On-demand learning (ODL) is a strategy that helps employees access knowledge anywhere, anytime. While the concept isn’t new, it has gained more importance in the post-pandemic era because the old methods of learning are difficult to practise in the remote and hybrid working conditions.
Comprising of diverse content — videos, podcasts, blog posts, job aids and so on — it is necessary that all the material in on-demand learning be easily available to the employees. Today, with the increasingly technology-dependent world, employees want more convenient ways of accessing content, without going through multiple barriers which only interfere with the learning process.
Modern advancements have also made it easier for employees to access knowledge on their own terms. The Internet is filled with sources offering skills that employees can learn to improve themselves.
“This new sense of independence and the fact that the cost of learning has decreased has contributed to The Great Resignation as well”
Emmanuel David, HR leader
If organisations have the resources to provide the required content to their employees without subjecting them to any barriers of time or availability, they can actually help in their progress. Learning and development (L&D) teams should be observant and be able to identify the kind of skills that need to be updated or reformed, and push for training employees accordingly.
On-demand learning is particularly effective in providing effective training to the employees when they have to perform a task that requires new skills.
Pros of on-demand learning
Quick learning: As Anurag Verma, vice president – human resources, Uniphore, rightly says, “When an organisation is growing fast, the employees are required to learn new skills at an accelerated pace. On-demand learning helps them acquire the knowledge required to do their jobs and fulfill the duties with quicker speed.”
It is up to the L&D teams to offer training experience to the employees exactly when they need it so that they can take advantage of the resources and retain the maximum amount of knowledge.
Cost effectiveness: One of the biggest advantages of on-demand learning is that it is cost effective.
Emmanuel David, HR leader, says, “Nowadays, the cost of learning has dropped. So, an employee can undertake an online course at Harvard and learn the necessary skills with the organisation’s support.”
Democratisation: There has been a democratisation of knowledge in recent years. David points out that employees can access learning and skills through courses, and train on the job, or conceptually.
Certainly, on-demand learning seems to have a lot to offer to the employees, but it can also be restrictive.
Cons of on-demand learning
Lack of immersion: One of the biggest disadvantages of ODL is that it doesn’t allow for a fully immersive study of a subject.
“When an organisation is growing fast, the employees are required to learn new skills at an accelerated pace. On-demand learning helps them acquire the knowledge required to do their jobs and fulfill the duties with quicker speed”
Anurag Verma, vice president – human resources, Uniphore
“It is difficult to gain full expertise and knowledge through this method,” says Verma.
He goes on to explain, “Employees usually have to absorb the information too quickly, which means there is a possibility that they can’t fully engage with the subject matter in a way that gives them deeper understanding of the subject”.
Chances of failure: Since employees have to use the knowledge acquired from these methods in their jobs, the chances of failure are high if the employees haven’t been able to learn the skills properly and in time, Verma stresses.
Attrition: As everyone is now in search of better opportunities, employees who realise that they’re not getting the necessary help from their organisations in learning new skills will quit and join a place that offers them better training modules or even opt to study on their own. “This new sense of independence and the fact that the cost of learning has decreased has contributed to The Great Resignation as well,” points out David.
Ineffectiveness: According to him, learning requires enormous effort, and therefore, only the employees who want to improve can really be subjected to it. If the L&D teams impose learning training programmes on everyone, they will end up alienating a lot of people.
On-demand learning can prove to be a double-edged sword and should be applied with the aim of enhancing employee skills. The availability of knowledge has made it easier for people to learn new things, and it will certainly help them gain new working skills to help their progress. However, only with smart application can it help usher in progress of the employees and the organisations.