Adapting to the new reality: flexible training for flexible workers
Organisations will increasingly have to adapt training delivery to accommodate a flexible, often remote workforce – thankfully advances in technology are enabling change and data insight.
From a niche idea to the mainstream, flexible working has become a key driver for workforce productivity and workplace happiness.
With 89% of UK employees saying it is what they want, businesses are increasingly offering flexible options – from flexi-time to remote working, job-sharing to staggered hours – to attract and retain top talent.
With the pace of this corporate change accelerating, it is critical for businesses to build a resilient, adaptable workforce, readily equipped to maintain optimum performance.
This requires skills, learning opportunities, formal training and continuous professional development tailored to the realities of flexible working.
Those at the vanguard of the flexible business revolution need to radically adapt how they deliver training and development.
The critical challenge is to ensure consistent skills and career development across a flexible workforce, with people working in different ways, different places and different times.
Those at the vanguard of the flexible business revolution need to radically adapt how they deliver training and development to reflect the new flexible working reality.
Put adaptability at the heart of your learning strategy
We know that employees increasingly see flexibility as important to achieve a healthy work/life balance, especially younger workers. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that “flexible working continues to encourage loyalty and make a significant contribution to business performance” amongst millennials.
E-learning is the key enabler to an adaptable learning strategy.
In order to cater for the wide range of flexible working practices and prevent a decline in productivity, there must be a dedicated learning strategy with training designed to adapt to the personalised circumstances of every employee.
E-learning is the key enabler to an adaptable learning strategy, providing a decentralised, adaptable platform necessary to provide learners with a tailored learning path to follow in a manner that best fits their preferred working practice, whether that is 9-5 in the office or working from home.
Encourage a truly flexible working culture for skills development
Truly adapting to the needs of a flexible workforce and ensuring consistent and high-quality skills development needs more than an adaptable strategy and platform. It needs a new culture of employer flexibility in how, when and where employee training, learning and development takes place.
Employers need to adapt to provide learning and development opportunities and programmes that are bespoke not only to individual learners’ skills and needs but also to their specific working practices and preferences.
Cultural acceptance of flexible working and work/life balance will be increasingly important and beneficial to business.
This means content that can be digested at a person’s own pace and whenever/wherever they want. It means evaluation of skills based on an ongoing and more data-led basis. This means decentralising the control over training to the individual themselves.
Given the fast changing workforce demographic – from baby boomers used to the 9-5 to millennials and increasingly, generation Z who increasingly want flexible working options – cultural acceptance of flexible working and work/life balance will be increasingly important and beneficial to business.
Provide greater opportunities through mobile learning
Enabling learning on-the-go – mobile learning can empower employees to access learning materials anytime, anywhere, at the point of need. This is vital to cater for the differing demands of a more mobile workforce.
Mobile e-learning enables employees to engage in training and development programmes as and when possible and ensures a consistent level and pace of learning across a workforce, regardless of working practices.
This is only going to get more important as the workforce becomes increasingly populated with millennials and generation Z – who have grown up with the idea of at-your-fingertips knowledge.
Mobile learning can empower employees to access learning materials anytime, anywhere.
There are however challenges to the use of mobile delivery, for example ranging mechanisms and enjoying the same experience on mobile as you would on desktop.
Learners would expect websites to appear the same whether you’re viewing them on a desktop or mobile device. In the age of mobile-learning, content delivery plays a major role in this. Technology has evolved to enable it, and learners expect the kind of flexibility mobile-friendly apps gives them, so organisations ensuring content is optimised for mobile devices is crucial.
Capturing and understanding the data
The rapid growth and application of artificial intelligence in the business environment will further advance the potential for flexible and personalised learning based on big data analysis, user behaviours, engagement and preferences.
Artificial intelligence changes enterprise learning’s status-quo with an incredible ability to deliver automated bespoke learning that will enhance the way people adapt to flexible working for the better. Implementation, however, successful on data quality.
Businesses can now use machine learning and artificial intelligence systems to autonomously measure individual learners’ performance, progress, engagement, preferences (how they like to engage) and propose next steps to continue and enhance their development.
Artificial intelligence in the business environment will further advance the potential for flexible and personalised learning.
The importance of proposing appropriate next-stage development opportunities based on the data can prove far more useful in delivering maximum results, given it is micro-targeted at employee needs.
This is even more important in a flexible and decentralised workforce where the old management hierarchies are less present and/or capable of understanding a workers’ performance and training.
So, the combination of new employee expectations, the need to adapt skills and a rapidly-changing technology landscape has transformed what is both necessary and possible for running an effective organisation. The widespread use of technology makes flexibility far easier to introduce into businesses and see the benefits.
As a truly flexible working culture grows rapidly in 2019, it is of larger importance for businesses to act on embedding flexibility but also providing useful training to ensure productivity remains at its optimum.
Oliver is a 19-year veteran of the L&D software industry. He is a keen proponent of AI and how it will affect not only the learning industry but all industries. He focuses on training and talent management software platforms, with a detailed level of industry knowledge and an understanding of what businesses want from L&D programmes.