In the pre-pandemic times, business leaders, economists, and tech evangelists have warned about a new spate of automation and digital tech that will alter the course of work, workplace, workforce, and exterminate jobs. However, the time came but in an unprecedented way. Flattening the business curve and staying relevant warranted one thing that almost all businesses recognized– skilling.
The COVID-19 pandemic quickly and dramatically accelerated the need for new workforce skills. According to a study by McKinsey, 69 percent of organizations are doing more skill-building now than they did before the COVID-19 crisis. The rapid rise of digitization and remote work has placed new demands on employees who, in many instances, now require different skills to support significant changes to how work gets done and to the business priorities their companies are setting. The onus also lies on employers to develop the skills that will make the overall business, and its employees, future-ready.
However, in today’s environment, closing the skills gap alone isn’t the answer to building a workforce of the future. The number and (variety of skills) required to serve a profitable market is growing faster than the workforce can learn them.
Organizations’ would have to reimagine their workplace learning approaches that go beyond the traditional ways of delivering learning. Most learning programs until COVID-19 followed the old-style notions of delivering skilling, which is far too slow and relatively expensive. Today companies are figuring out smart ways to engage on this issue— to the advantage of both individuals and the businesses themselves.
A growing number of organizations have realized this need and have started investing in skilling efforts at scale. Skill transformation has become more critical than ever and needs to be planned wisely. As the year 2021 unfolds in front of us, the top priorities for skill transformation can be categorized as follows:
Making learning unprompted
As an aspirational learning organization, we need to build learning programs that are unprompted and continuous. As human beings, we reject what we don't enjoy doing, and given how much we need to learn about how many things, we can't afford to have learning programs that people do not enjoy. Organizations have to make the experience fun and many learning organizations or aspiring learning organizations are embedding innovative learning technology & solutions to work towards solving learners’ engagement & motivation.
Tailored learning journeys
Different individuals have different learning needs and effective interventions offer a tailored learning experience. Oftentimes, these learning journeys are created per role or persona. However, with the diversity of experiences, and level of proficiency in addition to the different learning styles, we need to intentionally find ways to be creative and inject autonomy or a sense of choice in the programs, making it tailored to learners’ needs and comfort with the learning format.
Making the behavioral shift in leaders and first-line managers
Leaders need to acknowledge that it's only when people visibly and tangibly see leaders having learned something, not necessarily at work, people would follow them and get motivated to learn. All learning leaders and people custodians—whether CXOs, HR Heads, or learning heads—have to first and foremost feel genuine about being learning ambassadors.
Further, the behaviors of line managers are very critical. We can initiate numerous learning programs, but many a time, a line manager will come and pull out an employee from a learning program due to some “urgent” events, such behaviors diminish the gravitas of learning. We need to have an onboarding for managers and ask them how they can support a learning program and what support they would need when this learning program would be running.
When building skills, focus on the right format
Digital learning feels ubiquitous, especially during the pandemic. According to research by UpsideLMS, we saw that leadership acknowledges the importance of investment in skilling, however, challenges in delivering an impactful learning program still persist, and the journey is not at all easy. In our research, “Learning in the times of distributed everything,” we found that 77 percent of the surveyed companies shared that work from home scenarios has impacted the way they delivered learning to employees.
Further, delving deeper into the same research, it was also clear that technology is a table stake when it comes to delivering an impactful learning program to a distributed workforce, especially in the current times.
Webinars are gaining popularity with 81 percent of companies adopting webinars as a method of delivering learning, followed by Virtual Classrooms (71%) and MOOCs (51%).
Talking about the importance of learning technology in skill transformation, Amit Gautam, CEO of UpsideLMS shares, “The world of work has undergone a paradigm shift since the onset of the global pandemic. This change demands employees to adopt and adjust on many levels. Now, more than ever before, employees and leaders alike need to upskill themselves for the future of work. Learning technology plays a huge role in achieving this. At UpsideLMS, our LearnTech solution is enabling enterprises and SMBs alike to upskill or reskill their workforce thus instilling a culture of continuous learning and nurturing great talent.”
Best practices for creating a sustainable virtual learning ecosystem for the hybrid workplace
While digital learning is the most suitable format for skill building as organizations increasingly adopt a hybrid model, it is important to adopt a learning ecosystem that creates a ‘pull-factor for skilling. Some of the best practices that one can look into while selecting a learning tool and aligning it with the vision for creating a sustainable virtual learning ecosystem for the hybrid workplace:
New platforms for a ‘new normal’
As we transition to virtual training, organizations can tap into training technologies and platforms that not only enable virtual learning but also a more interactive, engaging, and hence effective L&D proposition. Going forward this places new demands upon firms in the shape of evaluating what constitutes the best platforms and technology in light of their specific needs. Technologies like AI analyzing learning content and learners’ behavior, or algorithms to gather intelligence about user behaviors, skill-sets, and other information pieces to categorize users’ learning have become increasingly important to create tailored learning journeys.
Creating learning paths through a blended learning approach
In the remote working scenario, how learning is disseminated also becomes critical. Leaders have to continuously assess the learning needs of talent, make all the necessary resources available, and also engage the learners to reach their learning outcomes. Some organizations are partnering with LMS companies, or building their learning platforms and solutions to accelerate self-paced learning or/and blended learning. Others are crowdsourcing all the learning courses that may be relevant for the talent. Self-paced learning has also become prevalent. Many leaders are encouraging the talent to create their learning paths with some guidance and then supporting them with reimbursements.
A collaborative learning environment:
With isolation due to pandemic, employees would prefer to have more engaged learning with social/personal touch. Provide a remote collaborative learning environment where learners and instructors can interact in real-time to exchange knowledge. Further, content with visual appeal and light on the text in form of infographics, slides, videos, animations, chat boxes, and many more may facilitate productive learning with interesting features.
Many companies are now at a critical juncture when it comes to talent development and skill-building, and it is clear from the survey results that dramatic changes are needed to thrive or even survive in the future. To emerge stronger from the pandemic now is the time for organizations to invest in skill transformations and apply the lessons of the past year to crystallize their current and future skill needs.