How to structure learning and development to drive performance in the ‘new normal’

  • November 29, 2021

Employee expectations and business models have shifted as a result of everyone having to leave the office due to the pandemic. As a result of this necessary but reactionary switch, learning and development opportunities were in many instances put on hold. With some remote working (likely hybrid models) set to remain, learning and development strategies should be revisited for business objectives and employee expectations to be met, regardless of where the workforce is physically based.

Consistent learning and development is critical for continued business success, with any mitigating impacts of hybrid working properly managed and overcome. Businesses must work hard to onboard, develop and maintain skill sets in tandem with market forces and requirements. Furthermore, employees not only benefit from the skills they develop through training, learning and development opportunities increase motivation and company loyalty.

Training challenges when managing remote teams

Training remotely or for a mix of office and home-based employees is harder than in-person sessions. However, it’s not impossible and with the right planning in place can be delivered just as effectively. Though with the pace of emerging tech increasing and the workforce struggling to keep up, there are many challenges that need to be overcome, such as:

·        Geographical barriers

HR leaders need to be proactive to ensure distributed employees learn from one another despite geographical location and ensure that learning is accessible anywhere, in different formats and to all employees.

·        Differences in face-to-face training vs. virtual delivery

Online learning can feel restricted given the lack of body language, ability to distribute physical learning tools and limited peer interaction. However, planning and utilising tips for online learning can help with its effectiveness. Online learning also offers the potential to reduce time wasted and being digitised means benefits such as performance metrics and data capture.

·        How is success measured virtually?

Processes should be put in place to measure the effectiveness of programmes, rather than merely hoping for the best. Proper appraisal and feedback should still be carried out, even for a remote workforce.

·        Remote onboarding

Training for new starters should be standardised, irrespective of where the employee is based. Process, points of contact and due diligence will ensure remote employees can access the same learning as office-based starters.

·        Evolution of workplace culture

With so many changes to the way we work it can be hard to keep abreast of trends and how best to factor these into organisational structures.

·        Rise in demand from employees who expect personalised training process dependent on their preferred method of learning

Online rather than group training in a physical setting can mean the demand of tailor-made training options. However, this creates additional labour for line managers and/or L&D executives. Manage expectations and deliver programmes geared towards both individual and group progress.

Benefits of training employees

According to survey by Gartner, 60% of HR leaders cite building critical skills and competencies as their number one priority in 2022. Despite the challenges that come with remote training, it is clearly high up on the agenda as there are endless opportunities and benefits to be had from strong L&D. Not only does it support employee engagement via clear development and growth opportunities, it:

·        Increases productivity through developed learning and understanding of the job role, as well as more generalised hard and soft skills.

·        Promotes positive work culture by letting employees know they are valued and that you envisage longevity by developing their skills.

·        Boosts employee satisfaction – training opportunities reinvigorate and motivate the workforce. Investing in employees affirms your trust and confidence in them, which creates a positive response.

·        Reduces staff turnover - employees able to learn are likelier to flourish in their roles, thereby enhancing loyalty.

·        Improves talent attraction as clear learning and development opportunities are attractive to those seeking new roles, as it demonstrates a commitment to their career trajectory.

How to structure an effective learning and development strategy

According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career. The role of HR does not end with successful onboarding, but should watch performance of employees throughout their career promoting learning, which can be structured by:

·        Creating a strategy that aligns with business goals e.g we need to get to x, what strengths and workforce capabilities will get us there?

·        Considering individual goals and preferences - what ambitions do they hold and how can you help them to achieve those?

·        Technological developments - Keep abreast of applicable technologies and deliver training on these company-wide where and when appropriate.

·        Reviewing current capabilities – where are the gaps? Both at an individual and departmental/team level.

·        Devising a multi-lateral approach - larger classroom sessions are effective for a number of reasons, but alone (and especially without follow up) risk large swathes in information absorbed at the time but not overtime. Consider different approaches to learning and development opportunities, as well as re-caps.

·        Measuring the performance of your L&D in order to assess how well it’s working and where support or changes are needed. It’s vital data is captured on an ongoing basis, at both an individual and broader level.

·        Integrating effectively with line management and HR – Learning and development is of little use if left as a stand-alone function within the business rather than acting in constant communication with managers and HR, where it can be used to inform organisational choices.

 

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