On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and deep into the era of digital learning, organizations are scrambling to create opportunities to upskill digital agility. In case you have not heard this term, digital agility refers to the ease of digital adoption related to changing business processes using digital tools and technologies while ensuring there is infrastructure that supports rapid change. Digital agility and digital learning are the fuel that will drive innovation and competition in 2023 and beyond. Training managers and their teams must be well positioned to empower teams to success. The time is now.
According to World Economic Forum 54% of employees need reskilling in programming, technology or application development. According to Zippia.com the technology industry is in second only to health care in driving the economy, and according to Unleashai 24% of employers believe recruiting employees with the necessary skills will be difficult in the next four years. This is good news, as long as we are prepared to lead the change and the charge.
In the last two years, as L&D quickly moved to virtual delivery, the path created was often forged as we stepped on it. We rallied troops, taught people to use collaboration tools, manage documents online and screen share. We created communities of practice, curated courses and pointed people to massive open online courses (MOOCs), all while we adjusted to the pandemic landscape. We evolved as the environment demanded and kept up with the pace of the business. Technology became the center of work life, and we quickly gained the skills necessary to deliver as, according to Gartner, nearly one-half of organizations moved to 81% of their workforces to remote work.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have not completely returned to the office. Gartner tells us that 41% of workers will likely continue to work remotely, even if only part of the time. The pandemic dust is settling, and now we have the opportunity to be intentional about the vision, mission and learning methodology for digital change. We must focus on delivering at scale in a financially responsible way, delivering the right training in the right modality at the right time with the right technology.
While the constant barrage of web-based trainings gave employees control and customization of their learning schedule during the pandemic, in the moment help, feedback and coaching did not always happen effectively. As everyone rushed straight to delivery, insights and analytics were sometimes missed. We cannot, and should not, miss the opportunity to analyze.
We must be mindful about training delivery: Insights, trends and analytics are easier to follow in technology-driven environments, especially when artificial intelligence (AI) can do increasingly more of the work of predictive analytics. With good analysis we have the opportunity to improve productivity, determine what methods and modalities were most successful and useful in the past two years and identify what we need to stop doing. Analytics help us tailor strategies and plans for individuals and groups as we move forward into the digital landscape.
The verdict is in: Rather than focusing on self-service development, L&D champions should focus on being connectors for on-the-job development. We know the people, the projects and have the skills analysis. According to Gartner’s State of Learning Culture Survey, while many employees liked browsing learning content and molding their own development path, during the pandemic, many found this strategy confusing and overwhelming. Only 34% of employees found this strategy easy to access and understand: This means that 66% did not.
With the growth and introduction of tools and devices available to learners: mobile phones, virtual reality (VR) glasses and metaverses we can augment learning with immersive and interactive materials that capture and hold learner’s attention, improve accessibility and level playing fields. We can introduce quick hits like micro or nano learning to deliver fast impactful content in the moment of need. Training can be pushed to dispersed workforces and delivered consistently just in time. We just need a plan of action for the best outcomes possible. Without a plan, we will be left behind. Let’s get started.
- Analyze the current state of your training department. Does your training team have the digital skills needed to drive sustainable innovation in training design and delivery? If not, look for ways to intentionally upskill. There are many free resources accessible for digital learning. It just takes research, commitment and practice.
- Build a digital skills roadmap alongside your stakeholders that guides the direction of digital agility needed based on what the business is trying to accomplish. With good consulting and analysis pinpointing the expected results and outcomes, L&D can help drive the methods and modalities. While doing this consider the interests of the end user colleagues supported by the learning and build in intentional social milestones that include practice, reflection, collaboration and feedback. Think of the roadmap as your prescription for the results.
- After your roadmap is built, consider workforce planning. Digital needs are going to increase over time. Knowing this and implementing a timeline to obtain or train people with digital skills must be realistic and consider present and future state in order to be sustainable. As you begin to identify the needs, create a skills matrix so that you have a clear view of where internal expertise lies. Consider the skills that are most important to your stakeholders as you source talent. As you build your training portfolio, focus on initiatives that have a high level of useability and allow improvement in the speed at which processes are learned.
- Get your stakeholders on board. Create programs that adapt to their needs and use them to deliver some of your courses. Many stakeholders either have digital skills or have people on their teams who do. Use these folks as subject matter experts (SMEs) and learn from them, better yet, engage them in helping with delivery and giving a real-world viewpoint as you do this, be sure to set measurable goals and milestone check-ins.
- Track results that show rates of improvement and business success metrics.
As the landscape becomes more and more digital, remember the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “A dream without a plan, is just a wish.” In L&D, we deliver results, not wishes. Where will you start?