The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses around the world to adopt more flexible, hybrid work environments for safety reasons. In 2022, there is added pressure for businesses to adopt or maintain hybrid work environments to avoid falling victim to The Great Resignation. A McKinsey study in 2021 found that 52% of employees say they would prefer a more flexible hybrid work environment post-pandemic.
For training professionals, this presents a whole host of challenges. There are employees on premises full time, employees at home full time and employees who are splitting time between the two. How can learning leaders deliver training that meets all their compliance requirements while also being meaningful and impactful to the employees that they’re working with?
This tectonic shift in the workforce gives leaders an opportunity to re-evaluate their training programs, making them better for their company and employees. Here are three ways they can:
Far too often, leaders begin training programs with no real goal in mind. The mindset is simply, “I just need to complete this training.” But when the workforce is scattered, leaders must be more disciplined and strategic from the beginning. They will have to think even more about the wide variety of learning personas and environments they will be dealing with. All those learners need to be reached. A multi-channel approach is best. This will take more planning from the start. It presents a real opportunity for us to develop specific goals ahead of time that go beyond simple completion rates.
From a strictly compliance perspective, leaders used to be satisfied with showing that their workers had simply completed the training programs. They checked the boxes and moved on. But this is no longer enough. There is now regulatory pressure to show that training is getting through to employees. In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice made a significant change to its guidelines on how it would evaluate corporate compliance programs when there are complaints. Training leaders should note this verbiage from the guidelines: “Has the company evaluated the extent to which the training has an impact on employee behavior or operations?” This goes beyond just tracking who completed a training program. Now companies may need to prove that workers understand the training.
This can be particularly challenging in a hybrid environment. When the training is done in person, the training leader can see whether people are engaged with them and the content. So much of the feedback was based on a visual assessment. That’s a lot tougher with remote workers. Because leaders can’t see them and because leaders are now being judged on how well their employees learn the material, there will have to be other indicators of success. That starts with good data. For example, a good anti-harassment training program should regularly pulse the attitudes of employees to find out their impression of company culture. Benchmarking the responses can show how a company fares compared to others in their industry and whether the anti-harassment training is having an impact over time.
3. Business Objectives
The training industry is in the middle of an important evolution. The first stage of the industry was how it spent the last two or three decades: focusing solely on completion rates. The next stage is a shift to where trainers want and need to prove that people are learning what is being taught. The newest stage is tying training and outcomes to real business outcomes. Training programs cannot exist in a vacuum. What is taught in training programs can and should have a significant impact on core business objectives.
Take diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training, for example. Business leaders now understand that having an inclusive culture makes good business sense. Inclusive and diverse workplaces are more productive, more profitable and keep valued workers longer. High-quality DEI training programs can foster company culture, improve business performance and reduce overall risk. It’s up to training leaders to work with other departments to ensure that training can be a real tool for driving business objectives and outcomes.
Dramatic change is never easy. Having to adjust to a completely different workforce environment in just a couple of years means training leaders are rethinking all aspects of how they reach their workers. But by adopting a more strategic approach, by measuring real learning in addition to just completion rates and by recognizing that training can be a tool for realizing business objectives, leaders can turn change into opportunities for growth.