Kiel Welk, Director of Marketing
The world of learning and development will undoubtedly take on a new shape after the pandemic is no longer the lead news story. Though the start of the pandemic timeline was relatively the same for everyone, the decision to return to the workplace falls to the individual organization, and furthermore, to the employee. Every organization will acclimate to their “next normal” at a different pace as everyone’s journey is unique. Precisely how this transition occurs is enormously important, and missteps or brash decisions without the appropriate communication to the employees may alienate some.
The technological leap that many organizations took to adapt their learning strategies will once again change. Universal access to learning is essential. As some employees struggled with accessing files stored on local servers in the early days of the pandemic, global access to learning is elemental.
The composite of the workforce has changed. As some employees exited the workforce for one reason or another, many have entered, bringing with them a range of work and live experience. Both companies and employees are signaling that remote work will continue. Learning leaders are once again obliged to find solutions. Here are just a few predictions for learning and development after COVID.
The pandemic sparked a whirlwind of activity in L&D. Learning content focused on safe working procedures was quickly created and deployed to guide employees into a changed workplace. Also on the list was a massive effort to move all necessary learning programs to an eLearning format. Transitioning these programs may have served as an important last step toward the digital transformation of some L&D departments. This spotlight on the effectiveness and flexibility of a results-oriented L&D program has improved the status of organizational learning. A recent Gartner survey found that 75% of HR leaders plan to maintain or increase their spending in L&D, while other functions of HR see reductions.
Going metaphorically “upstream” from learning, the wave of jobs going remote was an opportunity for recruiting departments to fill those roles with actual remote employees. While this allowed for a deeper bench of talent, the down-stream issues could be troubling for learning leaders if they aren’t actually prepared to deliver remote learning. Learning programs that rely on in-person, instructor-led training may leave some employees behind. Learning leaders that are banking on catching up with training programs once the mass of employees return to the workplace might find themselves in a tough situation.
Embracing a hybrid workforce of both in-person and remote employees does have distinct advantages in learning and development. Many organizations can capitalize on the influx of new talent bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience. Savvy learning leaders will find ways to instill collaboration among their teams despite a physical distance. Beyond simply adding more video conferencing sessions to the calendar, real employee collaboration will be a differentiator for organizations.
Learning technologies will continue to find ways to connect learners and exchange ideas and knowledge to lead innovation. Learners have the technology to quickly create and share custom learning content on time-sensitive topics to achieve a common goal. This de-centralized learning model doesn’t mean that learning leaders are any less valuable to the process. In fact, curating learning content for individuals or groups is equally important as sourcing and assigning it.
Mentoring programs will remain relevant for hybrid and virtual workforces despite the physical distance for some learners. Exchanging best practices and innovation between coworkers of different experience levels is a natural process for some. In areas where it isn’t as organic, creating a framework in a central learning hub (like a learning management system) can act as a nudge to encourage mentoring relationships. A simple forum module can create a dialogue for best practices and help connect learners. Going further, mentors could recommend relevant learning content and establish curated libraries for future participants. System administrators could review analytics to see the progress of the programs.
Calls for increased efficiency will remain in the forefront. Some predictable fixed costs are now “in play” as businesses pivot. Items like office space, software licenses, and revenue streams are being reexamined. Organizations looking to succeed after COVID will do so because the technology they choose will help them be flexible and adapt, not hinder the process. Adapting learning programs to serve all employees will be vital to the success and sustainability of the L&D goals, and the organization’s overall success.