The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the importance of learning and development (L&D), not to mention the importance of doing it right. Now, as companies are emerging from the pandemic and bringing employees back into the office, L&D professionals are uniquely positioned to help businesses tackle virtually any challenge, since they’ve already done it successfully for the past 18 months.

As most companies discovered abruptly in 2020, the only constant is change. And L&D was at the forefront in ensuring those changes succeed. According to a Fosway survey, 94% of companies changed their L&D strategies in response to the pandemic. Nearly three-quarters of surveyed companies saw an increase in demand for digital learning, with video, curated content, mobile and microlearning offering the most effective support during that time.

The demand for digital learning won’t end as the pandemic subsides. Brandon Hall Group’s “COVID-19: Impact on Workplace Practices 2021” study projects that there will be a 51% increase in use of digital learning in the workplace going forward. And 44% of companies plan to purchase or upgrade their learning technology due to business needs directly related to the pandemic. This demand will create new opportunities for L&D to lead the way in shaping the modern workforce, according to LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report.

L&D played a major role in survival during the first few months of the global shutdown in 2020, helping to drive the communication, transparency and agility needed to navigate the constantly changing environment. As L&D proved its worth in helping companies not only survive, but thrive, at a time when less prepared organizations struggled, the C-suite gained a strong appreciation for the value of learning and the real-time impact it can have on business.

The key for L&D success post-pandemic is to align with overall business objectives to create content and deliver programs that prepare employees for whatever the future holds. To do so, you’ll need to:

  • Make sure you have a flexible learning content authoring tool that enables you to collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) across your company.
  • Create engaging interactive content in a variety of formats.
  • Distribute that content so any employee on any device can access the knowledge they need.

Digital Learning is the Key

Even though many L&D organizations had been considering digital transformations, the pandemic hastened the transition. In fact, many digital transformation efforts were compressed from years to months. Yet, there is still a gap in the digital people experience at most companies. Most companies have spent years focusing on the digital transformation of their operational systems and customer experience, but their employees are still training and learning using paper binders, older learning management systems (LMSs) and trying to find content across multiple Sharepoint sites. Teams that were able to shift on a dime and deliver critical learning remotely discovered firsthand how important it is to have a modern digital training and knowledge platform that enables their employees to learn at work speed.

Now, as companies begin to recover, they’ve embraced the fact that employees can work remotely and be productive while they’re doing it. That means digital learning is here to stay. Paper-based manuals, in-person instructor-led training (ILT) and on-site training will no longer be the predominant methods for ensuring that employees stay current on the latest processes and rules. Interestingly, the LinkedIn report notes that 73% expect to spend less on ILT and 79% expect to spend more on online learning.

Validating Value

To highlight the digital people experience gap, according to the Brandon Hall Group’s study, more than three-quarters of companies say business leaders would rate learning a four or five on a five-point scale of importance to the organization. Yet, less than one-half of companies rate themselves a four or five on a five-point scale of how integral learning is to the organization’s culture. 45% of L&D professionals are constantly looking for ways to quantify the value of their programs, and now it is more than important than ever. With employees working remotely, L&D teams had to keep their fingers on the pulse of employee opinions and preferences about learning, then respond to their feedback and deliver what they needed. Learning and training leaders and their teams have a unique opportunity to finally be seen as mission critical leaders in their organizations.

Savvy L&D organizations are now adding employee surveys to measure the value of their digital learning programs. By gathering data, L&D professionals can align the value of learning programs to business objectives, and that is when C-level executives perk up. Having powerful tools like checklists and surveys that enable greater visibility into that data is key.

They are also finding new ways to tie learning, training and knowledge directly to improvement in business performance such as reduced costs, better customer satisfaction, increased revenues and better operational efficiency. Finally, they are focusing more on tracking and proving their return on investment (ROI) from reputable learning systems and platforms.

Having proven their value during the pandemic, L&D professionals can continue to evolve their vital roles, leading employees and their companies, through a successful recovery and beyond.