The impact that Covid-19 has had on the world of work is still playing out, but it is clear that both the ‘where’ and the ‘how’ of work will likely never be the same again. As many businesses now recognise that long, sometimes stressful commutes and expensive office spaces are not a prerequisite for success, this will have a knock-on effect on the types of skills businesses will value, and will require L&D practitioners to reskill employees accordingly.
The reskilling challenge in and of itself is nothing new, over the past five or six years, hard technical skills have become less valuable as technology automates them, and soft skills, such as leadership, emotional intelligence, and teamwork have consequently become more crucial to the successful running of a business. However, what has changed is the approach that L&D professionals must take to meet this challenge.
To date, reskilling plans have been created under the assumption of having learners in offices. Now, L&D needs to figure out how to shift those plans into the digital realm, and deal with the remote and flexible work schedule that is emerging. This will be no mean feat, and in this article I’d like to share some of my own thoughts about how L&D must pivot in order to solve the same reskilling problem under wholly different circumstances.
En masse training, flexibly
The rise of automation and AI technologies will have an impact across the breadth of a business’ workforce. Although severity of the impact will differ from job function to job function, ultimately nearly all employees will feel its effect, and this means that vast swathes of staff will need to be reskilled in a short timeframe.
En masse reskilling was difficult enough to deal with pre-Covid, but an added wrinkle is that remote working has up-ended traditional notions of the 9 to 5 workday. As employees’ home and work lives have necessarily collided, they have had to work around one another. Everyone is in the same boat, from most senior to most junior, and this has created an acceptance that the work we do may not all come in one neat eight hour block every day.
In this context, any training L&D delivers will have to be asynchronous, allowing employees to learn when they have the time. Modern learning platforms have been built with this kind of training delivery in mind, and any reputable EdTech vendor your business chooses to partner with should be willing to help your L&D team in designing courses that can be consumed piecemeal.
Tracking progress with micro-credentials
The ultimate goal, of course, is to ensure that the shifting skills needs of the business are being met by the L&D strategy. Keeping track of who has what skills across an entire organisation, particularly if we do all continue to work remotely, is difficult. One way to track current skill sets, identify gaps in skills development, and incentivise employees to pursue additional skills development, is through micro-credentials.
Micro-credentials are a representation of a competency or achievement earned through participation, progression, completion, and demonstration of learning. These are created using the Open Badges specification managed and advanced by the IMS Global Learning Consortium.
For the employee, micro-credentials make it easy for them to exhibit the ongoing professional development they have pursued since formal education.
For an organisation, the data represented through the number and variety of these badges held will inform leaders not only how to tackle skills gaps at an individual level, but also for the organisation as a whole. As people start to port and share badges, it creates a clear picture that the organisation is one that promotes and supports the continuous professional development of its staff. A focus on CPD will be a key competitive differentiator, and if organisations are to retain their employees and attract new talent, they will need to be able to boast solid CPD credentials.
No trainee left behind
With so much riding on reskilling across the organisation, the greatest difficulty faced by organisations is being able to understand the needs of each individual learner. What works for one may not necessarily work for another. Understanding an individual’s learning preferences is difficult enough, but for an L&D professional to look at scale across an organisation, it is near impossible to do without utilising technology.
Utilising the data analytics offered through modern learning platforms can help L&D professionals better understand these individual needs at scale. Learning analytics can enable L&D to identify the type of content a particular trainee better engages with, and modern learning platforms can offer up rich content including video, interactive quizzes and gamification models to suit that particular student’s needs at that particular time. In this way, it’s far easier to create these personalised learning pathways for trainees and provide course materials in a form and context that best fits their learning styles.
The digital gap
L&D will still need to grapple with the tried and tested principles of the 70:20:10 rule. Developed by the Centre for Creative Leadership, it posits that 70 per cent of knowledge is gained through on the job practice, 20 per cent through interaction with peers, and 10 per cent through formal education. Remote learning, particularly the asynchronous variety, can struggle to deliver that crucial 20 per cent gained through interaction.
Quite simply, we are not all the way there yet with emulating these usual interpersonal conversations within the digital realm. Vendors of collaborative tools have of course done very well off the back of the remote working situation and are developing and updating their products with further functionality, but it still may not be sufficient. The L&D function may need to consider a different blended learning approach, wherein the majority is conducted in the online realm, but is peppered with real-world practice to properly gain that extra 20 per cent .
The shape of what comes after Covid is still uncertain, but there is a good chance the workplace will look profoundly different. The requirement for soft skills will persist, but the new challenge will be how L&D can teach them at scale to meet the changing skills needs of businesses.
This will undoubtedly be a challenge for L&D, and they will have to rely heavily on online platforms. It’s worth L&D forging strong relationships with their EdTech supplier of choice, for knowledge of how best to take advantage of their platform’s functionality, as well as help in how best to shape their L&D programmes to accommodate these new learning needs.