With many employees having returned to the office after working remotely for the last 20 or so months, it’s only natural to wonder what the future of work will be and what form it will take. Most importantly, given the disruptions posed by lockdowns, there are vast skills gaps and recruitment shortages that need to be overcome. The question is, will learning and development programmes (L&D) be able to address these talent gaps, as well as accommodate hybrid working practices and the challenges they may bring?
Significant Cultural Change
In order for hybrid working to be successful, there will need to be a significant culture change. It will not only require entirely new policies and structures, but, in fact, a whole new means of identifying, nurturing, and developing talent.
L&D programmes have to be far more agile and flexible to enable employees to learn from anywhere, at any time and, of course, on their terms. Naturally these courses will require a blended learning model, to account for those who prefer to work remotely, but also those skills that require in-person teaching.
The UK is also facing a skills crisis on two fronts. Firstly, remote working accelerated companies’ digital transformation programmes, which highlighted the importance of digital skills. As revealed in a report by the Learning and Work Institute earlier this year, whilst companies are aware of the ongoing skills shortage, many are unable to provide the necessary workplace training.
Secondly, this talent crisis has been further fuelled by Brexit and the mass exodus of overseas workers, and the series of travel restrictions. Indeed, job vacancies were at a record high of over 2.7 million back in November.
Whilst the government has introduced the Professional Qualifications Bill – which recognises employees’ overseas qualifications – to alleviate these pressures, the extent of the skills gap is still uncertain. Previously furloughed and prospective workers will need to be retrained and upskilled quickly if we are to propel our economic recovery.
Reinventing the L&D Function (and the onboarding process)
As we look towards next year and hybrid working begins to take form, businesses will continue to identify further learning or development challenges. Not to mention of course, that over the last two years, most new employees would have been onboarded remotely, sometimes with rushed or incomplete training programmes; others may even have had their training put on hold. HR and L&D professionals will need to review their onboarding process.
Future training programmes will have to be far more agile and complex, accounting for personalised learning pathways and individual employee needs – a ‘one-size fits all’ approach is simply no longer viable.
Employees need to be able top up their skills on a regular basis and learn around their busy schedules, whether in the office or at home. A one-off e-learning module or course does not expose employees to the breadth of information that is needed to cover the more complex skills or business challenges.
Behold: Programmatic Learning
Compared to traditional training courses, programmatic learning relies on collaboration and feedback. As continuous, action-based blended learning programmes, they provide employees with the opportunity to test their knowledge in real-life situations, often spanning several months, with an understanding of how a particular task relates back to the overall business function.
However, in order for these programmes to be effective, particularly within a hybrid working environment, all subject matter experts need to be involved in the design phase. Not just L&D and HR teams, but also department leads and line managers.
That way, organisations can tap into their home-grown talent who can provide more ‘realistic’ content and draw upon their experience to design a programme that addresses the needs and skills gaps of the organisation.
New employees can then test their knowledge in a scenario relevant to their everyday work, with informed feedback from their more experienced colleagues – whether that is in person, or via online forums and panel sessions.
Learning technology will prove vital in the coming months and must be mastered in order for L&D teams to deliver more comprehensive learning processes. L&D can only be effective if we communicate openly with employees, collaborate often with teams, with the ultimate end goal of designing high-quality, engaging training courses that motivate employees.