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How will the pandemic experience shape the future of L&D?

Without tangibly evidencing employee improvement and competency to key stakeholders, L&D teams are a putting their own roles at risk and may actually be providing firms with further leverage to consider slashing learning budgets in the future.

Learning innovation as a necessary response to Covid-19 is one commonality that most L&D professionals share right now. Whilst the L&D community are having to get creative and rise to new challenges of delivering some form of digital learning for a workforce that is predominantly working from home, implementing an effective solution during a pandemic is a tall order; especially when learning budgets now seem to be the first on the chopping board and redundancies are becoming more frequent as a direct result.

In this respect, is L&D simply being viewed as a ‘make do and mend’ function right now by some firms, and are the remote digital learning innovations now being offered to employees making a positive difference at all?

A recent study  which was distributed to over 2,000 L&D practitioners found that 92% of companies are now including a greater amount of digital content and virtual support in their strategies, with 84% stating that they are now offering an online knowledge store that employees can access.

However, 65% of companies reported that the volume of self-selection training materials has worryingly remained the same or has decreased during the pandemic.

The most alarming stat to emerge from the study is that just 3% of companies said that they had seen a large uptake in employees engaging in self-selection training materials online.[1]

To further compound the situation, in a pre-COVID-19 study that analysed over 74 million individual employee interactions, data from Elephants Don’t Forget showed that the average competency level amongst tenured employees was just 54%; meaning that employees only really know half of what they need to in order to perform their roles effectively.[2]

In a similar report compiled by The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2020, research suggested that only 29% of 1,200 employers surveyed claimed to have a clear learning and development plan in place for their employees. In the same report, one in five organisations said they did not use any technology to support learning and rely on classroom-based training.

On a positive note, the CIPD report did find that learning technologies are now being used by 79% of employers, and that ‘where these methods are being used [artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, mobile applications] they are highly effective’. However, the report also stated that ‘adoption of technologies remains sluggish.’[3]

Most in the L&D community may now dispute the fact that adoption of technology remains ‘sluggish’ and assert that the profession is going through a tech development process of its own right now.

L&D professionals around the globe are finding positives from the accelerated change that Covid-19 has spawned, and there is a refreshed understanding about modality of training delivery and the role that technology now plays to continually provide content elements for the development of their colleagues. In this respect, technology adoption is no longer ‘a nice to have’; it is really the only viable option to seriously establish an adequate digital learning infrastructure for a remote workforce.

For the foreseeable at least, there can be little to no reliance on typical classroom-based or peer-to-peer learning, so almost all L&D teams have had their hands forced to shift their existing L&D training offerings and become more reliant on providing and sharing content online; searching for solutions to help them provide more digitalised, self-directed training options that can be delivered to employees in modular increments. But has the delivery of training missed the mark in terms of employee adoption, engagement and evidenced in-role improvement?

Adrian Harvey, CEO of Elephants Don’t Forget, said: “Operating in a virtual environment is one more headache to add to the long list of barriers to deliver effecting learning solutions to a workforce. I believe that our study sheds some valuable insight on the fact that digital delivery improvements can be made to ensure training is being understood and retained by employees working from home.

The candid feedback from the L&D community from our 2020 study illustrates that simply putting courses online, hosting virtual classrooms and uploading training videos and documents for colleagues to access remotely does not go far enough to address the fundamental issues around how organisations are supporting individual in-role development whilst having confidence that their workforce remains – and continually improves – their competency and compliance knowledge levels whilst working from home.

In this respect, it is one thing to provide content, but it is a completely different thing to evidence productivity and in-role performance as a direct result. You simply cannot just lift and shift your content online and expect this solution to have a positive impact on personnel development, KPIs, operational performance, error reductions, and compliance knowledge.

Without tangibly evidencing employee improvement and competency to key stakeholders, L&D teams are also putting their own roles at risk and may actually be providing firms with further leverage to consider slashing learning budgets in the future.”

Harvey believes that the L&D community should look to adopt new digital solutions that proactively encourages development of skills, behaviours and performance whilst being able to evidence return on investment that their training solutions are objectively making a difference to productivity, service levels and sales activity.

Harvey added: “Evidencing L&D return on investment is more vital than ever right now. The more evidence that L&D teams can present in relation to how employees are maintaining and improving knowledge for use in role – especially whilst WFH – the harder it becomes for firms to see L&D as a ‘make do and mend’ function; especially when employees are performing better and adding more to the bottom line as a direct result.”

Harvey, an advocate for WFH, believes that there must be a more human-centred approach to learning, especially when L&D professionals are expected to continue training their peers remotely. A one-size-fits-all approach does not do enough to ensure that competency and compliance knowledge is regularly being tested, maintained, and repaired.

Curation and delivery of effective individual in-role training is the objective for Harvey and, whilst many L&D teams may assert that they do not suffer from creating content, one of the key challenges they do face is delivery.

Harvey concluded: Learning functions have never been more important for businesses, ironically coming at a time when L&D teams are being forced to operate in a financially lean way.

However, cost-effectively revolutionising your approach to training delivery is not difficult with the technology available right now. From artificial intelligence to gamification, these types of training models lead to improved training engagement, in-role competency, compliance awareness, and better employee decision making.

We use award-winning Artificial Intelligence (Clever Nelly) to augment and support employees, both newly hired and tenured to continually assess competence and automatically repair any gaps or knowledge fade. It takes less than 1 minute 30 seconds of an employees’ day and usually costs less than £10 per employee, per month, and, unlike anything else your firm might have tried in the past, we underwrite the effectiveness of our AI, with a 100% money back guarantee if it doesn’t work.”

[1] Elephants Don’t Forget, Covid-19 Insights, December 2020.

[2] Elephants Don’t Forget, Three Year Study, 2019.

[3] CIPD, Learning and Skills at Work Report, 2020.

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