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Swarna Sudha Selvaraj

Tata Consultancy Services

Head, Talent Development

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Six Lessons for Flex Working from Flex Learning


Flexible learning can teach us simple, powerful, and easily implementable lessons on flex-working.

Flex work is an umbrella term used for several work arrangements, such as flexible work hours and remote working, etc., wherein employees are given greater freedom to schedule their work obligations. As an L&D practitioner and a strong proponent of flexible working, I’ve noticed that the two share some common traits. On the surface, it might seem that the two would have nothing in common. But Flexible learning can teach us Six major lessons for flex-working.

When learning moved from physical to digital, it became:

♦ Anytime

♦ Anywhere

♦ Any device

♦ Any content

♦ Anyone


Flexible Learning has been there in organisations for some years now, and it is gaining high traction because of the digital transformation driven by the pandemic. Here are some concepts that can be picked up directly from flex learning and applied to flex working:

1. Manage Less and Empower More

The physical classrooms for learning programs meant more coordination and managing by the L&D team, whether it be the resources required or the formalities that were repetitive and not scalable. When digital learning was introduced, L&D had to manage less. Also, the learners got empowered. Competency goals and role-based paths were made available in LMS with learning preferences for employees to upskill as relevant and preferred.

Similarly, as we move towards flex work, more clarity in work goals could help managers manage less and empower the employees in achieving goals with their flexible work styles.

2. Sharing Control

The control dilemma was a huge challenge to beat when the physical-to-digital transformation of learning happened. However, learning analytics enabled L&D teams to share control with users. It empowered employees at all levels to discover, analyse and act on the insights arising from analytics through personalised and gamified Learning Management Systems (LMS).

On the flexible working front, a few system controls in terms of access to work analytics and their time spending patterns could empower employees. Ethical stalking is something that should be positioned in an acceptable and helpful manner to employees.

3. Maximum Variety with Single Door Entry

Why do people like Google? Because it brings together all content formats being searched, such as articles, videos, images or news. We can then choose what we want to see. LMS did that upfront for employees by enabling them to pick and choose how they wanted to learn. APIs were built to bring all learning resources under one umbrella for a one-stop experience. Also, global calendars provided a single view of all learning programmes for employees to choose from.

These days, with flex working, there are overwhelming invitations to multiple events on an employee’s calendar. Too many accepted invitations lead to calendar overload. Silos built through multiple initiatives can be brought under one umbrella, keeping in mind the employee journey and experience in the organisation. An integrated employee engagement calendar, consisting of well-being, learning, coaching programmes and others, can be made available in this system for employees to decide on their engagement plan.

4. Resource Optimisation

From having the best of Subject Matter Experts deliver a session in a classroom of 25 to 100 employees, the possibility of covering thousands of employees across the globe became a great boon with digital and flexible learning.

The same approach applies to flex work, too. Townhalls and allhands meetings that were held for a few employees can now be planned for many more, providing an opportunity for every employee to interact with the CXO-level executives.

5. Continuous Engagement

With digital learning, managing the attention span of learners was considered a challenge, and a solution was worked out in terms of doing an engaging activity, say every 20 minutes, in any session.

Also, faculty were specifically trained in managing learning programmes using digital tools to ensure the effectiveness was not compromised.

When it comes to flex working, intentional engagement can be done by teams and HR professionals at logical regular intervals to listen to the employees’ voices. Throwback moments in meetings and calendared events are a great way to engage employees. Managers will certainly need specific awareness and training in managing virtual teams.

6. Learning and Sharing

From facilitating and training, L&D professionals have started managing communities where they can crowdsource ideas to enable learning and sharing. Part-time faculty and content contributors are on the rise through collaborative working.

Building employee networks and leveraging crowdsourcing can work out very well for flex work. By defining innovative, employee-friendly policies, parttime jobs can become a way of life with clear skill sets, time commitment and rewards. Collaborative, agile teams are the most effective way of optimising resources and getting the best results.

What is your view on the lessons that Flexible Learning can teach Flexible Working?

Author Profile Picture
Swarna Sudha Selvaraj

Head, Talent Development

Read more from Swarna Sudha Selvaraj

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