How to recession-proof your business with just-in-time learning

Melanie Fellay
November 20, 2023
December 19, 2022
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The future of workplace learning: What is just-in-time learning?

We live in a culture that caters to instant gratification. Amazon built an entire model around providing customers with virtually anything they want with the least possible friction. As a result, those expectations have seeped into our workplaces.

Unfortunately, how we learn at work hasn’t caught up with our desire for instant answers. But things are steadily changing with the rise of just-in-time (JIT) learning , a concept that mushroomed from Toyota’s factory floors . Unlike traditional learning methods, JIT learning gives employees on-demand access to bursts of learning when they ask for it. In other words, it’s learning in the right format when and where it’s needed.

And in an era echoing the recession of 2008, when companies are making difficult decisions of who to keep and who to let go , JIT learning builds an engine for growth and retention. This learning system can help new go-to-market employees get up to speed faster and reduce sales cycles. Furthermore, JIT learning can preserve institutional knowledge and relieve the burden on seasoned employees who typically become the go-to's for any and all questions.

Another unique benefit of JIT learning is that it helps employees continuously grow and advance their knowledge as training and tools evolve. Moreover, this learning model inspires employees to work on their personal development in bursts – and those incremental gains toward knowledge snowball into new skills and approaches to problem-solving and innovation.

But before we wade into how JIT learning benefits your organization, let’s define what it is and why the way we learn at work is broken.

The way we learn at work is broken

Like everyone else, employees value their time when it comes to learning.

They appreciate not having to look for answers in outdated PDFs, dense decks, or vast learning management systems — overflowing with helpful information that’s next-to-impossible to process in a race against the clock.

Simply put, these old knowledge systems don’t serve the urgency of needing to know right now.

New employee expectations and the rise of technologies that make them possible have fueled JIT learning. 57% of employees expect their learning to be more turnkey, automated, and real-time than it was three years ago.

57% of employees expect their learning to be more turnkey, automated, and real-time than it was three years ago.

But not all businesses are an instant match. Choosing the right just-in-time learning tools hinges on six factors:

# 1 Cultivating a culture of learning

To ensure that JIT learning is the right fit for your organization, assess if your company thrives from a learning culture. For example, is training integrated into your company's foundation? Or is it a business add-on, an afterthought?

# 2 Using self-service technology

JIT learning supports remote and hybrid learning environments. It gives employees the tools they need to be self-sufficient from anywhere. Furthermore, it allows businesses to capture institutional knowledge, proactively preparing for attrition or brain drain if employees retire or move up the ladder. Whatever solution you choose, ensure it’s easy for employees to use and get answers when and where they need them.

#3 Relevant, bite-sized learning

Because learners have limited time constraints at work for JIT training, they need short learning bursts in an instant. Therefore, provide bite-sized learning with relevant information so that learning isn't eating into their time.

#4 Work-focused competency

Enablement leaders can target JIT learning on employee competency gaps. For instance, if someone is new, focus their learning on what they need to know to do their job. On the other hand, if they're in sales, the first learning guides might walk them through the steps to record a demo with your video software or create their first opportunity in Salesforce.

Today's JIT learning solutions include built-in analytics that helps enablement directors to improve their content and employees to focus on where they need to grow.

#5 Integrated system of learning

JIT systems must be quick and efficient for employees to save time and effort. In addition, they should be non-intrusive and fully integrated within an employee's day-to-day workflow. This way, employees view learning as a natural extension of their workday versus an event or destination.

#6 Including social learning

Because JIT learning usually happens independently, one helpful feature is embedding social learning, allowing employees to connect with subject matter experts, coaches, and peers.

How does JIT learning work and why is it important in sales?

The just-in-time learning model can accelerate onboarding, improve sales, and help companies with employee retention because it makes training easy, efficient, and fast. Specifically, JIT learning can be a game changer if your business aims to improve:

  • Information accessibility: JIT training breaks down complex information into smaller chunks and makes that knowledge accessible right when and where it’s needed.
  • Worker autonomy: Employees are immersed in a more active learning environment that provides on-demand, turnkey solutions.
  • Employee satisfaction and retention: Employees learn by doing through engaged, on-the-spot training, which boosts employee retention, especially in times of recession.
  • Knowledge Retention: Employees learn faster and better with JIT learning which also benefits retention and institutional knowledge capture.

Designing knowledge and training for just-in-time learning

#1 Define what information is needed “just-in-time”

JIT training regularly addresses workers’ issues by focusing on employee pain points. When developing resources, JIT learning needs to focus on tasks relevant to the job so that employees can benefit from them.

#2 Make content accessible and easily digestible

Short, actionable chunk-sized content must put “knowing by doing” first. Moreover, these impactful bursts of knowledge must respect employees’ time.

#3 Embrace learner diversity with rich content

Given the four primary learning styles, just-in-time learning needs to cater to each with customized variety:

  • Visual: Graphs, charts, and whiteboards are best for rapid learning.
  • Auditory: Short videos can be effective for these types of learners.
  • Kinesthetic: Experiential and hands-on projects are well-suited for these types of learning.
  • Reading/Writing: Longer-form content like guides and eBooks can benefit these more patient learners.

#4 Reinforce training with real-world examples

Employees benefit from real-life situations rather than just theory. Infuse just-in-time training with practical anecdotes and captivating storytelling for deeper learning and recall.

#5 Enable employee participation in the buildout

As stakeholders in the learning process, you should empower employees to ask questions and help shape your just-in-time system.

#6 Apply JIT learning-friendly software

Remember to choose a platform that can support the scope of JIT. For example, platforms like Spekit are specifically designed to support and promote just-in-time learning.

#7 Gather employee feedback and track results

Ask employees what they think of just-in-time training at the end of a learning burst. For example, are they getting stuck anywhere after their first few months of using a tool? This way, you can ensure your content is effective. Also, compare employee responses with just-in-time learning software analytics. Doing this gives you a window into what people are saying vs. what they're doing, enabling you to refine your JIT learning program further.

Benefits of active training through the just-in-time learning approach

#1 Improved employee performance

Employees tend to make fewer mistakes with just-in-time learning because they can quickly find direct answers to their questions, which can help improve your bottom line. In other words, employees are more productive and have more time to focus on doing their jobs instead of searching for a needle in a haystack.

#2 Drives cost-efficient, quick updates

Your enablement leaders will only have to revise part of the module when information changes. Instead, they can insert new content seamlessly into JIT learning floors. In other words, they can install a door without knocking down the entire house.

#3 Enables anytime, anywhere training

Just-in-time learning is easy and efficient for on-the-go training. Employees can take advantage of it quickly and further their learning when they have downtime or have gotten P1s off their plates.

#4 Optimizes confident, engaged learners

Because employees are the ones who are in the driver's seat when it comes to learning, they are more proactive and engaged in their jobs. Rather than passively receiving information, they can schedule and get training on their terms.

#5 Provides "at the moment of need" learning

Because learning happens when knowledge is needed, JIT learning is relevant and gets more readily adopted. For example, if you tried something repeatedly that didn't meet your expectations, you'll likely abandon it for something better.

Just-in-time learning’s role in recession-proofing your business

Although businesses are never fully shielded from economic headwinds, just-in-time learning can enhance your company’s employee strategy in uncertain times. Specifically, just-in-time training can produce a more confident and proactive employee base willing to take on learning because it’s quick and responsive to their needs and doesn’t come at the cost of them doing their jobs.

Just-in-time learning produces a more confident and proactive employee base willing to take on learning because it’s quick and responsive to their needs and doesn’t come at the cost of them doing their jobs.

In essence, JIT learning increases employee retention because it nurtures employee engagement by helping them be successful at their jobs. Moreover, employee efficiency and satisfaction are crucial in a recession because if people are productive, seeing results, and enjoying their work, they’re less likely to leave.

It’s no wonder that more companies are turning to just-in-time learning software to accelerate their onboarding, preserve their institutional knowledge, and train employees at the pace of business.