Over the last few years, the global workforce has been continually transforming due to several factors. The business landscape has become increasingly competitive and complex and digital transformation engulfed all areas of the economy. The workforce itself has seen major changes and is now more diverse (both geographically and demographically) resulting in a heterogeneous mix of employees with different backgrounds, values, and expectations.
Academic knowledge is no longer as highly valuable, while upskilling and reskilling have become vital in the success of any organization. An adaptable workforce is paramount in ensuring long-term success and that requires a highly versatile L&D team to support any arising requirements.
Moving towards adaptive L&D
To get a positive ROI out of training programs and course development, L&D leaders must move towards a broader role within the company and develop a strategic plan for this function. Here are a number of aspects to consider:
Align training with company objectives
Alignment with company objectives has always been a primary requirement of the L&D function. This makes sense, considering the department has an eminently supportive role in the organization. The learning strategy is built to sustain professional development and build capabilities across the organization in due time and in a way that is cost-effective.
A lot of times, the learning function is also used as a communication channel. Learning specialists become ambassadors of the company’s culture and values. In the wake of digital transformation, it was the L&D departments that had to plan and deploy the needed know-how.
However, recently businesses need to undergo such tremendous shifts so quickly that the well-planned learning strategies are found lagging. L&D departments need to find the mechanisms that will allow them to change gear (and sometimes even direction) as soon as the organizations require it.
Choose the right business partners (BPs)
A joint ownership between the various company units and human resources BPs (Business Partners) is the key to agility. With new tools and technologies constantly emerging and with unexpected upheavals (such as the current health crisis) transforming the context, companies need to be flexible enough to adapt processes, practices, and sometimes even cultures.
Read more: 3 Crucial steps in ensuring business agility
L&D functions, in turn, must be prepared to rapidly launch any necessary capability-building programs—for example, if there is a sudden need for employees to make use of online conferencing apps or cloud-based collaboration tools.
The role of the BP is to participate in senior leadership forecasts and decisions, then act as a mechanical transmission box and deploy the information and directives toward the learning function so that it can act accordingly. Communication needs to be permanent and open in order for any swift changes to be made in the least disruptive manner.
Focus on employee learning journeys instead of learning events
Digital learning formats have already changed the face of corporate training. Classroom sessions are no longer the norm, as they have been replaced by flexible online modules, accessible over multiple devices at the users’ convenience. This has also severely altered the needs assessment and design processes. Modern employees prefer to develop and practice new skills and behaviors in a “safe environment” so the inclusion of AR and VR into the modules is a necessity.
L&D specialists need to move towards creating opportunities for learning journeys – continuous development opportunities taking place over a period of time. While L&D has to relinquish some control over the learning interventions it still needs to act as coach and curator. Whether there is a need for short workshops, video tutorials, or a one on one with an SME, the learning specialists should be able to provide that on request.
Measure the learning impact
The impact on business performance becomes more important than ever before. In an environment where efficiency is paramount, learning has to prove to be not only supportive of, but also an important driver of business results.
There are three main KPIs for quantifying the positive effect of L&D endeavors on company outcomes:
- The first indicator looks at how closely aligned all L&D initiatives and expenditures are with organizational top priorities.
- The second KPI looks at learning quality, and this can only be measured by its capacity to change people’s behavior in a desired direction (towards performance, for instance).
- Lastly, an operational KPI has to measure how well the budget and resources geared toward corporate learning are employed.
Accurate measurement of learning impact is always a difficult task but if organizations start focusing on outcome-based metrics such as the impact on individual performance, employee engagement, business process improvement, and team effectiveness it becomes achievable.
Become integral to HR
L&D becomes integral to most HR processes. While the organizational learning function has long been under the broad umbrella of Human Resources, the two were perceived separately and, at times, even as if in an antagonistic relationship of sorts – learning interventions were seen as disruptive to the workflow.
Today, however, L&D has an enormous role to play in everything, from recruitment and onboarding to performance management, promotion, and succession planning. L&D team leaders must have an in-depth understanding of all major HR management practices and processes and collaborate closely to see them through.
Some of today’s L&D departments employ consolidated development feedback from performance reviews as the base for their capability-building learning journeys. A growing number of companies are replacing annual performance appraisals with frequent, in-the-moment feedback since it is more effective.
The leaders of L&D functions need to immediately rethink their approach by designing a flexible strategy aligned with business objectives and fitted to identify and enable various capabilities needed to achieve success. This will result in a varied curriculum encompassing relevant content, various means of performance, and the latest technology. The key for companies to move forward is to invest in flexible, agile learning programs fit to build the existing human talent in the digital era.
Graham is the CEO and Founder of CYPHER LEARNING and MATRIX. He is a serial entrepreneur, e-learning enthusiast, published author, and educator.