The disruption of the past few years has many human resources (HR) and learning and development (L&D) teams doing some soul searching. We have a unique opportunity to do more than provide content and compliance — we can create engagement, culture and learning journeys for employees, instead of just checking performance reviews and popular skills off the list. We are starting to see learning focus more on the skills specific to employees’ roles and needs, for the job they have now as well as their long-term goals.
As we look for ways to upskill and reskill workers for future roles and demands, we risk walking into a learning gap if we fail to consider the accessibility and suitability of our learning opportunities. In other words, learning needs to cater to everyone, widening opportunities for people from all walks of life.
The Rise of Remote Learning
The pandemic has proven that classroom learning isn’t the only way to grow knowledge. Companies that don’t offer remote or hybrid options will lose impact and employees. We now see that we can deliver learning differently, notably with the rise of remote and hybrid learning. This is giving L&D teams greater flexibility in the types of learning they can deliver. Of course, this relies on them being able to aggregate all the different types of learning on offer. Sounds simple, but in reality, many organizations struggle with curating and tracking the and information that can be found online.
Meeting People Where They Are
The next challenge is in personalizing learning. Tailoring topics to each learner’s role and career aspirations is a good first step, as is offering different formats to suit different learner preferences (videos, podcasts and on-the-job learning, to name a few). Beyond this, think of what will make learning truly effective for every learner. How can L&D empower people to build the skills they need to advance in their career?
This requires L&D to look beyond what people want or need to learn. Considering the other influences on their learning will help L&D build learning plans that meet every individual where they are.
For example, we’ve seen a shift away from assuming a standard baseline level of ability when people enter a workforce. Career paths have also shifted, which, in part, explains why standardized learning pathways are no longer fit for purpose. When career paths are no longer linear and people can choose to move to new departments, the gig economy and contracting, learning needs to adapt.
Making Time To Learn
No one has extra time on their hands. Currently, employees spend only 24 minutes a week on their learning and, at that rate, it will take them 24 years to fully upskill for a new role.
Dedicated time set aside during the workweek is one tactic that’ll encourage people to learn, and it can work particularly well for those with outside commitments like working parents and caregivers. Bite-size learning can also help employees fit learning around other commitments, as can 15-minute crash courses where managers and colleagues set aside time to share key learnings about a project, something they are learning or an industry development. Team managers might also wish to consider carving out dedicated time during their meetings or cutting department meetings short to give their teams some time to learn.
Investing in the right technology can enable anytime, anywhere learning. The latest technologies can empower learners to access content online, through their phones and tablets and through social channels, to help them integrate learning into their work schedules. This extends to deskless workers as well — typically forgotten by traditional corporate learning methods. Through digital transformation, Unilever has been able to upskill almost half of its factory in Dapada, India to meet new needs created by its recent digital transformation. Likewise, Vale has installed internet on its ships and in its mines to provide learning to its employees, wherever they are.
Connecting People With Their Peers
Peer learning is another effective tool to consider, as some employees learn more from their peers and managers than from formal learning.
This could take the form of someone teaching their colleagues during a team meeting, lunch-and-learn session or formal and reverse mentoring opportunities. Indeed, having a strong network of mentors has been proven to benefit managers and executives of color.
Learning While You Work
Employees could also be provided with opportunities to do stretch assignments and job rotations — this can boost their engagement with learning programs. It also levels the playing field when it comes to career opportunities, as people will have more real-world experiences to show on their resumes, as well as more connections.
At cashback company Ibotta, which has a young and motivated workforce (with an average age of 30 years old), experiential learning opportunities give their learners a clear way ahead in their career journey. As Ryan Arpin, director, at Ibotta explains, “Employees are able to see the skills they need for growth opportunities at Ibotta and either put their name in the hat or better understand what skills they need to be more qualified. We feel strongly that career development should be owned by the employees.”
Learning is only truly reflective of each individual when they have the chance to drive it themselves. Give people the fuel to power their personal learning journeys: A range of resources, a way to track their learning, time to learn, opportunities to stretch their skills and career growth that aligns with their learning.