Workflow Learning vs. Traditional Training: A Comprehensive Comparison

Understanding the distinctions between workflow learning and traditional training is essential for training managers aiming to optimize employee development, especially regarding software adoption. By grasping these differences, you can tailor your learning strategies to enhance real-time skill application and knowledge retention, improving overall organizational efficiency and productivity. We will look at the key differences, benefits, and applications of these two approaches, helping you make informed decisions for your enterprise-level training programs and performance support tools.
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Matleena Salminen
Matleena is a Content Writer at ClickLearn with 5+ years of experience in writing about emerging technology, AI, and digital marketing.

What is workflow learning?

Workflow learning, or learning in the flow of work, integrates learning directly into employees’ daily tasks, enabling on-the-job learning that is immediate and relevant. Unlike traditional training, which often involves scheduled sessions away from regular work activities, workflow learning happens seamlessly within the workflow.

Key features of workflow learning

Workflow learning differs from traditional training in a few major ways, mainly thanks to: 

  • Embedded learning opportunities: Learning materials, such as microlearning modules, job aids, and performance support tools, are integrated directly within the workflow.
  • Technology integration: Utilizes digital adoption platforms (DAPs), learning management systems (LMS), and mobile apps to deliver learning seamlessly within the software environment.
  • Just-in-time learning: Provides contextual and timely information exactly when employees need it.
  • Social learning: Encourages peer interactions and knowledge sharing through collaborative platforms and mentoring systems.

What are traditional learning models?

While traditional learning models may not offer the same level of flexibility and immediacy as workflow learning, traditional training methods for employees still holds a valuable place in many organizations. Traditional training is commonly characterized by: 

  • Structured learning sessions: Training is conducted through scheduled workshops, seminars, or courses, often away from the daily workflow.
  • Comprehensive curriculum: Provides in-depth and structured learning paths covering extensive topics and skills.
  • Assessment and certification: Often includes formal assessments and certifications to validate learning achievements.
  • Instructor-led training (ILT): Typically involves face-to-face or virtual instruction by a trainer or subject matter expert.
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Comparing workflow learning and traditional training


Workflow learning

Traditional training

Flexibility and accessibility

Highly flexible, allowing employees to learn at their own pace within their daily tasks. Accessible anytime and anywhere through digital tools​.

Less flexible, requiring scheduled attendance. May not be easily accessible outside of the training environment​.

Learning retention and application

Enhances retention by enabling immediate application of new skills within the workflow, leading to better reinforcement and understanding​.

Retention can be lower due to the delay between learning and application. Requires follow-up sessions to reinforce learning.

Cost and time efficiency

Cost-effective by minimizing downtime and reducing the need for extensive training sessions. Employees continue to be productive while learning​.

Can be costly and time-consuming due to travel, accommodation, and extensive session durations. Potentially reduces productivity during training periods.

Relevance and engagement

Ensures high relevance by providing contextual learning directly related to the employee’s tasks. Increases engagement through immediate applicability.

Relevance can vary, and engagement may drop if the training content is perceived as less directly applicable to current tasks​.


Flexibility and accessibility

Learning in the flow of work is highly flexible, allowing employees to adopt new software at their own pace within their daily tasks. It is accessible anytime and anywhere through digital tools, facilitating seamless integration into existing workflows. 

In contrast, traditional training is less flexible, requiring scheduled attendance and often not being easily accessible outside the training environment. This can make it challenging for employees to align training sessions with their work schedules.

Learning retention and application

Workflow learning enhances retention by enabling the immediate application of new software skills within the workflow, leading to better reinforcement and understanding. This approach ensures that employees quickly become proficient with the software. 

On the other hand, traditional training can result in lower retention due to the delay between learning and application. It often requires follow-up sessions to reinforce learning, which can slow down the adoption process and decrease overall effectiveness.

Cost and time efficiency

Workflow learning is cost-effective by minimizing downtime and reducing the need for extensive training sessions. Employees continue to be productive while learning, ensuring a smoother transition to the new software with less disruption. 

Traditional training, however, can be costly and time-consuming due to travel, accommodation, and extensive session durations. This potentially reduces productivity during training periods, making it less efficient for rapid software adoption.

Relevance and engagement

Workflow learning ensures high relevance by providing contextual learning directly related to the employee’s tasks with the new software. This increases engagement through immediate applicability, enhancing the user experience and accelerating proficiency. 

Traditional training, on the other hand, can vary in relevance, and engagement may drop if the training content is perceived as less directly applicable to current tasks. This can lead to slower software adoption and less effective utilization of the new tools.

Implementing a hybrid training model in your organization

Many organizations recognize that a hybrid approach, combining elements of Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) and traditional training, can offer the most effective solution for software adoption. This model leverages the strengths of both methods to ensure comprehensive and continuous learning.

Initial training

Traditional training can be used to provide a comprehensive overview of new software or processes, ensuring employees have a strong foundation. This initial phase can include in-person sessions or structured online courses that cover the basics, giving employees a solid understanding of the software’s features and functionalities.

Ongoing support

Once the foundational training is complete, Digital Adoption Platforms can be implemented to offer continuous support, refreshers, and just-in-time guidance as employees apply their knowledge in the real world. DAPs provide contextual, on-screen assistance and tutorials, enabling employees to learn while they work and address any issues in real-time. This ongoing support helps reinforce learning and enhances retention.

Advanced skills

For specialized or complex topics that require in-depth instruction, traditional training can be reserved to provide the necessary detailed guidance. Meanwhile, DAPs can handle more routine tasks and updates, ensuring that employees stay up-to-date with the latest features and best practices. This combination allows employees to develop advanced skills through focused training sessions while maintaining productivity and efficiency in their daily tasks with the help of DAPs.

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Practical applications

But how does workflow learning translate to real-world scenarios? Let’s look at some practical examples of how workflow learning and traditional training might be applied in different situations. These examples will help you visualize how each approach could impact your employees’ learning experience and overall performance.


Nurses learning a new electronic health record (EHR) system could use workflow learning tools to access tutorials and tips directly within the system as they document patient care, ensuring they have the information they need precisely when they need it.


Factory workers learning to operate new machinery could benefit from workflow learning modules that provide step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting guides on demand, minimizing downtime and errors.


Sales associates using mobile devices with embedded learning content could quickly access product information, customer service scripts, and upselling techniques while assisting customers on the sales floor.


Financial analysts learning complex software could receive real-time guidance and feedback within the application, helping them master intricate functions and improve their accuracy and efficiency.

Choosing the right approach for your organization

Training managers should consider the specific needs of their organization when choosing between workflow learning and traditional training. For tasks requiring immediate application and continuous learning, workflow learning offers significant advantages. Conversely, for comprehensive skill-building and certification, traditional training might be more appropriate.

Both workflow learning and traditional training have their unique strengths and applications. Understanding these differences allows training managers to strategically implement the most effective learning solutions for their organizations.

ClickLearn, a leading AI-powered digital adoption platform, helps integrate workflow learning seamlessly into your organization. Explore how ClickLearn can help you optimize employee development and drive performance – start transforming your software training approach today.

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