Just-in-Time Learning: The Future of Workplace Training

“When you think about something and don’t really know much about it, you will automatically get information.”

Larry Page, Co-founder, Google.

In the world of corporate training, many trends have come and gone over the years. Improved methods of sharing information created a trend that became continuous sales training. But trainers and managers still struggled to counteract the forgetting curve — the rapid rate at which employees forget information directly after learning it.

Today, just-in-time (JIT) learning is helping employees avoid information overload, access knowledge when they need it, and put what they’re learning into practice immediately. JIT learning is the key to getting past the forgetting curve and putting employees in control of how and when they access knowledge. 

Read on to learn what just-in-time learning is, why it matters, and some best practices for implementing it. 

What is just-in-time learning?

Just-in-time learning is an individual and organizational approach to training employees that provides the right type of training at the right time.

JIT learning delivers information when and where it’s needed — at the point of friction where employees are likely to make mistakes. Just-in-time learning embeds bits of knowledge into business processes so that users can find answers to their questions without interrupting their workflow.

Why is just-in-time learning important?

Just in time learning is important for any business that wants to improve:

Technology use

Salesforce and other platforms can be difficult to learn, and regular software updates require teams to refresh their learning. Just-in-time learning breaks down complex information, using walkthroughs and training modules to help employees learn new information without becoming overwhelmed.

Worker autonomy

Just-in-time learning promotes an active learning culture. It empowers workers to find their own answers via a knowledge base, video tutorials, or other means — and they can access this info when they are out in the field.

Employee satisfaction & retention

As a learning and development tool, just-in-time learning also encourages the 70-20-10 optimized learning model or a “learn by doing” mentality by embedding knowledge at every turn. Employees are supported with bite-sized pieces of information as they go about their work. The greatest benefit is that this embedded process reinforcement is a very effective way to boost retention.

Change management

Businesses of all sizes need to innovate if they wish to survive. The ability to change is so important that some have argued that the rate of change should be the single most important business metric. However, merely deciding to adopt new technologies or change processes is not enough; these changes must also be communicated across the organization and adopted by employees.

Knowledge retention

Employees forget 50 percent of what they’ve learned within one hour. JIT learning prevents that problem because it’s an ongoing process — employees are learning new information in small, manageable chunks, instead of sitting in long classroom-style training sessions. 

Just-in-time learning gives businesses a key tool to enable corporate change. For the first time, companies are able to instantly spread the word about process changes to all of their employees, in any workflow, giving them access to real-time information when and where they need it.

Designing knowledge and training for just-in-time learning

Unlike traditional techniques such as classroom training, just-in-time learning complements the ways your employees want to learn (and their short attention spans!). Just as you might search Google to quickly find answers for your questions as they come up, just in time learning delivers snippets of information in real-time.

Let’s take a look at three best practices for implementing just-in-time learning:

1. Identify the information that is needed “just in time”

One of the main benefits of just-in-time training over regular training is that you can target pain points that have an immediate impact.

For this reason, it’s good practice to focus on work-related tasks and highly relevant topics when creating resources intended for just-in-time training.

An example of this would be onboarding materials or identifying skill gaps employees must fill as they progress in their roles.

If you’re unsure what skills and tasks these are within certain departments, start by asking for feedback.

2. Make content easily digestible and easy to find

The way JIT earning materials are created and shared is always changing. We know now that shorter, more direct content is the most effective. People’s attention spans are the shortest they’ve ever been. If you don’t deliver learning materials in small bite-sized chunks, people will lose interest.

This is why corporations of all sizes use a JIT model to deliver their training. Not only do these platforms give you all the tools to create and share training, but they also promote short actionable content.

Ideally, each training component — whether it’s a tutorial video, a how-to article, or a walkthrough — should require no more than five minutes.

Case study: Learn how Southwest Airlines uses Spekit to provide just-in-time training to its sales reps.

3. Embrace different types of learners with rich content

You can divide your employees into four primary learning styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. Each style prefers to receive information in a different way: 

  • Visual learners like graphs, charts, and whiteboards. 
  • Auditory learners prefer listening to information — perhaps via podcasts — or talking things through. 
  • Kinesthetic learners learn through experience, getting hands-on with projects. 
  • Reading/writing learners like to read long-form text (like this blog post!) and write out notes on what they’re learning.

What does this have to do with just-in-time learning? Long blocks of content won’t appeal to an auditory learner, just as a podcast won’t help a visual learner. To be effective, you should provide a variety of training resources that share information in different ways. Along with a text explanation, embed images and short videos whenever possible.

To format your knowledge base effectively, think about how Google displays its results to a search query. Instead of simply showing a long block of text, Google displays a mix of results: a featured snippet, some related video or images, and a “People also ask” section with links to similar search terms for further pursuit. Search results may also show ads at the top of page 1. 

Using rich media has another benefit: Each form of information reinforces the training. Employees who are primarily reading/writing learners can benefit from a visual infographic that concisely sums up key points.

One study showed that three days after learning information, people typically remember only 10 percent of it. In contrast, they remember up to 65 percent when the information is both visual and verbal. In the context of corporate training, where knowledge retention is very important, this is a huge difference! Combine visuals with written content to increase knowledge retention.

4. Reinforce training with real-world examples, not just information

Another best practice when creating training and learning materials is to include real-world examples where possible.

Most people learn and retain information better when they can tie it in with a real-world example. Essentially, this enables them to add context or envision a relatable situation in their mind when they’re learning.

In addition, employees can take what they’ve learned and actually put it into practice. It’s a great way to help learners identify their strengths and weaknesses.

5. Allow employees to participate in the process

As companies change from a siloed, top-down structure to a more flexible, equal model, so too should corporate learning. You may have already heard of employee-generated learning, which is a bottom-up learning model, in which employees manage themselves. This model is gaining popularity because it is flexible and adaptable to many learning needs.

When designing a just-in-time training program, including a quick and simple way for employees to ask questions. Users should be able to request more information about a term they don’t know, ask for clarification on current training, and connect with a subject-matter expert when needed.

Employees should be empowered to participate in their own learning. They should be encouraged to ask questions, identify gaps in their knowledge, and seek solutions. People learn more effectively when they are involved in the process — turning passive learning into active learning.

6. Use software that supports just-in-time learning

The effectiveness and the scale in which you can roll out just-in-time learning will be limited to how effective your software and technology are.

Several types of platforms may be suitable, depending on your individual needs. Typically, organizations use microlearning, a knowledge base, and digital adoption platforms.

These platforms enable users to create a wide range of training materials and resources and quickly share or roll them out.

Spekit is the market leader in this field. It’s a microlearning platform that can facilitate just-in-time learning and more. With Spekit, admins can embed training into existing workflows, and employees can access training, even when they’re away from the office.  

Case study: MURAL uses Spekit to surface contextual training resources across its robust tech stack during a phase of hypergrowth

7. Collect feedback from employees

Collecting feedback is often an overlooked element of delivering training and improving how an organization approaches ongoing development.

Employees will rarely reach out if their training needs are not being met. Consequently, it’s up to the HR department, training admins, or whoever is providing the training to proactively check in with employees about their training needs.

The easiest way to do this is by giving employees an avenue to provide feedback, such as a short questionnaire at the end of a training module.

However you approach it, it’s essential that you proactively ask for feedback. The information you receive will help you better tailor your training in the future to meet employees’ needs.

8. Measure results

As with any corporate initiative, good measurement is key to establishing ROI.

Many modern learning management systems (such as Spekit) have built-in measurement tools. Admins can see the pieces of knowledge that are accessed the most, which helps them prioritize which content to improve. They can also see how much time employees spend learning and referencing the content.

By tracking the questions that employees are asking most often, leadership can develop new training content that addresses those knowledge gaps. Over the long term, this strategy can eliminate hundreds of hours of search time as the program’s effectiveness improves.

In addition, administrators can see what percentage of knowledge is already documented by subject matter experts, giving them a comprehensive view of what knowledge their users have access to within the learning platform.

Make time for just-in-time learning

In summary, just-in-time learning provides knowledge both where and when it’s needed. When employees can get answers without interrupting their workflows, they can move through tasks more efficiently. To create an effective program, follow just-in-time learning best practices like using rich content, encouraging employee participation, and measuring your results.

If you’re looking for content to help you jump-start your just-in-time training program, we’ve created some in a variety of formats that are free to the public. For quick, informational walk-through videos, visit our YouTube Channel or head over to our Video Learning Center.