In such uncertain times, planning for the future of a business is more challenging, yet more critical than ever. Research shows that almost half of UK businesses fear job cuts may become a necessity before the close of the year, while 86 per cent worry they won’t be able to retain top talent due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In this environment then, planning for the future needs of a business with regards to employee skills and development, and therefore what learning and development (L&D) programmes need to be put in place to support this, could be a key factor in helping to future proof many businesses.
Rather than reducing costs by scaling back employee training, companies with an eye on the equally uncertain future should be considering how investing in L&D programmes that can flex to train staff remotely and maintain high levels of engagement in professional development, can give them a competitive advantage.
This advantage includes making the company increasingly attractive to highly skilled employees and prospects, with research from Deloitte showing that millennials cite training and development as the most important workplace benefit, while LinkedIn data highlights that 94 per cent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in L&D. So, what should you be considering from an L&D perspective if you’re planning for the future of your business?
Too frequently, L&D is viewed purely through the lens of direct business benefits, with leaders often posing questions around how it can improve the stature of the company.
- If you use X approach, how will it improve the bottom line?
- Will you witness business growth as a direct result of investing in this training?
- Can you reduce L&D costs while increasing operational efficiency?
While all of these questions are valid, positive results are only possible when training is placed in the context of the learner journey. If the sole purpose is to help business growth, will that truly engage your employees? Some yes, but certainly not all. The trick is to find what works for the employees themselves, and not assume that everyone will respond to the same form of learning.
For example, providing 20 minutes of engaging digital learning is of no use to the learner if they have too many modules to complete, don’t have capacity to focus on the training within the working day or are forced to go through the same content year after year. The key often lies in offering flexibility and adopting technology that allows employees the opportunity to engage with learning, rather than viewing it as a tick-box exercise. So what are these new technologies you should be considering and are they right for your business and employees?
Augmented reality (AR) technology has developed rapidly over the last five years, becoming part of daily lives in some areas – most notably gaming, with the success of Pokémon Go which launched in June 2016 and has since racked up over one billion downloads.
It’s this ease of access which will be at the heart of AR’s uptake in the L&D space – modules can be present on the user’s mobile devices which the vast majority of professionals will have on them at all times during the working day, whether at home or in the work place. This can result in micro-learning modules which provide the users with key information in a visually stimulating way that they can interact with when capacity allows.
Take the onboarding process for example. This can be a very time-intensive process, especially in large-scale, complex businesses. Using mobile-based AR, new starters can be provided with a virtual tour of the premises and informed of important information related to particular areas of the shop floor whenever suits them. Imagine a Health and Safety course designed to help people with their home office set up, with the AR data overlaying chair and desk positions.
The downside to AR is the investment required, whether it’s app development, the need to continuously update content as and when it becomes outdated, or the sheer amount of content that could be necessitated by having a disparate workforce which have very different L&D requirements.
Virtual reality (VR) is another tech buzzword that has worked its way into conversations in the business world after becoming relatively common in gaming. It’s therefore no surprise that you might be wondering how VR can be adopted in the training of your employees.
There’s no doubt VR offers unique experiences that can be hugely engaging, but it’s still a long way from being a viable offering within many workplaces. Hardware is the first limiting factor, as buying VR headsets is a financial burden, while the development of VR environments is both time and cost-intensive, especially when compared to 3D environments that can be just as impactful within a standardised video format.
However, the use of 3D environments, relevant audio and realistic effects can make learning very impactful. This is especially true for training employees who need to be conditioned for hazardous or stressful environments. By recreating scenarios in which there is risk to life, VR can offer realistic training in how to work safely in environments they would only access in extreme conditions.
It might not be the first platform that springs to mind when you consider L&D, but social media is constantly evolving and there’s huge potential for learning in many platforms. Take TikTok for example. The app first introduced to allow users to upload lip-synching videos of themselves now has a hashtag (#tiktoklearn) which has more than 20m views with topics covering baking, drawing, DIY and even medical content.
While it may not be the platform on which you’d be comfortable sharing micro-learning content, it does highlight the wider trend of attention spans reducing. Hour-long e-learning courses may feel ancient, cumbersome and dreary to the majority of the team, when we are all used to the bite-size content served up on social media. That said, YouTube data shows the average mobile viewing session lasts more than 40 minutes while searches for ‘how to’ content is growing 70% year-on-year. Clearly, there is a real hunger for this style of easy to consume, instantly available content and L&D can take inspiration from such trends.
Power of personalisation
When it comes to L&D the good news is that there are a variety of options for deciding which technologies will work to futureproof your business, the key is ensure you have the right mixture that engages the entire workforce. This is why hyper-relevant content will prove so important. Have the L&D team and your e-learning provider talk with a broad cross-section of your employees, find out what their specific requirements are and tailor content in direct response. Deliver that personalised content, across platforms your employees are comfortable using and interaction with learning and the benefits of investment will be clear to see.