There’s no denying that the shift to remote and hybrid work has created new challenges when it comes to driving people and business productivity.
Latest figures from the UK show incremental improvement on 2020 lockdown productivity levels, though output per worker is still below the 2019 average.
EU nations, however, seem to have bounced back more quickly, with some countries already exceeding their pre-pandemic norms.
Of course, the question of how to increase productivity is a perpetual topic of debate; and in recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of wellbeing, reward and recognition strategies designed, amongst other things, to drive productivity.
But here’s the thing: while these strategies are no doubt helping to move the needle, I would argue that learning and development (L&D), which plays an equally crucial role, deserves a much bigger profile in productivity terms, and especially when it comes to on-the-job learning that empowers people to solve problems in the flow of work.
Here’s five factors that explain why knowledge-led learning is key to supercharging productivity in the new world of work:
1. Keeping pace with knowledge change
The advent of technology has been fueling an increasing speed of knowledge change for years now; an upwards trend that the pandemic has only served to further accelerate.
Because of this, the average modern-day worker now requires continual access to knowledge on the job, and in particularly fast-moving industries, such as manufacturing, IT, and consumer goods, the ability to meet this demand is providing a key source of competitive advantage.
Think of it this way: 20 or 30 years ago, the principle was what a car mechanic learned in their initial training was intended to serve them for the duration of their career.
But since then, we’ve gone from manufacturers releasing a new model of car once a year, to smart cars undergoing several software updates each month.
Course-led learning simply can’t keep pace with that because it doesn’t support learning on-the-job.
This race to catch up with real-time learning presents L&D leaders with a new challenge in and of itself, however.
It requires a fundamental change in mindset in which L&D is no longer considered a ‘sit down and do’ activity.
To put it simply, if we are to power productivity through corporate learning, we must swap courses for performance-first learning cultures, underpinned by access to knowledge in the flow of work.
This is how we empower people to instantly solve problems and apply new skills on the job, at the same time reducing reliance on course-based strategies that take learners away from their work.
2. Rapid onboarding (and reduced time to productivity)
Today’s rapid rate of knowledge change, coupled with the fact that 48% of US workers are now actively job-seeking, has also shifted the L&D balance in relation to upskilling and reskilling.
In the current environment, skills demand is now heavily weighted towards upskilling on the job as organizations seek to quickly onboard new employees and reduce time to productivity.
This isn’t to say that reskilling for foundational knowledge and talent development is no longer key to business success, but rather that having the ability to upskill in the flow of work presents much greater productivity and performance benefits in the here and now.
3. Instant problem solving on-the-job
But there’s another level to this, too.
According to HR tech analyst Josh Bersin, the average knowledge worker spends almost 20% of their working lives searching for the knowledge they need to do their job.
That’s a staggering one day every single week, and it highlights that irrespective of how valuable a piece of knowledge is, if it’s taken the learner two hours to find and access it, there’s every certainty that productivity will suffer.
The solution here is to leverage modern learning technology that enables intelligent search.
Technology that understands context and, even, intent. and which can instantly take the learner to the specific knowledge they need, right when they need it.
We’re not just talking about guiding the learner to the right video, but to the specific point within that video that holds the exact answer they need.
The result? Rapid first-time problem resolution – and all within the flow work.
4. Rising retention and reduced costs
Another benefit of empowering employees with in-flow learning is that, in doing so, we also deliver continuous value that engages people and improves their working lives.
We not only create better learning outcomes, but better employee experiences that lead to improved retention and a reduction in ongoing training and recruitment costs.
It’s a point that emphasizes the two-pronged productivity benefits that come with learning in the flow of work: higher output per worker; and long-term cost-savings arising from both reduced churn, and a more attractive employee value proposition.
5. Leveraging the learning ecosystem
Of course, productivity doesn’t start and stop with the employees within any one organization; a point that lends itself to a growing, but much less mainstream conversation: the potential for customer training to reduce time to value and power productivity.
To put this into context, the average organization now has multiple partners, independent contractors, and suppliers.
How can we expect to optimize productivity if these key stakeholders are excluded from relevant L&D opportunities?
Key to success (and productivity) here is creating open learning ecosystems where information and knowledge can be readily shared with, and consumed by, learners within partner organizations.
There’s no doubt that the industry conversation around customer training is still evolving, though it is a rapidly growing point of discussion on the L&D agenda as global supply chains become evermore connected and complex.
For organizations that can seize this opportunity, the productivity benefits will surely pay dividends.
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