While technology can be innovative in the workplace, a continuous learning model will enable your business to grow and retain talent, argues Gustaf Nordbäck.

I sympathise with L&D people – particularly with those who constantly try to make sense of external trends while addressing the challenges their businesses face right now.

Early in May, for example, the term ‘growth mindset’ was one of the buzz phrases of a large learning technology conference which took place in London. While the overuse of the phrase may not be helpful, the reality is that it reflects a really positive trend: more businesses are waking up and looking for ways to build a learning culture into their very foundations. Moving away from the lip service of ‘annual training opportunities’, businesses are increasingly looking to embed learning as part of their culture and strategy.

As a new generation of professionals begins to ascend the corporate ladder, organisations of all sizes and sectors are faced with one common challenge: attracting, retaining and developing top talent. With the rise of portfolio careers and the digital creator economy, building a robust talent pipeline and a reliable succession structure can be particularly hard in today’s work climate.

Employees don’t just want, but expect to be provided with the opportunity to learn while they work, in an almost symbiotic scenario. Integrating learning into business strategy is an essential step in empowering teams to develop skills while completing projects and daily tasks. This learning-integrated work brings continued benefits for both the business and the individual.

Why does it matter?

There are pluses and minuses to almost every business decision. And for many, it’s the potential expense and the perceived difficulty of implementation and management that deter them from adopting a continuous learning model. But impactful initiatives don’t necessarily need to cost the world. We have recently spoken with the Head of People for a US-based tech company and found that little actions are driving great results: for example, allowing all staff to expense the costs of any books that they want as well as making coaching available to everyone on demand have gone down extremely well with their predominantly Millennial team.

From improving customer centricity to boosting competitiveness, the value is clear. Deloitte reported that companies who adopt a continuous learning approach are 46 percent more likely to be first to market and 92 percent more likely to innovate.

The impact that investments in learning have on staff turnover is also relevant. Right now, the UK average employee churn rate is approximately 15 percent a year. And with the cost of replacing an employee paid £25,000 per annum estimated to be in the region of over £30,000 per person, that’s a considerable amount, even without factoring in the advantage of being able to shape your own future management teams.

Continuous learning is also about changing thinking and behaviour patterns. Learning and development makes employees better and more independent thinkers, challenging them to question everything and think outside the box. Improving learning skills constantly through focused efforts on learning and development leads to free thinkers and empowered employees.

Integrating continuous learning in a hybrid world

I remember the time when people used to turn their noses to the prospect of online learning interventions. Today, though, things are different. No matter how you look at it, hybrid working and as a result hybrid learning are here to stay. Mastering hybrid learning is now a prerequisite for L&D success. Hybrid will increasingly become second nature for the leaders of the future – it should also be intrinsic to L&D.

Designing and delivering leadership experiences need to accommodate for an option where it is hybrid. There is a lot of anxiety around this topic and many organisations are hesitant to design hybrid programmes as they have had less than optimal experiences. Done right, hybrid can be more engaging and more effective than either 100 percent virtual or 100 percent face to face.

There are some questions, though. How do we make the learning experience engaging when we design for hybrid, particularly for the ones participating online? How do we facilitate a positive collaboration between the participants online and in person? At Headspring we are continuously experimenting with new tools and solutions, but it’s a fast-evolving landscape – both in terms of technology and learner expectations.

Why now?

The global skills gap is well documented. The challenge of both finding and retaining the talent to drive a business forward is greater than ever before. Millennial and Gen Z cultures, combined with the covid-19 pandemic, have transformed traditional work patterns and created new expectations to which leaders must quickly adapt. By providing a comprehensive continuous learning and development programme, you are investing in the future of your business – building loyalty and efficiency as you create the talent you need to grow and evolve.

While tech can be transformative, and your culture guides the way, it’s your people that hold the most potential. With a continuous learning model, you have the tools to not only attract the talent your business needs, but to develop, grow and retain them.

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Gustaf Nordbäck is the CEO of Headspring Executive, with 12 years experience in the learning and development sector.