As organizations change gears, moving back into proactive planning and away from crisis mode, many have adapted to evolving business needs with a long-term hybrid or remote workforce.
Under pressure from the ‘Great Resignation’ and the ongoing skills crisis, hiring managers are turning to maturing existing skills as a key route to filling the skills gaps that three-quarters of IT decision-makers face.
And, with 88% of businesses rating building skills and capabilities as the top priority, the role of learning and development (L&D) cannot be understated.
Smart organizations have realized that enabling employees to transform their skill sets in a meaningful way, with a transparent career trajectory, will offer the greatest benefits to both individuals and the business as a whole.
Making reskilling and upskilling more accessible to all is a strategic priority for business leaders.
This is supported by the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Insight Report ‘Upskilling for Shared Prosperity’, which found that wide-scale investment in upskilling has the potential to boost GDP by $6.5 trillion by 2030 and that upskilling could lead to the net creation of 5.3 million new jobs by 2030.
An effective and modernized training program is more important than ever for business success.
Despite a growing proportion of workers physically distanced from the office – some 100% remote – many businesses have yet to effectively adapt their L&D strategies for the hybrid environment, even though the majority of employers plan to continue this model of working.
Prioritizing and building tech skills
Today’s world is driven by digital innovation and based on software and data – IDC predicts that digital transformation-related IT skill shortages will affect 90% of organizations by 2025.
To be successful in the new hybrid world, companies must continually invest in skills that drive organizational performance. That means committing to continuous training — not just for enterprise technology professionals, but across the organization.
The only way to build technical skills and competencies is by staying abreast of the latest trends, ongoing certifications, languages, and more through carefully curated learning channels that combine video learning, hands-on practice labs, virtual mentoring, and leading certification courses.
Self study and classroom instruction is out, and learning through virtual practice and intense interactive boot camps are in.
Immersive, live, instructor-led experiences are key to experiments with live applications and deliver maximum value to their organizations.
Creating a future-proof L&D strategy
Workers were already using digital tools and technologies to collaborate long before the pandemic forced the shift to remote working.
The challenges arrive, however, in developing a strategy for a future of work where the needs of the business are changing ever faster, and the dynamics of the workforce will always be in flux.
Companies that haven’t previously had to deal with keeping employees in sync with one another will have to rapidly upskill and reskill a workforce in which synchronous engagements are scarce.
Learning will continue to play a pivotal role in building a future-fit workforce ready to respond to future change.
Organizations need a strategy that not only delivers the skills that their business needs right now but is able to adjust and adapt to deliver future skills that have not yet been identified.
This will require an agile approach to the people, processes, and technologies that deliver learning.
Learning leaders will have to do even more to adapt to the way people work.
Pre-planning reality check
As organizations seek to improve learning in a hybrid, post-pandemic environment, they must ask themselves several critical questions: Do we have the ecosystem/infrastructure to create an effective learning environment for a hybrid workforce? Are we in a position to develop the skills the business will require in the future? Do we have the technology, content, skills, and competencies to create and deliver effective virtual instructor-led learning (VILT)?
Are we leveraging in-person instructor-led training properly to reflect today’s need for a more blended approach? Do we have the capability to help employees benchmark their knowledge and identify gaps?
The questions serve as a basis for critical assets development to put the right training program in place for workers in their specific industry sector.
Once an organization has asked itself these critical questions, there are five key considerations for building effective strategies for learning in evolving workplaces. These include:
1. Developing virtual instructor-led programs
These should be designed for that environment, rather than an adaptation of in-person learning.
These should focus on the learner and their learning environment as simply re-purposing in-person to become virtual instructor-led training (VILT) will not be enough.
Proper VILT requires different types of content, interactivity, and facilitation skills, and this can be used in conjunction with less frequent but more targeted use of classroom-based instruction.
Corporate learners and learning organizations have found that for classes that are up to five hours long, VILT is convenient and effective.
2. Leveraging tools staff are already familiar with
From Microsoft Teams, to Webex and Zoom, using collaboration and communication tools that workers can easily access will ensure the training is easy to use and more effective.
3. Aim to develop a workforce that can be agile
An agile team will be key for a thriving in a remote or hybrid environment.
This means focusing on skills that will be useful in the new environment, such as remote management training.
Leaders need more skill development in managing remote teams, and organizations must prioritize agility.
4. Ensuring learning programs involve engagement
Workers learn better with others, no matter the location.
As organizations strive to keep people connected and engaged, ensure you develop learning programs where people are learning together, no matter whether they are in the office or working remotely.
5. Don’t rush back to in-person learning (IPL) as soon as conditions allow
It’s important to consider how this will fit into your new hybrid or remote strategy. Re-designing learning environments and the experience it provides is critical.
Make use of vital feedback from participants to help set time-saving and productivity-building metrics which can evaluate the effectiveness of training and ways it can be improved.
Learnings to enhance learning strategies
One key area that directors and training managers can’t afford to overlook within their strategies is diversity and inclusion.
It’s imperative to acknowledge and address current disparities in order to be prepared for the future and create stronger, balanced teams.
By adapting learning programs to better align with the real-life needs and work-life balance of an increasingly hybrid workforce, we can make work better for women in tech, and motivate and encourage them to advance to leadership positions.
No matter where an organization is on the spectrum of its learning strategy maturity, there will always be ways in which it can be improved.
Investing in leaders, and supporting career growth and development are two key focuses of attention to drive talent retention, to bridge critical skill gaps, and effect real change.
From apprentices to CEOs, we must make learning a key corporate strategy and create a culture of lifelong learning available to all. This means it must be remote, flexible, and mobile – accessibility and engagement are priorities. The future of innovation and change rests on reinventing the way leaders and learners learn to empower them to succeed.
By building effective learning strategies, organizations can win the war for talent while enhancing loyalty and performance. The aim must be to create a culture of ever-improving skills where individuals can fulfill their potential – which directly impacts the bottom line.
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