Globalization and digitalization have transformed the modern business landscape. In the unravelling business reality, a dynamic Learning and Development (L&D) work culture, built on a strong scaffolding of digital transformation, is no longer a choice but a mandate. A recent research states that the global L&D market is expected to reach $446.1 billion this year.
However, L&D needs a different approach in the healthcare sector compared to other industries, owing to its highly complex work environment and the unique challenges therein. Some of these challenges include the emergence of new health problems; rapid shift in customer expectations towards quality and cost of care; and a tremendous shortage of talent.
This is where the L&D function can play a pivotal role by not just acting as a strategic enabler, but also morphing into a core business function, deeply embedded into the operations of the organization. Strategies built on data, and not necessity, are key to enhancing existing capabilities and attracting new talent to the workforce. The World Economic Forum recently reported that more than 50% of all employees will require to be reskilled or upskilled to meet changing job requirements over the next three years. Hence, in an ever-changing healthcare environment, the ability to effectively use data will be a critical differentiator in devising an effective L&D strategy.
Developing an effective data-driven L&D program
For L&D strategies to be successful, L&D leaders need to establish a solid framework for developing data-backed strategies. Let’s take a closer look at the elements of this framework.
I. Listen effectively: Data is everywhere. But to leverage data as a value addition, companies need to connect the flow of information from three major data pipes. First, the customers – their expectations from and experiences with the organization; second, the organization – its short- and long-term goals and objectives; and finally, the employees – their needs, aspirations, and expectations from the employer. The L&D team needs to understand the information flowing in from these listening posts before structuring it into intelligent data for better outcomes.
II. General analysis: Once the data from the data pipes is merged into a centralized pool, analytical tools can be applied to structure and analyze the data and develop actionable insights. Here, the impact of changing market trends in the external environment on various stakeholders, including providers, members, associates, and partners must also be studied.
III. Drawing actionable insights: The L&D team can then draw key business insights and formulate an individualized approach to skills training and learning programs based on the unique needs of the employees and customers. For instance, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led some organizations to provide (re)trainings in existing healthcare delivery solutions to retired or on-sabbatical nurses, clinicians, and staffers who returned to work to meet the upsurge in the demand for medical workers.
IV. Solutions: In developing these learning programs, new-age technological tools and solutions can be employed to provide improved and cost-effective options for on-the-job training, experiential coaching and employee collaboration. Within healthcare organizations, in particular, tools based on advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence(AI), Machine Learning(ML), Augmented Reality(AR), Virtual Reality(VR) etc. are making a significant impact to train employees on not only domain skills but also the much-needed behavioral skills. By simulating real life scenarios through these technologies’ organizations are helping their employees learn how to demonstrate empathy and compassion while managing patients. Case in point, an international medical training organization provides online VR training to help hospitals and medical facilities to bring their retired workforce up to speed on the latest patient care solutions quickly.
V. Discipline in delivery/execution: Ensuring effective and synchronized execution and delivery of solutions is equally vital. L&D leaders can achieve this by building a consensus amongst business functions and clearly articulating the impact and benefits of the L&D programs.
VI. Reviewing the outcomes/ back to listening: Being cyclical in nature, the L&D function requires constant appraisals and re-evaluations of the programs being rolled out to ensure that the outcomes meet the requirements. L&D leaders can determine the success of the initiatives against quantifiable benchmarks, such as improved employee productivity, reduction in hiring counts, and increased revenues.
Furthermore, it must be noted that developing data-driven L&D initiatives in a remote work environment has a high probability of resulting in loss of anecdotal data. Therefore, it is important for organizations to maintain a continuous stream of positive and empathic communication with the workforce to avoid situations of workplace related mental stress cropping up.
L&D programs can directly impact talent acquisition and retention strategies
In a high-consequence industry as healthcare, implementation of L&D solutions driven by data can be the key differentiator in service delivery. With healthcare organizations already overburdened and considerably short-staffed, attracting and retaining top talent is usually a paramount concern. Implementing data-driven L&D programs not just enables organizations to attract the right candidates with the desired skill sets, but also groom them further as they find their fit within the organization.
A technology-backed L&D program that addresses the learners’ needs plays a vital role in building the employer brand. On-demand, in-the-moment learning programs that are engaging, interactive, and connected to the employer brand are being developed on AR/VR-based interactive tools for improving employee satisfaction and employer brand value.
Hence, as healthcare systems shift focus on becoming more people-centric instead of outcome-based, L&D can aid in building a value-based culture where individual talents are respected; employees are able to voice their opinions without being judged; and the two-way communication lines are kept open and transparent to induce faith and a sense of belonging among the workforce.
After all, effective training programs not just help in improving care delivery mechanisms, but also cultivate leadership, which ultimately contributes to greater job satisfaction and elevates collective morale. Take for instance, healthcare innovation organizations, such as Optum, are providing access to online domain universities that can aid employees to proactively self-learn new skills at their own pace. These programs enable them to expand their knowledge base for more advanced job roles, so that in the event of a desired job opening, they are well-equipped to apply for it.
Challenges along the way
The success of data-driven L&D programs is incomplete without a secure infrastructure to keep patient and employee data safe. In addition, the pace and pressure of work itself acts as a challenge to learning as employees are unable to devote unwavering attention to the L&D initiatives.
Further, many organizations face internal resistance towards learning initiatives developed through a generalized data-based decision making. Therefore, it is essential to connect and communicate with employees on the unique needs that can aid in developing various L&D programs.
Requisite skillsets for data-driven L&D roles
L&D is at the core of all other business functions. Therefore, nurturing an analytical streak is a key perquisite for data-driven L&D job roles. Niche analytical capabilities are an imperative to mull over considerations, such as whether the analyzed data requires to be evaluated as a broad pattern or in minute details; what elements need to be explored in depth; and what requires a bird’s eye perspective. Hence why many organizations set up dedicated teams with niche analytical capabilities to work with the L&D team.
Additionally, being disciplined, meticulous and thorough in looking for viable data and creating solutions is another important skill requirement. L&D team members need to be creative and think out-of-the-box to be able to convert the insights into simple-to-interpret solutions. Lastly, L&D leaders must showcase impeccable communication skills to ensure that the flow of thoughts and ideas is translated and adopted with the same intention across the business ecosystem.
The road ahead
While data-based L&D strategies can help in overcoming the challenges of balancing ease and speed of learning and time, fast-changing technological innovations and ever-evolving healthcare systems can potentially make data-based insights redundant over time. Therefore, data-backed L&D strategies cannot be cast in stone yet. However, those who continue to explore and envisage new ways to use the infinite data to bring together the industry’s most vital resource – people – will likely develop a strong, resilient organization enabling their employees to deliver their life’s best work.