Businesses around the world are being disrupted amid the coronavirus crisis. In an uncertain business world, companies are identifying ways to become future-proof. And those at the forefront of navigating disruption are preparing their employees with the right skills to identify opportunities, take charge of uncertain projects and drive business results in a near real-time environment.
Navigating continuous change has become a critical business differentiator. Companies today need employees to become self-starters, identify possible opportunities to collaborate cross functionally, and build daily habits that will enable them to work seamlessly and create business leverage. Behavioral skills are a critical component of delivering value to businesses. In this context, employers can't just expect their employees to display behaviors right from when they walk through the door; they need to invest actively in training employees.
This People Matters and Harappa Education Study on “The State of behavioral Learning 2020” brought together data from 350 companies, a first-of-its-kind research aimed at understanding the priorities, challenges and opportunity areas for companies on behavioral skills. The research was aimed at surveying:
- Strategic priorities on behavioral learning
- Top challenge and opportunities in behavioral skilling
- Approach and focus areas on impact measurement.
During the course of the research, experts shared varied pressing concerns on behavioral skills - from giving the time needed to develop these skills to personalizing roadmaps -- companies need to design for the individual employee; they can no longer expect the employee to stay engaged with mandatory programs prescribed for the organization at large. HR and L&D teams need to demonstrate the value of behavioral learning not just to the business, but also to the individual employee.
HR and L&D professionals have a task cut out for themselves: To bridge the gap in behavioral learning in an engaging manner while also keeping abreast of the latest trends in learning. They also have the added responsibility to work with the business, service providers as well as the individual employees to demonstrate the value of learning and the impact on the business.
Personalization is a key challenge
While a majority of the companies (85 percent) that participated in the study said that they already have programs focused on behavioral skills, most of them don’t have a personalized behavioral learning roadmap for their employees. This is a key focus area for most HR and L&D departments. Experts believe that while the benefits of personalized training are unparalleled, the roadmap for individual learning is still difficult to establish at scale. Companies are turning to smaller cohorts depending on job-based responsibilities.
About half of the employers surveyed said that they are satisfied with the current stack of learning programs on behavioral skills. 40 percent of them said they were either unsure of the programs or not satisfied with them.
When it comes to personalization - and involving employee input in the design process, most companies route their learning programs through the line managers (51 percent) and 47 percent said the employees discuss their learning preferences during the goal-setting process. Another method of taking into account employee feedback is to capture their feedback through surveys (29 percent) and evaluate them (35 percent). Curiously, although a number of companies said that they involve employees’ (62 percent) input in the learning process, only 29 percent of the companies surveyed actually have a personalized learning roadmap.
Top challenges in implementing behavioral programs
When asked to choose among the top challenges that businesses face with respect to behavioral skills, 69 percent of the survey respondents opted for “applying learning to daily work” as the top most challenge. This was followed by “uncertain future business environment (55 percent)” and “limited resources (54 percent)”, indicating that the prevailing business environment due to the global pandemic has adversely affected training on behavioral skills. As companies continue to evaluate their business continuity plans, it is clear that training or additional investment in behavioral learning may not rise in the near future.
Go-to methods and skills for training employees
Despite the rise in the number of digital tools and resources on behavioral skills, classroom training and on-the-job training still rank among the most preferred methods to develop or enhance behavioral skills. A number of companies also prefer to invite expert speakers to share their business knowledge and people management skills in a company-wide Town Hall or through webinars.
According to employers who participated in the study, ‘’collaboration’’ ranks on the top when it comes to behavioral skills needed for businesses today.
It is followed by client or customer management skills, leadership skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills and critical thinking skills. While many employers are mapping these specific skills to job roles and to individual KRAs of their employees, not all companies are mandating or evaluating these skills as part of the performance management or appraisal process.
Key takeaways: Planning your behavior learning strategy
85 percent of the companies said that personalization is important. Although in many companies (62 percent), employees play a direct role in giving inputs on behavioral skills learning, there’s still a need to create personalized learning roadmaps. Over 71 percent of the companies DO NOT offer personalized roadmaps.
“Digital learning'' is on par with ‘On the job training’ and ‘’Classroom training’’ as one of the most preferred methods of imparting behavioral skills. In fact, training remote employees was identified as a challenge area by 49 percent of respondents. It is essential to create a digital strategy around behavioral training.
Although 96 percent of companies believe that coaching is important, 44 percent don’t currently have coaching as a significant aspect of the learning program.
There’s a need to create coaching programs for short and long term for behavioral skilling needs to support your employees.
Articulate the ‘why’ of learning in consultation with the line manager and the business. Most experts who participated in the research said that there's greater engagement in the learning process when employees have clarity about how it would help them.
Most companies invest heavily on behavioral skills when employees move up the organizational hierarchy. The study showed that senior management and executive rank on top of the priority list. It is however a good idea to invest in behavioral skilling early-on in an employee’s career.