There’s a massive shift underway in the world of learning and development. It started even before the pandemic forced companies to rethink in-person training and work from home policies. Today, the shift is playing out against a backdrop of market volatility, rising unemployment and business closures.
It’s a perfect storm of pressure, in which chief learning officers weigh ROI and manage digital disruption across industries as they pivot from the age of the customer to the age of the employee. Companies in general must become ever more nimble to survive. CLOs face intense pressure to build learning cultures in which geographically dispersed teams can engage with relevant content “on-demand” to reskill.
Technology is the fulcrum of L&D transformation from static, “top-down” courses to employee-driven, collaborative learning. Enlightened CLOs will grasp the opportunities inherent in this time of change to enable true employee readiness in the future.
Preparing for a State of Readiness
To achieve success in today’s hyper-fast corporate environments, companies cannot simply disseminate information using old-school tactics. Not only does a legacy approach overlook the critical, bottom-up insights that come from employees such as those in customer service, sales reps and marketers working on the front lines, it stifles collaboration among those employees as well.
Readiness — the state of being fully prepared — is a new requirement for all organizations in this rapidly changing economy. The implications of not being ready are significant. According to PwC’s “Talent Trends 2019” report, “79 percent of CEOs worldwide are concerned that a lack of essential skills in their workforce is threatening the future growth of their organization.”
Gartner reported in 2018 that 70 percent of employees have not mastered the skills they need to do their jobs. At the same time, 42 percent of employees say learning and development is the most important benefit they receive at their company, according to Udemy.
As Julie Dervin, Cargill’s global head of corporate learning and development, told Harvard Business Review, “We really only had the capacity to reach about 10 percent to 15 percent of the total relevant population in a given year when delivering a particular learning program. Unintentionally, we were creating a learning culture where only a select few got access to high-quality training.”
Considering that U.S. companies spent more than $83 billion on workforce training in 2019, something isn’t adding up. We’re investing heavily in training initiatives, but the skills and knowledge taught in these programs aren’t sticking. By moving beyond the status quo and adopting new capabilities, CLOs in all industries can enable true employee readiness.
5 Capabilities of an Enlightened CLO
The key to unlocking the power of a readiness program is harnessing employees’ natural daily learning process and supporting that process with a platform that incorporates mobile and video technology to improve collaboration, peer-to-peer sharing and access to critical content. Using mobile video allows employees to create and access content quickly, as needed. They can also build on the knowledge of their best people by making it easy for them to work jointly and share with others.
But workforce readiness today demands more than just learning, content or collaboration by itself; it demands an agile approach that combines all three to drive measurable business impact.
CLOs typically focus on learning and employee development, bringing effective and efficient training to the workforce and delivering it in an accessible and timely manner. However, this job description only accounts for some of the initiatives that organizations need to be successful. To improve performance, there are five additional capabilities every company must adopt to enable true employee readiness.
- Access: Deliver critical information to employees in an engaging, intuitive format that’s accessible in the flow of work.
- Speed: Disseminate key knowledge quickly throughout the entire organization without requiring meetings.
- Practice: Reinforce training on complex products and services without disrupting existing processes.
- Collaboration: Establish best practice channels for employees to improve customer satisfaction.
- Insight: Increase executives’ span of control and insight into adoption and success rates to drive more targeted training interventions.
It’s not enough to “set it and forget it” when it comes to workforce readiness. Learning needs to happen continuously to ensure employees are equipped to succeed in an ever-evolving world. Access, speed, practice, collaboration and insight are the hallmarks of an agile approach.
Embracing Learning in the Flow of Work
Agile approaches to readiness empower teams with learning in the flow of their daily work. Traditional learning content and collateral takes weeks or months to create. Training that is agile, on the other hand, taps into content captured “in the wild” by peers and home office experts. Instead of collaborating through scheduled conference calls or messaging apps that lack the richness of information conveyed in face-to-face interactions — agile collaboration bridges the gap with video. This enables peers, managers and subject matter experts to work together or practice new skills asynchronously.
Agile content gives organizations the ability to supply employees with an ongoing stream of curated information and collateral that they naturally engage with because the content is highly relevant. Empowering teams with agile collaboration tools helps them perform at the highest levels by leveraging the collective knowledge at a velocity not possible before.
We live in a world where you can pull a device out of your pocket and extract whatever day-to-day lessons you need from someone else’s life experiences. YouTube has more than 1.8 billion users monthly who view 5 billion videos daily. Employees use consumer apps such as Waze to learn about open routes in real time based on other drivers’ experience of current road conditions. They use Duolingo to practice new languages using friendly competition with other would-be travelers.
But what about the tasks involving the actual substance of work? Employees today need the same access to information in the office or on the road that they have in their personal lives. Modern learning platforms allow employees to access content created by the organization and their peers when they need it most.
Focusing on Moments of Need
A modern learning strategy focuses on the true moments of need that are critical to an employee’s daily work. While mobile and video technology are the means to an end for adopting a modern approach, the true innovation required for the successful adoption of a new learning approach is a shift in mindset. Adopting a platform that allows employees to access information in the flow of work will simply bust open the silos that prevent actionable learning.
Using this new approach, employees can turn to video channels for the latest information and view the content in the format they prefer to engage with. This will not only drive viewership but retention as well. As an example, research reveals that employees will watch a piece of content multiple times when it first becomes available and then watch it again a few weeks later. This is in part because of the length of the content as well as ease of access. Research shows that breaking up learning content into smaller chunks improves retention because it reduces cognitive load and lessens the perceived burden of learning.
Today’s CLOs recognize that modern L&D requires much more strategic thinking and execution than simply hosting corporate training sessions and checking off a box for course completion. They’ll transform company culture and performance by helping employees reach new levels of productivity, engagement and effectiveness.
Fostering a Culture of Learning
L&D has moved from a siloed function to a central component of organizational success. With so many industries undergoing massive transformation, CLOs are poised to equip organizations to survive and thrive.
By fostering an environment where knowledge sharing is valued and encouraged, CLOs can create a community that thrives on sharing ideas and jointly solving problems. In such an environment, learning isn’t something that happens only in a formal setting. Instead, employees also share information and pick up ideas from impromptu conversations and unstructured interactions. There is no “classroom” time versus working time — every moment is a chance to learn from colleagues and mentors and hone skills.
In a world of near constant business disruption, organizations must foster an unprecedented level of agility to remain competitive long-term. More than half of all employees will require significant reskilling in the next three years. But reskilling isn’t a short-term challenge. Rather, CLOs must reimagine their function in order to provide the continuous development and support employees need to keep pace with their ever-changing job expectations.
“We don’t really know enough about what the world will look like in the next couple of years to be able to predict exactly what skills we will need,” said Amelie Villeneuve, the head of the corporate university at UBS, in Harvard Business Review. “If you focus on building individual microskills, you may be missing the bigger picture.”
The modern CLO must influence the entire organization — executives and employees — to think differently about the role of L&D. They can help stakeholders adopt a modern learning mindset and transition away from the idea that workplace learning should look and feel anything like traditional schooling.
These forward-looking CLOs are moving beyond legacy learning models to ensure employees are able to access critical content, share information, facilitate more efficient collaboration and improve productivity. They’re enabling true readiness with learning experiences that help employees get what they need, when they need it, wherever they are.
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