In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of “business as usual” has been postponed or canceled. If you’re like many organizations, you’ve been scrambling to adopt new working models and reevaluate priorities while protecting your employees and your market position.
It’s no easy task. Budgets are tightening, and if you don’t invest funds and resources where they’re most needed, you risk letting employees down and losing market share. In fact, Training Industry polling has found that 65% of respondents say their spending on L&D has been affected by COVID-19, with 39% saying they’re spending less.
There’s no real precedent for what the economy is going through. However, there is proven research into what will benefit your company now and in the long run as we work our way back to stability. Research shows that one of the best investments you can make right now is in continuing employee development — which is probably why 32% of Training Industry’s survey respondents report rolling out new training programs as a result of COVID-19.
3 Reasons Employee Development Is Essential
Organizations are concerned with protecting employees, shoring up profitability and coming out of the pandemic prepared for the future of business. Providing training opportunities actively addresses all of these considerations.
1. Promote Employee Well-being and Retention
It’s not only organizations that are reeling from this shift in the working landscape. Individual employees are also being impacted. Stress levels are up, and stability is uncertain. Employees want to know that their organizations value them and will support their individual professional success.
Recent polling shows that fewer than 40% of employees feel “very confident” that they will to successfully do their job going forward. Many employees cite lack of training on remote leadership as one of their current top concerns.
A 2016 survey of millennial workers (who, by some estimates, will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025) highlights the value of employee training; an overwhelming 87% of respondents said learning opportunities are a major consideration in job satisfaction. These days, staying with one company for long is rare, yet over half of respondents who’d had work-sponsored development opportunities in the past year said they planned to stay with their organization for at least another year.
When you invest in training, you give employees the resources they need to feel confident. You also show them you’re concerned with their long-term success. When employees know you’re on their side, they’re much more likely to stick around for the long haul.
2. Protect Your Profitability
Another direct impact of training is a boost to your bottom line. When organizations don’t provide the skill training employees need, they experience a loss of productivity. Conversely, companies that offer extensive training double employee retention. They also enjoy higher margins and generate vastly higher income per employee.
When people have the skills and knowledge to do their jobs, they are more productive. They work independently, innovate and meet challenges as they come up — all of which are critical behaviors to weather current pandemic conditions.
3. Give Your Business an Edge
Finally, investing in employees now prepares your organization to succeed in the future.
The nature of business and the skills needed to succeed are continually evolving. Putting a hold on training and development will leave your organization behind the curve, and catching up is a more difficult and costly venture than keeping up.
As you continue investing in employee learning, make sure you focus on skills and approaches geared toward the future. That way, you’ll prepare your employees for the challenges they’ll face now and in the future.
Why People Skills Should Be a Priority
Behavioral skills, possibly even more than technical skills, are essential in the modern workplace. Unfortunately, a recent IBM survey indicates that going forward, employers will see more gaps in behavioral skills — for example, presentation and communication skills — than in technical skills.
Consider that the majority of jobs that will exist in the future haven’t been invented yet. Specific digital and technical skills will evolve with those jobs, but a deficiency in behavioral skills (or “people skills”) will leave your employees unable to cope with the changes and innovations on the horizon.
Recent research highlights some of the top soft skills that will prove critical to high performance for the future of work. Notable among them: building relationships and communicating clearly. Employees need to know how to establish connections and build trust. They have to be able to effectively communicate ideas and share difficult messages. And, they need to be able to listen and be open to hearing solutions and opinions.
Meet Your Employee Development Goals With Virtual Training
Years ago, online training was often considered a budget-friendly but lesser alternative to traditional classroom learning. Today’s online training options have proven just as effective as traditional classroom learning, in some cases even outpacing it in learning retention.
Virtual synchronous, semi-synchronous and self-paced training options are meeting companies where they are today, providing rapid, budget-friendly scalability and unparalleled learner experience. Multinational corporations are also seeing the benefits of cloud-based and online programs that scale to teams across geographies, building connections globally.
A surprising benefit of virtual training that organizational leaders are observing is the sense of connection and collaboration among participants in different locations. Virtual training that incorporates social elements, message boards and discussions, along with a friendly but compelling sense of competition through leaderboards and gamification, enables participants to socialize with one another, build trust and stay connected.
Secure Your Present, and Invest in Your Future
Training may look a little different now than it did for your organization previously. There are virtual platforms, asynchronous options and different ways of engaging. Whatever it looks like for you, employee development can serve your employees, your business and your future together.