Canada Association of Tourism Employees

5 Methods To Help The Software Of Studying On The Job

What are the limits of formal training?

When new employees are hired or existing employees take on new responsibilities within the organization, the L&D team usually prescribes a series of training sessions before starting their new roles. These formal programs are often role-specific and designed with the aim of introducing the learner to the dos and don’ts of a task, subject or role. However, they are not designed to demonstrate the application of the learning immediately after completing the course.

Training courses are intended to increase employee performance. It is expected that employees entering a formal apprenticeship program with little to no expertise will be required to exit the program at a much higher level than they enrolled in the program. Learners who are relatively new to a subject or skill as part of a temporary formal course must apply this newly acquired knowledge immediately in the workplace. And here is the challenge!

Why do L&D teams need to go beyond formal training to improve the application of learning?

When it comes to applying learning in the workplace, the “train them and unleash them” approach has had limited success. Here’s why:

Most formal training programs are linear and of limited duration. When a significant amount of new information, knowledge and skills need to be acquired and then applied to the workplace, formal, linear training does not work well.

For this reason, formal training programs are usually aimed at providing employees only with the basic knowledge they need to do their jobs. Such programs enable employees to develop the necessary basic knowledge.

However, this knowledge is not sufficient for an immediate application in the workplace and an increase in performance. Learners go through a non-linear process to accumulate performance-enhancing new knowledge. This process includes continuous learning, continuous practice, constant feedback, and frequent unlearning and relearning. Only through this learning journey does the application of learning improve workplace performance.

Facilitating performance enhancement in the workplace requires L&D teams to implement a focused strategy of applying learning in the workplace.

Which strategies can help you to improve the application of learning on the job?

The 70:20:10 rule explains how learning and development lead to improved performance in the workplace. While formal learning is important, it only accounts for 10% of learning and development in the workplace. Most performance improvements (70%) come through on-the-job learning and experience, with additional performance improvements (20%) coming from learning from others and through feedback, coaching and mentoring.

To improve employee performance through the application of on-the-job learning, L&D teams need to develop strategies that:

  1. Continuous learning: Help employees to gradually improve their knowledge
  2. Work out: offer them the opportunity to keep practicing what they have learned
  3. Experience in the workplace: ensure that learners enhance and refine their formal learning through on-the-job experiences
  4. Social and collective learning: create environments and networks through which employees learn from others in and out of the workplace
  5. Feedback loops: Share formal and informal feedback that learners then use to improve performance through better application of learning

Here are some specific performance enhancement strategies employers should consider, along with supporting post-formal training tactics to improve the transfer of learning into the workplace:

1. Help learners build on what they learned in formal training

  • Content maintenance
    Carefully curated, relevant and pertinent learning content helps save study time. Use personalized learning paths to help learners learn in their own style.
  • Continuous learning
    Make it easy, quick and efficient for your employees to continue their learning journey. Microlearning, which embodies short, bite-sized learning content, is a great way to ensure continuous learning [1].

2. Create ways for safe practice and learning through experience

Simulated environments provide learners with a safe place to practice what they need to apply learning in the workplace. Tools available to facilitate such learning include experiential learning, game-based training, branching, scenario-based learning, and simulations.

3rd Enable on-the-job learning by providing learning resources in the learner’s workflow through just-in-time learning aids

Learning in the Flow of Work (LIFOW) helps to enable learning where there is a need. With just-in-time (JIT) learning [2], Employees access knowledge when needed, making it easier to apply learning and improving workplace performance. The use of performance support tools (PSTs), including study aids, micro-learning nuggets, and short-form video learning, make it easier to apply new knowledge in the workplace.

4th Informal learning / social learning / coaching and mentoring so that learners can interact and learn from others

By making it easier, but not necessarily formalizing, L&D teams have a better chance of transferring knowledge to the workplace. This can be achieved by offering self-directed learning, facilitating collaboration with others, enabling communication with SMEs and generally encouraging observation, listening, asking questions and connecting with other peers / colleagues.

5. L&D teams should enable a progressive exchange of feedback and ongoing regular check-ins with employees

Continuous (positive!) Feedback can encourage employees to make positive behavioral changes, making it easier to apply learning in the workplace. Activate feedback loops throughout the workflow, not just during milestone events (performance reviews or promotion meetings). In order to be effective in improving performance, the feedback system must offer employees the opportunity to react to the feedback and then to contact feedback givers: colleagues / coaches / mentors.

Farewell Thoughts

Contrary to what some might believe, formal training alone is not a panacea for improving performance. Employees who receive formal training then need to put their knowledge into action through the application of on-the-job learning. I hope this article helps you use the strategies outlined above, including continuous learning, practice, reinforcement feedback, and informal and social learning to aid in this application process.

In the meantime, if you have specific questions, please contact me or leave a comment below.


[1] How to use microlearning to develop employee learning habits and promote continuous learning in the workplace

[2] How to promote just-in-time learning with performance support tools

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EI Design is a leading provider of learning and performance support solutions that thrives on transforming learning and keeping it relevant, effective and continuous.

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