COVID-19 has catalysed a rapid transformation in the ways people are working and learning across the world. Newer learning tools have been adopted by organizations to support learning needs of employees during the pandemic. Organizations shifted gears to remote training to substitute classroom learning events.
According to Udemy 2021's new survey, "What the World is Learning at Work: March Top In-Demand Job Skills," manufacturing and services sector both have experienced an increase in demand for online courses. This validates that remote working has not impeded the need for learning but has in fact given it an impetus as the uncertainty of the pandemic compels employees to search for security by building their skill repertoire.
Some of the trends that have shaped the patterns of learning are Micro-learning, Gamification, and Social learning. These have seen a relatively wider adoption across companies and have been able to significantly impact workforce productivity.
Micro-learning is a self-paced, on-demand training methodology that permits a learner access to bite-sized lessons whenever they want and wherever they are. According to an HBR survey, 780 million knowledge workers sit in front of a computer for 6.5 hours every day. Learning opportunities can be spun around the employees’ working habits.
There are different major types of micro-learning processes adopted in companies such as videos, simulation, podcast (compilation of spoken word digital audio files that can be downloaded to a personal computer and listened to on the go), and infographics (a visual presentation with charts and minimal text that provides an easy-to-understand summary of a topic).
Dalmia Cement. For instance, the pandemic threw a new set of challenges for employees of the Sales & Marketing division at Dalmia Cement in India. Due to the lockdown, the demand for cement decreased causing the employees to find and target alternate market segments to keep up with their sales.
This is when a Delhi-based start-up, Craft Village wanted to make PPE kits that would be of the right safety standards and was on the lookout for a partner who would supply the raw material to make the kits. According to Somesh Singh, founder of Craft Village, “we needed a fabric that was waterproof and had highly filtered protection from infected air.” Out of the many raw materials available, cementing fabric (combination of natural material and synthetic material in the ratio 1:1) was comfortable to wear and had the highest quality standards. Consequently, they partnered with Craft Beton, a business venture by Dalmia Cement that provided the ‘cement’ used in the fabric of PPE kits. The deal was very crucial for Dalmia Cement so employees had to put in extra hours at work leaving them no time to attend lengthy training programs.
That is when Microlearning came to their rescue. The employees could watch small video lectures of 5-7 minutes on their mobile phones, laptops whenever needed to learn new skills. The result was positive in the following 6 months post-training showing a 12% tangible increase in total lead conversion and greater revenue generation.
Walmart. Safety was a top priority for Walmart. The organization decided to take a proactive approach to increase safety and reduce the number of incidents and injuries of workers. They worked with an e-Learning provider to implement Axonify, a micro-learning platform that improves employee safety awareness and holds it at the forefront of their minds. For 3-5 minutes, workers are immersed in a scenario that includes learning about safety procedures. It calls for competition with colleagues and when employees’ performance data on safety is fed into the program, the training is adjusted individually for each employee. The program has been immensely successful with a 54% reduction in accidents resulting in revenue saving in millions.
Gamification involves using game-based elements like peer-to-peer competition and score tables to drive engagement in a non-gaming scenario like training & development. Organizations like Nike, Deloitte, Starbucks are deploying well-drafted gamification strategies in training to achieve revenue growth. The benefits are not only a fun way to learn but also enable better retention by immersive learning.
For instance, Deloitte uses gamification for its 312,000 employees with a special approach. Rather than displaying one standard list of the highest ten scorers overall, each general “level” of a user has its own top-ten leaderboard. Thus, each user’s competition for top-ten is limited to other users on that same level. That board resets every seven days. This seven-day reset ensures executives won’t be discouraged from playing the game simply because they missed a couple of weeks and fell behind in scores while on vacation or traveling for work. This is an improvement over traditional leaderboards which have consistent top scorers. Deloitte’s model ensures every week a learner gets a new chance to be the best scorer.
Since the adoption of gamification in Deloitte Leadership Academy, there has been a 37 percent increase in learning adoption with around a 15% rise in revenue generation.
Social learning or peer-to-peer learning enables knowledge to be shared across a corporation quickly. In the wake of the pandemic, online platforms are much used for it. Using a laptop or a smartphone, employees can record problems, share best practices, and capture insights then share them company-wide with just a click of a button.
For instance, the L&D team of Cadila Pharmaceuticals had to make a transition from classroom sessions to online learning owing to the pandemic but the results from attending online programs were low.This is when they resorted to more interactive training process by using technology platforms like WhatsApp. Different learner groups were created, through which colleagues discussed their insights, feedback on the online program they attended. A buzz started across groups about the trending topics which encouraged active participation among the group members. The most active member was given due recognition across the company.
The training content adoption doubled within 2 months of the method deployed along with a 12% increase in KPI fulfilment of employees.
From the above cases it's evident that talent development has been a priority for many companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Various measures of up-skilling their workforce have been undertaken as there is no one-size-fit-all approach.
Through analysis of different options and benchmarking with competitors, companies have deployed different agile methodologies to suit their workforce needs.
This is further strengthened by IBM study, which says every dollar invested in online training leads to $30 increase in productivity, mainly because employees are ready to resume their work faster and apply their skills immediately.
Traditional learning methods are no longer flexible to deal with the immense challenges that lie ahead. Organizations must continually reinvent and specialise in their learning culture by involving their staff in up-skilling courses which will help them become more resilient and future-ready.