Is L&D ‘impossible’ to sustain for remote workers?

‘We’re no longer learning on the job like we used to’, says an industry leader — how can HR help employees?

Is L&D ‘impossible’ to sustain for remote workers?

Are leaders successfully adapting their L&D strategies for an environment where learning is “nearly impossible”?

At a recent HR Tech APAC Virtual Summit, Sue Turk, managing director at Cornerstone OnDemand, addressed the impact of COVID-19 on L&D.

From global social distancing requirements, to the decline of in-person learning opportunities, she discussed whether leaders can ensure that staff maintain the ‘right skills’ to work remotely and simultaneously train them to be ‘future-ready’.

READ MORE: L&D's fast-track transformation a highlight of 2020

“Every aspect of our lives have changed day to day, so not only do employees need to adapt to new remote working skills, but they no longer have the same face-to-face learning and mentoring opportunities,” said Turk.

“The rapid onset of workplace changes means that some employees are struggling to remain engaged and others are trying to scramble to acquire the new skills that they need to work from home and manage remote change.

“And then you’ve got the vast majority living in fear that their role might cease to exist.”

While the changes at work and in L&D would have happened “in due course”, Turk noted that COVID-19 has “moved things forward at breakneck speed”. This has left many organisations and HR leaders “grappling to quickly develop” an appropriate L&D strategy and enable a resilient workforce.

“HR leaders now face the biggest challenge in memory,” she said. “They’ll need to rethink their skills strategy just to ensure that their workforce remains agile, even as face-to-face learning opportunities are reduced.”

For companies to adapt and survive beyond COVID, she said that leaders need to anticipate and ensure that workers have the right skills to adapt as fast as technology accelerates.

She also cautioned that failure to pre-empt and train the workforce with the necessary “future skills” may further widen existing skills gaps, and lead to a domino effect with further talent shortages.

“The challenge for HR is to be able to seamlessly map skills of their employees against available and future vacant positions,” she said, “and still be able to upskill, re-skill or ‘new skill’ current employees to meet future requirements.”

All this, while considering specific job roles and tasks that can be automated by AI technology.

READ MORE: Why L&D is crucial during COVID-19 and beyond

Practical advice
So what can leaders do in these trying times? The mode of learning may have changed, but Turk maintained that the key to a successful L&D strategy remains identifying the right skills gaps while considering employees’ interests.

The best way to gather insights in a remote world? Banking on AI tech can help you “quickly and easily” identify and address any skills gaps, she said, and implement a new skills strategy.

“HR leaders should strive to provide training initiatives that do encourage employees to engage through rich content on their device of choice,” she said. “[Content] that is available online and offline all the time, so workplace training does need to be adaptable especially while we have remote workforces.”

Employees still appreciate micro learning opportunities, she said, but employers should ideally aim to provide and emulate classroom-like learning environments. This means allowing staff to collaborate with fellow learners and communicate with an instructor.

“That engages learners and brings teams together to apply their knowledge in real world experiences because we’re no longer learning on the job like we used to,” she said.

READ MORE: How to protect your L&D budget in the coming months

Turk believes that identifying skills gaps and investing in your workforce is crucial to build a more engaged and agile team. Such employees will be more effective and resilient when faced with any economic or technical challenges.

“The best approach in my view is to move towards a ‘development approach’ that considers the dynamic nature of jobs and [enable] people to be able to reinvent themselves,” she said.

“We do need to focus on building individual resilience to build our organisational resilience in the face of constant change.

“So understand the skills and capabilities needed and deliver the right training at the right time in the right format for people and the team.”

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