We’ve been in the learning and transformation space since the past 10 years now. In this time, we have worked with over 370 customers across various industries and geographies. Over the years, L&D priorities have changed slightly. While business is changing at a rapid pace, organizational learning hasn’t been able to match up just yet.
To help L&D teams accelerate employee development and align with business, we have outlined 8 top priorities that L&D teams struggle with and must master in 2019 to become true partners to business in their organization’s digital transformation journey.
#1 – Making learning and development employee-led
The smartphone generation, which is over 86% of us, are addicted to our mobile phones. In fact, studies show that 8 in 10 employees carry a smartphone.
Why is this relevant to learner-driven, self-paced learning?
It is because the same studies show that:
- the average amount of time employees spend on their mobile phones is 5 hours.
- by 2020, mobile phones will surpass TVs and Laptops as the most attractive medium.
- employees already benchmark experiences against their experience on the smartphone.
Smartphones, social media and the internet have allowed us to access information at the click of a button. Therefore, while information is freely available, understanding and interest in different topics is unique to everyone. As a result, learning today cannot have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
While L&D teams are busy creating learning calendars for the year, employees are busy looking externally, while they take their learning and development into their own hands, either relying on Google and Wikipedia or going on the hundreds of eLearning platforms to take up courses.
What organizations need to be focusing on instead is:
- Foster a learning culture, where employees are relentless focused on learning, self-improvement and development from the get-go.
- Create the infrastructure for self-led learning, comprising a platform, content, as well as the opportunity to connect to coaches and mentors.
- Design each employee’s career growth chart, which tells employees their viable growth within the organization, both horizontally and vertically, as well as a path to help them reach their various milestones.
#2 – Adapting learning strategy for the millennial workforce
Millennials have been a part of the global workforce for longer than 15 years. Yet, organizations still struggle to interact, train and engage with them. Millennials clearly articulate their needs. Organizations, however, struggle because what millennials desire drastically differs from what previous generations desire.
What L&D teams need to keep in mind is that:
- Millennials seek work-life integration, not balance.
- Millennials want more out of life than just being slaves to work
- Millennials believe in working smart, not working hard
- Millennials believe in a learning cycle that allows then to learn-implement-measure and repeat for sustained learning
- 71% of millennials say that the internet is their main source of news and information
- Millennials care heavily about their well-being, wanting to be healthy and active
It is important to keep these points in mind when creating a learning strategy or even a learning calendar. Being seated in a classroom for hours on end goes against several beliefs mentioned above. In perpetuating this archaic mode of learning, organizations are not just leaving millennials less engaged, they also run the risk of high attrition.
So, what’s the no. 1 tip to millennial learning?
Adopt technology. Millennials are quick to try out new technology. Google is their textbook and social media constitutes their primary mode of communication. In short, millennials are connected. ALL. THE. TIME. So, why not make use of an existing system that boasts of a high adoption rate?
It is important to remember, however, that integration is supremely important. Millennials are used to going through multiple social networking sites, because they are connected. A photo uploaded on Instagram can be synced to Facebook as well, increasing visibility and interaction in just one swipe.
At the end of the day, millennials live in a paradox of wanting options while also seeking a curated experience that is unique to them. Therefore, a networked-platform is crucial. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are making waves in enabling this. Are you on the bandwagon yet?
#3 – Enhancing learner engagement:
Research shows that 16 out of every 20 employees opt for learning and development. These individuals say that it improves employee engagement. In effect, ensuring that learning initiatives are mapped out for employee development can immediately boost employee engagement.
To main employee engagement, and more importantly, to improve learner engagement, certain additional measures need to be taken. While 80% of employees are interested in learning and development, a majority of these individuals are high potential and high performing. They want to scale the ladder quickly. For organizations to retain these individuals, catering to their need for hyper-personalized, self-paced, high impact learning is imperative.
How do you know if your learners are highly engaged, or engaged at all? This is a thought that applies to everyone in the workforce, irrespective of the labels that are attached to them. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is the learning real, relatable and just-in-time?
- Is the learning personal and relevant to the learner’s context?
- Is learning interactive?
- Does the learning consist of a feedback mechanism?
- Does the learning intervention fulfill the objectives effectively?
- Is the learning creating demonstrable improvement in skill and change in behavior?
- Is the learning providing learners with all the tools necessary for success?
Make it a point to ask the learners these questions, rather than assume the impact learning is creating. At the same time, remember that while consistency is important, novelty is also recommended. Therefore, it is important to constantly tweak your learning strategy as market trends and learner needs are constantly changing.
#4 – Increasing engagement of line-managers
Let’s establish the definition of a line-manager first. For the purpose of this blog, we define a line-manager as anyone who leads a team while reporting into a manager. Therefore, anyone from a first-time manager to mid-level managers fall under the category of line-managers.
Line-managers play a crucial role in the growth and transformation of an organization, as they carry the burden of being the link between the organization’s senior leadership and the front-line personnel. This puts them in a very precarious position. Some might say that line-managers sometimes become the punching bags, having to juggle the needs, desires, expectations and challenges of their teams as well as their leaders and the organization.
It is, therefore, important that line-managers are engaged. A motivated line-manager is then able to motivate and influence not just his/her team, but also peers and senior leadership as well. At the same time, line-managers are also tasked with handling the dynamic business requirements of the VUCA world. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that the prospect of an organization’s success depends on the robustness of this team.
It is easy to get bogged down by this level of responsibility. What is it that organizations need to do to increase engagement of this specialized category of employees?
The answer is quite complex:
- Not every people problem is a training problem. Yes, training does help in certain areas, but not always
- Rewards, awards, recognition is also a common incentive given, but this rarely works
The problem, quite often, lies in a feeling of ‘carrying the world on my shoulder’. If line-managers are expected to take care of others, who is taking care of the line-managers?
What line-managers need is a support system where they can address their issues and seek guidance. Assigning a mentor or a coach is incredibly helpful to ensure that line-managers are motivated, engaged, high-performing and able to deliver value to business and to people.
#5 – Maximizing return on learning
Before we get into the specifics of maximizing returns on learning, it is important that your response to the following question is a ‘YES’:
Can you objectively and quantitatively prove the impact and returns of your learning interventions?
What do we mean by this?
- Can you identify and prove a quantifiable business impact from a learning intervention?
- Can you identify and prove a demonstrable behavior change due to a learning intervention?
If your answer to the above questions is ‘No’, then you need to stop reading here.
If, however, your response is ‘Yes’, then is the return on your learning investment justified? Are you getting a good return on your training investment?
More often than not, organizations believe that they are spending more money than it is worth on training, because the returns are either untraceable or unjustifiable. Let’s lay to rest this myth that there is such a thing as spending too much on training.
Learning is a lifelong initiative. Therefore, it involves a significant investment of time and effort, and some money. A monetary return on the investment is the most difficult to identify, because the return is not always immediate. After all, learning is effective when there is a change in the way one thinks, acts, feels and behaves. Therefore, there are more pressing questions that one must ask to determine the true return on the learning investment:
- Ask learners:
- Was the learning worth the investment of time?
- Did the learning delivery accommodate their personal learning style?
- Was the learning engaging?
- Did the learning meet their learning expectations?
- Will they confidently be able to apply learning on the job?
- Ask managers:
- Did learners put their learning to use on their job?
- Are the learners able to pass on their learning and skill to others?
- Have the managers seen a demonstrable change in the way that the learners think and act after the learning intervention?
- Analyze whether there has been:
- An increase in employee engagement and motivation
- An increase in efficiency and output
- An increase in customer satisfaction and relationship
- A reduction in waste and an increase in revenue
As you can see, the answer to measurable ROI is neither a straightforward nor an easy one. It requires a fair bit of effort and analysis to come to any sort of conclusion. Technology and data, however, help with a significant part of this analysis.
#6 – Tracing application of skill learnt through training at work
Another major challenge with training intervention, irrespective of how long they are, is that once it is over, there is no follow-up. Six months from the completion of the learning intervention, does L&D know:
- How much information the learners have retained?
- If learners have developed the skills?
- If the skills developed have sustained?
- If skills learnt are being applied in the workplace?
Often, the answer is no, and this is quite unfortunate. Tracking whether learners are able and willing to apply their learning on the job is important as it helps:
- Determine the return on learning investment
- Enhance employee engagement
- Create a strong learning culture
- Promote self-led learning
- Provide opportunities to practice and improve
Bite-sized refresher courses and quizzes, business impact projects, mobile-based engagement and social learning activities such as discussion & advocacy forums, mentorship and cross-functional collaboration all help sustain continuous learning, ensuring that knowledge is sustained and skill development is effective.
#7 – Aligning L&D with organizational goals and strategy
There is a misconception that Digital is about technology. People form a significant part of the digital revolution. The difference is that the way in which people will operate in the Digital Age is significantly different from ever before. Therefore, employees are expected to develop a whole new skill set and do so rapidly.
What skills and why is it important? (Read more: KNOLSKAPE CEO describes the recipe for personal success in the face of Digital Revolution)
The success of a business is dependent on the capabilities of its people. For an organization to meet its objectives, it is important that its workforce has the right mindset and capabilities to achieve goals. Changing business requirements means a change in the learning needs as well.
For L&D teams to be true partners to business and effectively support business requirements, learning must align to fulfill business requirements. However, research shows that L&D is not always viewed as a strategic priority:
- While78% of leaders surveyed believe that their L&D plan is in line with their business strategy, only 65% believe that their learning strategy is responsive to changes in the external environment.
- Only 59%of the leaders surveyed feel that learning interventions at their organization help employees fulfill their current KPIs.
- While 67%of respondents agree their L&D team can anticipate the training that may be required to meet the future demands of the business, only 40% Of respondents feel the L&D team has done a SWOT analysis of their business model.
KNOLSKAPE’s ‘Bridging the Outcome Gap: Aligning Learning Needs to Business Requirements’ report highlights four key challenges as well as expert views on how to overcome them (Read the full report: Bridging the Outcome Gap).
#8 – Aligning L&D practice with future requirement
The speed at which the business ecosystem and requirements are changing is alarming. Organizations, leaders and L&D teams must be cognizant of these changes, while predicting what is likely to happen next. With technology and digital rapidly overtaking several roles and processes, employee skills also require a major overhaul.
Employees need to be prepared for the future while they fulfill current requirements. Therefore, it is a constant juggle between the NOW and the NEXT. This is a struggle that is likely to never go away, because changes are taking place faster and faster each day.
New challenges, however, require a new approach. After all, as has been proved time and again, what has gotten us here will not take us forward. The Deloitte report on Global Human Capital Trends stated that nearly every CHRO surveyed reported that “their companies are not developing skills fast enough or leaders deep enough” to meet the challenges of the Digital Age.
Therefore, it is obvious that one key skill that is needed is that of Agility. This is something that L&D teams themselves must inculcate first, before developing it in employees. What does this mean?
- L&D needs to get comfortable with the idea of constant change and get ahead of it rather than waiting for change to happen before they respond to it
- L&D needs to develop design thinking skills, the ability to create and test innovative ideas to solve their talent problem
- L&D needs to look at skills as part of a large network of application, rather than independent abilities to master
- Most importantly, L&D needs to have a coherent understanding of digital and how it impacts them, their employees and business
Across the next few months, we will share research, tips and tricks for L&D teams to master these priorities. Subscribe to the KNOLSKAPE blog and be the first to know when new content is available.