing firm ManpowerGroup had to quickly learn how to use a newly implemented applicant tracking system (ATS), they weren't just given training materials like e-learning courses or videos to get up to speed on the technology.
Instead, recruiters could access a digital adoption platform (DAP) that helped them learn the new system "at the moment of need" as they began to use the ATS.
The just-in-time learning technology was implemented with the belief that employees often have difficulty recalling how to perform tasks or remembering the purpose behind myriad system features when they have to rely on traditional training courses or content delivered long before they actually have to apply a skill or knowledge.
Experts say DAPs represent the continuing movement of technology training toward "performance support" and away from traditional methods.
Jill Busch, director of learning and development for ManpowerGroup, opted to implement the DAP from training provider Whatfix.
"Any time a company stands up a new software platform, it's always a challenge because it creates anxiety among workers, and there are no shortage of things for employees to remember as they start using the new system," Busch said.
In the past, ManpowerGroup delivered in-person training in the weeks leading up to new software going live, with videos, job aids and a help desk supporting employees after the implementation. That approach has been modified to emphasize just-in-time learning.
"A goal for me has always been to get learning closer to the moment of need, not to expect people to have to memorize a lot of things or wade through pages of documentation to figure out how to learn new systems," Busch said.
She said the Whatfix platform overlays the ATS to help recruiters learn the system with some of the following features:
- On-screen step-by-step guides to walk recruiters through processes like adding a candidate or scheduling interviews.
- "Smart tips" that prompt recruiters to see helpful hints when they hover a cursor over certain fields. The tips are designed to increase accuracy when entering data.
- "Beacons" or pulsing red dots on clickable icons that provide text clarification to explain to recruiters what certain system features can be used for.
Because of the success of the initiative, ManpowerGroup is considering using the Whatfix platform for other technology-related training in the company, Busch said.
Power of Just-in-Time Tech Training
Melissa Hilbert, a senior director in Gartner's HR practice, said these types of learning solutions can be valuable to organizations that are providing more digital tools to employees to help them do their jobs.
"The problem is that it's difficult to be proficient in all of those applications, especially when complex business processes are wrapped around the software," Hilbert said.
Digital adoption platforms like Whatfix and others in the category that deliver training at the time of need can help users quickly build technology proficiency, she said.
"These vendors offer software that overlays applications [such as human capital management, enterprise resource planning or customer relationship management] and drive adoption by providing in-application guided learning, simulations, analytics and 'nudging,' " Hilbert added. "Providing guidance at the moment of need means workers don't have to remember all of the complicated steps of a process as they are guided."
Gartner research predicts that by 2025, about 70 percent of organizations will use DAPs across their entire technology stack.
These solutions can impact not just learning efficacy but also employee engagement and retention, Hilbert said. According to the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, when employees are satisfied with workplace applications, they are twice as likely to want to stay and grow with the organization.
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Downstream Benefit: Relief for Help Desks
Hilbert said another benefit of just-in-time learning solutions is they can greatly reduce or even eliminate support tickets filed with help desks when workers struggle to learn new technologies. That's a welcome development for IT support teams, experts say, given the large workload many have faced after the move to remote work.
ManpowerGroup experienced such a reduction in calls to its help desk in the aftermath of going live with its new learning platform, Busch said. "The struggles and calls that came in after we implemented the new ATS were fewer than expected," she said.
Learning in the Flow of Work
Other providers of corporate learning platforms have recognized the power of learning at the moment of need and built products and integrations designed to facilitate that type of training for digital tools.
Skillsoft, a provider of online learning content with world headquarters in Dublin, created an app that allows employees to access its learning library at the moment of need from within Microsoft Teams, a collaboration platform many workers use daily.
Apratim Purakayastha, chief technical officer for Skillsoft, said users can access learning content like micro-learning videos focused on specific tasks, tap into curated learning paths, or opt for collaborative learning that allows employees to share and recommend learning with their peers. Chatbots also allow users to search and filter content at the time of need.
The learning and development team at ManTech, a defense contractor in Herndon, Va., uses content from Skillsoft for a variety of learning purposes, including technology-related training; career development; diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives; and more.
ManTech creates curated learning paths for employees tied to personal or strategic objectives and strives to deliver learning within the flow of employees' daily work. "We work to keep our training to bite-size pieces and avoid using long courses for technology training," said Karen Wolf, chief learning officer for ManTech. In one Skillsoft course that ManTech plans to deploy, for example, the longest training video in the curriculum is seven minutes.
Michael Rochelle, chief strategy officer for the Brandon Hall Group, an HR advisory and research company in Delray Beach, Fla., believes such learning at the moment of need represents the future of training for new technologies introduced to the workplace.
"Employees need learning tools to help them as they are working or performing tasks, not before or after," Rochelle said. "Many learning technology providers have catching up to do on that front, because they're still living in the world of delivering courses or are still oriented only around a learning management system. Learning that teaches employees how to use new digital tools needs to be much more agile and dynamic today."
Dave Zielinski is a freelance business writer and editor in Minneapolis.