The pandemic has accelerated the explosion of remote work in the past two years, creating hybrid teams within organisations. With the crisis changing the way we work and live, leaders need to do more than just adapt rapidly to changing conditions—remote work and the disruption of AI and automation—they need to continue reskilling and upskilling their organisation for a post-pandemic era.
During the pandemic we’ve seen demand for corporate training and development soar. According to the 2020 Future of Jobs report by the World Economic Forum, the number of companies that provide learning opportunities and training to their workers rose as much as five times, while individuals who seeked learning and development on their own initiative increased four-fold.
It’s no surprise that companies are starting to recognise the importance and benefits of continual workplace learning. Companies that were able to provide targeted and personalised programmes were able to boost employee retention and improve their career outlook, findings from the 2020 Workplace Learning Report show. People stop loving their jobs if they stop learning.
Ultimately, any result of learning and training has to translate into desirable business outcomes that include not just revenue growth, but employee engagement and well-being too.
Over the years, companies have been setting aside more budget for online modes of learning and development (L&D), a majority of which goes to building and sourcing learning programmes and content. However, not all companies are able to get the recipe for L&D, where the training provided could be ineffective or have flaws in its purpose, timing and content.
Zooming into adopting training and reskilling programmes, chief challenges include time constraints, a preference to spend free time on pursuits other than learning, and not knowing which skills are vital for today’s world.
Overcoming these challenges requires more than a plug-and-play approach with learning programmes, even if employees are eager to learn and reskill. Coupled with smart use of technology to integrate work and learning, workloads and corporate culture also need to adjust to cultivate learning as a lifestyle that adds meaning to people’s professional lives.
Salesforce, for example, announced last month the launch of their new learning service called Learning Paths, providing their employees with learning opportunities—both on-the-job and outside the office.
As more organisations are building up their hybrid workplaces, a hybrid form of L&D is also on the rise, according to this year’s Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn. In-person, instructor-led training will eventually be replaced by blended forms of learning: a mix of virtual instructor-led learning and online learning.
If technological and economic disruptions constantly lurk around us, then translating learning into dollars and cents isn’t as straightforward as it seems.
Even so, using return of investment (ROI) to evaluate the impact of learning can be misleading, since it’s more of a descriptive measurement of how well the initiative has performed—much like a grade on a report card—and less of a predictive measurement that’ll be more useful to make future improvements.
In a 2020 survey of L&D professionals by the Human Capital Media Research and Advisory Group, the research arm of Chief Learning Officer, ROI was ranked lowly as a measurement of learning impact. Instead, metrics such as employee engagement, retention and the number of skills that employees are developing, are more useful in quantifying the value of learning.
Taken together, as organisations navigate building a hybrid workforce, the challenges brought by hybrid work—managing dispersed teams, building a unified culture, and so on—will have to be in some way addressed by an organization's ability to continuously upskill and reskill their employees.
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