How Business Leaders Can Support Virtual Learning and Development

The battle for talent is getting tougher

Employers looking to plug their increasing skills gaps and compete to fill more complex and specialised roles in a post-COVID landscape need to give themselves a competitive advantage. To do this, companies must place people at the heart of their business strategy and empower their employees to continually learn and develop the skills that will make a difference to their careers and industry as a whole. The question is, how do companies achieve this in the age of disruption? 

Recognise the change, and invest in the right technology

First and foremost, companies have to recognise that the world of work is going to be forever altered. It’s very likely that future working arrangements will take on a hybrid approach of both office and home-based employees. Robert Bloor, group financial controller at Equiniti Group, for example, says that their business won’t expect everyone to be in the office five days a week now as it has proven home working can be effective. As more companies shift to flexible working for the long-term, businesses must therefore improve and refine the virtual learning environment in order to upskill their people. 

However, while improving virtual learning systems, business leaders have to keep in mind that they will require the ability to redeploy and reskill workers quickly and remotely to support dramatic changes to their business models. In turn, this gives workers access to new curricula that may be required to support some of these reskilling efforts. In fact, according to a survey from talent research firm i4cp, 60% of participants indicated a significant increase in the use of virtual classroom training due to the COVID-19 pandemic — a trend we expect to see continue. Business leaders will therefore have to invest in learning technologies to share video updates with their workforce, track mandatory COVID-19 training and communication, provide support and wellness resources, enable peer learning, and distribute newly virtualised content. 

Take the tailored approach

However, offering a vast range of general training materials to all employees is as ineffective as offering none at all — regardless of how great the technology is providing it to them. What employees really want is personalised recommendations, customised to their position within the company, the opportunities available to them, and what they need to do to realise them. Upskilling in this way, has been recognised as important by HR leaders from the likes of  Mastercard and Accenture. They have emphasised how vital it is that business leaders invest in their workforce’s skills. Not only to make them more resilient against current and future disruption, but also because it’s easier to upskill employees rather than trying to hire outside talent to fill the need for new skills. This approach not only helps companies quickly adapt to change, but it also gives valued employees new areas of expertise that they can use to further their careers within the business. 

Business leaders, and managers, must focus on offering employees access to suitable materials directly tailored to their experience and interests. This demonstrates to employees that the business is dedicated to their personal development and invested in their future. When employees feel valued like this, they are always more willing to put in the time it takes to learn new skills, work harder and be more productive, even when working remotely. 

To achieve the best results when it comes to planning personalised virtual training sessions, managers need to use machine learning to improve data analytics and obtain real-time insight on employee career paths. Using more data means they can identify skills gaps within the business network, and even unlock previously hidden opportunities which will improve employee development and strengthen their relationship with the employer. Creating a holistic view of the company and employees needs will result in better training, an agile, highly skilled workforce and happier employees.

Reap mutually beneficial rewards

It’s clear that upskilling, learning and development, especially during times like these, is critical for retaining talent, and inspiring a new generation of employees. The upside for businesses is that it also creates a mutually beneficial relationship for both employer and employee. The employee is presented with the tools they need to progress and feel more secure within their job. This builds a happier and more productive workforce for the business, which in turn increases customer satisfaction, leading to more loyal customers and a rise in revenue. 

It’s been a tough year, but businesses have the opportunity to drive dynamic innovation into their operations, from the way they plan for continuous change to how they enable, engage and train employees to be prepared for it. For forward thinking companies, recovery has already started by having access to the right data, in real-time, that enables the best decisions to be made for the business — while keeping employees and their continual learning at the heart of their operations. And it is these companies, and those that follow suit, that will give themselves a competitive advantage, responding and recovering faster.


About the Author

Mark Judd is VP, HCM Product Strategy, EMEA at Workday. Workday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance, HR, and planning. Founded in 2005, Workday delivers financial management, human capital management, and analytics applications designed for the world’s largest companies, educational institutions, and government agencies.

Featured image: ©Opolja

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