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Is Learning and Development the next brick in rebuilding after COVID?  

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Organisational challenges have certainly been many and varied in 2020.  Companies have locked down, found new ways to operate and mastered online meetings (mostly!). Some have pivoted, others have furloughed. And many have sadly had to manage redundancies. 

But, as we (hopefully) move out of the initial crisis phase and towards the end of this very strange year, now could be an ideal time for organisations to review/reassess their Learning and Development (L&D) objectives. To consider how they can best deliver on these and set a positive foundation for whatever 2021 might bring. 

Benefits of devoting time to your L&D strategy 

Employee engagement.

As we’ve written previously, COVID has impacted both the psychological contract between employer and employee and the psychological safety of employees.  When an organisation nails its colours to the L&D mast it demonstrates a commitment to the staff.  Plus it acknowledges the (sometimes) less than ideal conditions that they’ve been operating in and recognises their commitment to their employer.   

Perks.  But not as we know them

Pay rises may not be on the table in the short term.  And accruing holiday leave has limited benefit all the while restrictions are in place.  Away days, team nights out and even business travel have become impractical, but L&D is potentially an area where employers can be seen to be investing in their staff. 

Productivity

When the L&D programme is in line with the role requirements, an improved skillset is likely to boost an employee’s confidence when completing tasks as well as increasing efficiencies in processes.  On the flip side, untrained staff can have the potential to adversely impact the bottom line!  

Creativity

Learning new skills may inspire innovative ideas. Providing training and learning opportunities can support the employee in reflecting on their role in a new light, offering a different perspective of how to complete tasks.  

Staff retention

When employees can see that an organisation is prepared to invest in its people, they feel valued. This can enhance their level of commitment to the employer. 

Company perception/reputation

Offering well established L&D programmes can attract talent to an organisation as potential employees are looking to sharpen their current skills and build new ones.  And, according to a recent Gallup poll, 60 percent of millennials believe that the opportunity to learn and grow is extremely important.   

So, what needs to be done?   

Take steps to future proof

Establish the skills your organisation requires in a post COVID world and review these against current talent. Breaking down organisational goals and relating them to individual rolewill help recognise how the skillset of each job supports the larger organisational goals. L&D offerings should be in line with both the organisation’s goals as well as the employee’s personal aims. 

It may be that there are now different technical requirements within your organisation and these need to be addressed of course.  

But this year, it’s the soft skills that have really come into their own.  Particularly for managers who may now need a very different set of skills to cope with new working arrangements.  These include – mental health awareness, remote managing, collaborative working and digital skills.  

Build a learning culture

Prioritise learning.  Allocate sufficient time for L&D but also for sharing experiences and bringing learnings back to the team.  This could be team meetings or dedicated channels/forums on sharepoint/cloud services.  

Communicate

Ask staff what new skills they feel they need to perform their role effectively post COVID.  Respect them as the experts in what they need and how to best personalise their L&D experience. 

Use existing resources

Get best value on any training investment by creating a learning portal – a repository for material that staff can dip into.  It is also worth seeing what’s available for free.  There’s a wealth of material on YouTube, Ted Talks and LinkedIn Learning.  

Delivery 

Arguably, the L&D industry has taken a big step forward in the past few months with more activity being delivered online. Albeit through necessity.  As a result, many of us have had to confront and conquer our disinclination towards virtual learning.  Which is great news for organisations when it comes to cost and productive use of time. 

The options for using technology to enhance L&D are exciting.  Gamification – where elements of game playing such as point scoring, competition with others and rules of play – can be applied to encourage engagement.  At WPG we recently attended a virtual conference that worked on a very sophisticated platform.  It allowed an experience that closely mimicked a real event and meant that we didn’t have to delay learning.  

Having this tech available when other options are limited is valuable and certainly more exciting than yet another video call!  

Virtual learning should certainly be an important – and perhaps sizeable – part of the mix going forward.  But that doesn’t mean that we should be considering moving all L&D activity into the virtual world.  There is still much value to be had from a classroom scenario and face to face interactions.  

At Work Psychology Group, we can help identify your organisation’s development objectives and work with you to devise and implement effective and practical solutions.  We have worked extensively in helping organisations with role analysis and determination of the required skills.  So, please get in touch to organise an initial discussion.  

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