Building a sustainable workforce with a hybrid L&D strategyby
Redesigning an L&D strategy to encompass the skillsets needed to operate in a hybrid working world requires a new way of thinking.
Learning and development (L&D) has never been more important. Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows that there are a more than 1.2 million job vacancies in the UK. This is a record high, and within this, 13 of the 18 industries the government monitors are also showing record highs.
The reasons for the talent crunch, often dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’, are myriad. What it means for organisations is that it is ‘mission-critical’ to hang on to the talent they have, or risk being understaffed and less able to take advantage of the post-Covid economic recovery.
Another study by Udemy found that 80% of employees believe that learning and development opportunities would help them feel more engaged at work. Therefore, making sure your organisation has an effective L&D programme should be a top priority for 2022.
We cannot afford to compromise on workforce capability building – be it reskilling at the business unit level, or a company-wide aspirational transformation
It’s not just about employee engagement though, as digital innovation has resulted in a dramatic change to the characteristics of the modern workforce. Front-end staff are no longer needed for customer or public facing roles but need to be retrained for high-demand back-end roles, due to the need for professionals with digital skillsets. HR managers now have the choice to either fulfil these roles through upskilling, or to fall back on reactive hiring and ad-hoc contracting.
We cannot afford to compromise on workforce capability building – be it reskilling at the business unit level, or a company-wide aspirational transformation. No organisation can maintain growth without consistently investing in suitable skills training, as the workforce will soon stagnate.
Redesigning L&D programmes for the hybrid era
Irrespective of sector, business leaders and HR managers are having to address the challenges of effectively upskilling their workforce and maintaining staff wellbeing in a post-pandemic world that is likely to remain hybrid. This is a significant cultural change for many organisations.
There is now a preference towards virtual learning programs, such as aspirational courses and online certifications. Unless there is a good reason for in-person training, learners will resent organisations that require them to travel into the office, just to be sat staring at a screen all day.
A hybrid strategy for L&D must balance the digital and human elements with dedicated in-person mentoring or face-to-face online sessions to better engage learners
Online learning is not as simple as picking an in-person program and delivering it virtually. It demands a more fundamental reset, including the content, facilitator, delivery approach, and learning objectives. To design a successful hybrid learning program, organisations need to consider the aims, desired outcomes and content. To this end, using the ‘five As’ (anytime, anywhere, any device, anyone, and any content), when designing the online components of an L&D programme is a good approach.
This helps to attract global talent and ensures employees can easily acquire new skills and realise their true potential. There is an additional benefit for organisations that can bring back in-person learning once the public health situation has improved, but trainers and facilitators will need to add further value to justify the additional travel time and costs.
We have developed a ‘25 by 25 Vision’ which states that by 2025, only 25% of TCS’ workforce will be working on-site at any time, with workers spending only 25% of their time in the office. We’re not alone in planning a hybrid work environment, even after the pandemic is under control.
Using new technologies to engage learners
A hybrid strategy for L&D must balance the digital and human elements with dedicated in-person mentoring or face-to-face online sessions to better engage learners. To address the unprecedented urgency for remote online learning, organisations can adopt short-term strategies underpinned by technology:
- Design a robust model to convert your in-person learning material into personalised digital learning.
- Implement live-streaming videos for remote learning platforms and online digital certification programs.
- Adopt gamification strategies, leader dashboards and live group interaction among learners to make learning more effective and fun.
- Enhance the virtual learning experience with a facilitator as the human element. This ensures learning objectives are being met and maximises participant engagement.
In the long term, new ‘blended’ learning models (a combination of virtual instructor-led and digital learning mediums), will be required. These long-term strategies could include:
- Generating insights from user analytics to devise personalised learning strategies.
- Revamping the learning experiences with AR, VR, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI).
Utilize virtual labs and hackathons to drastically improve learning effectiveness
Fostering a culture of learning
Before the pandemic reshaped the way people work and interact, many forward-thinking organisations were already investing in advanced virtual training programs. Those that already started implementing remote training before 2020 are now reaping the rewards of their proactivity.
The importance of a good L&D programme is more critical for business success in the post-Covid environment, due to the importance of talent retention and reskilling. The changes that are needed to improve training aren’t simply related to our new hybrid working culture but about leadership.
As business leaders look to build a resilient and sustainable workforce with a hybrid L&D strategy, the key is to nurture an environment of proactive self-improvement. Ideally, the C-suite or board level will drive a culture of learning but the whole organisation - from managers to new joiners - needs to accept that it’s not just a ‘tick box’ approach to skills or modules. There needs to be a clear focus on embracing continual learning and growth.
How digital learning impacts the wider business
The learning environment must be linked to business outcomes. Talent retention is key, but each organisation will have a unique set of goals to meet. In recent years, these are usually around improving employees’ digital skills, given the number of new roles that now regularly interact with advanced technology solutions.
An effective L&D strategy efficiently upskills the next generation of workers using remote learning platforms and interactive training to support reskilling at high speed and large scale
Within our organisation, we measure and monitor the proficiency levels of all our staff against project-readiness. Our leaders drive a learning culture by setting personal example. Ultimately our main business aim is to nurture employees who can deliver the highest standard of project work for our customers - so that’s what we measure against.
We also follow a strategy of organically training and developing capabilities for the skills needed in our increasingly digital-first world. This has helped us to win several awards as a Top Employer, and means our customers trust us to provide them with the best in digital skills.
An effective L&D strategy efficiently upskills the next generation of workers using remote learning platforms and interactive training to support reskilling at high speed and large scale. Business leaders should prioritise L&D in 2022, rather than reducing training because people aren’t physically in the office every day.