As the long-term implications of the coronavirus pandemic on our workforces and organizations continue to reveal themselves, it’s hard to say for certain which adaptations and innovations adopted over the last year are here to stay. However, market trends and movements indicate that some changes — such as the shift to hybrid working and learning models, the integration of development opportunities in employees’ daily workflow, and the emergence of powerful experiential and data-driven technologies — have true staying power.
As we pave a way toward a post-COVID workplace, we asked a few executives in innovative companies across the learning industry which training trends and shifts they feel will persist in the future of work. The bottom line: “Now’s the time to really celebrate training and learning in the point of need,” shares Elucidat’s chief product officer, Simon Greany.
Let’s check in and explore best practices organizations are using as they seek to navigate a post-pandemic workplace and meet their employees where they’re working, learning and living.
Comprehensive Employee and Organizational Wellness
The coronavirus pandemic has redefined what it means to have a healthy, thriving workforce. We can no longer measure employee health solely in productivity and output. Humanity and empathy must be at the center of operations to support the people responsible for your organization’s success.
“There needs to be greater empathy for each other, as people have different levels of tolerance of this new work environment and with the new rules and regulations that are going to be involved,” says David Manning, managing partner of Performance Development Group (PDG).
Healthy employees make up healthy organizations. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Workplace wellness programs can identify those at risk and connect them to treatment and put in place supports to help people reduce and manage stress. By addressing mental health issues in the workplace, employers can reduce health care costs for their businesses and employees.”
As a result, many organizations should “[look] at the deployment of digital training and learning as the means to effectively support and take accountability and responsibility for [their] staff,” asserts Greany.
Knowledge Sharing and Collaborative Learning in the Virtual Environment
More than a year into the pandemic, many teams — whether still distributed due to persisting public health concerns and social distancing mandates or the decision to stay remote permanently — are still facing challenges in operating, let alone collaborating, in the virtual environment. As a result, many learning organizations have adopted new approaches to connecting and enabling employees to problem-solve individually and together in the digital workplace. It’s more important than ever, says Greany, to ensure training “enables [employees] to build relationships and empower people” and “make them feel supported and be supported.”
No one understands employees’ struggles on the job like the people actually doing the work. Fortunately, organizations can invest in tools and strategies to “crowdsource information from across the organization,” shares Greany. Empowering employees with collaborative online platforms to share their struggles and solutions with distributed team members helps learning leaders source both the expertise and content they need to provide impactful training and enablement.
“If you put the ability to create learning content in the hands of your team members who are market-facing, client-facing and dealing with the struggles every day,” says Wayne St. Amand, chief marketing officer at Allego, “they can create and distribute [content] amongst their peers that is going to be super relevant.”
Hybrid Working and Learning
The coronavirus pandemic has also required organizations to do away with the outdated, constricting binaries of virtual and in-person learning solutions and marry the benefits of the two in hybrid learning approaches. More and more, learning leaders and their organizations are recognizing that learning doesn’t occur in a single training event. Rather, knowledge acquisition and skills development are the result of assessing, identifying and baselining learners’ current strengths and weaknesses; offering learning experiences aligned to their skill needs and delivered in the modality best suited to their role and preferences; and reinforcing that learning with frequent practice and easily accessible job aids and resources.
Learning leaders can augment their learning solutions with hybrid learning practices. For example, offering “virtual exercises and information exchange online” prior to synchronous virtual classrooms can “get [learners] in the right frame of mind” for training, says St. Amand. In this way, learning leaders can establish a solid baseline of knowledge among participants and begin to establish and manage learner expectations before training even begins.
The future of work will weave between the physical and virtual work environments. In terms of both learning and working, “technology is going to break down the barriers between the office work environment and the remote work environment … Technology will enable companies to expand their work environment to both office and remote workers seamlessly,” says Manning.
As employees leverage the benefits of and navigate between the two, organizations will be wise to place their technologies and operations in support of the people who enable their success — their workers — by providing them ample opportunities to connect and learn where they are.