Learning and Development

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The Future of L&D in a Post-Pandemic World

Since the COVID-19 outbreak at the beginning of 2020, L&D professionals have no longer been able to rely solely on the skillset they had come to depend on in years past.

Instead, they’ve had to adjust to a new working world and quickly adapt their skills and best practices to suit the learning and development of individuals and teams within a variety of different environments.

That being said, as we move forward and continue on with the transformation of workplace development, there’s no doubt that the role of L&D and digital learning in the COVID era is expanding.

Here’s how. 

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Workplace Learning After COVID-19

Increased Training 

Many organisations have been running themselves ragged trying to manage the tremendous impact that the pandemic has made on their employees, with some even being tempted to put learning and development on pause for the foreseeable future.

However, with jobs in jeopardy and the world of work quickly changing, working professionals are more eager than ever to diversify their skills to keep up with these changes, subsequently boosting their employability and demonstrating their commitment to their career and its development. Even those people currently on furlough or who are perhaps simply less busy are taking ownership of their extra time and are adding space in their day for learning.

This has given them a fresh sense of purpose and excitement as the dust settles. To this end, the guidance of L&D professionals will be more in demand than ever - and they’ll need to utilise digital learning to make the biggest impact.

Updated Programmes and Processes

L&D practitioners will continue to reshape their training programmes and processes where necessary to cater to groups of employees who are no longer in one place, but rather dispersed - either working remotely, at the office, or through a mix of both. This means that many organisations will no longer use face-to-face training as the default and will instead be using a variety of different technologies and new digital tools.

Digitisation, however, is widening the skills gap - making it incredibly important for people professionals to be heavily involved in implementing and monitoring accessible training so that they can help close this skills gap, overcome the digital barriers, and acknowledge where there might be future development opportunities. 

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Utilising Digital Learning

The need for L&D hasn’t changed, however, the manner in which it’s delivered has. That’s why digital learning, while not a new method, is one that’s going to become increasingly popular and thus continually revisited by L&D as we move forward.

Digital learning has become the new normal during the pandemic, and now that learners and L&D professionals have seen the benefits of online training (i.e. flexibility, lack of travel, scalability, cost, and so on), they won't necessarily want to give them up once things get on track. This is because we’ve now learned that face-to-face learning isn’t necessary for most training or learning and development initiatives, meaning face-to-face learning - while always an option - is unlikely to be the default moving forward. Instead, it will be used when L&D teams have assessed the requirements of the training and determined that it’s genuinely needed.

In the meantime, old courses will be revamped to suit distance learning, allowing employees - no matter where they are - to participate both online and ‘face-to-face’ via virtual classrooms and workshops. This will keep the learning experience positive and interactive so that they can effectively upskill and develop in their roles.

Doing so will, in turn, benefit organisations through:

  • Increased employee engagement, retention, and productivity.
  • Decreased training costs, delivery, and completion time. 
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L&D in the Short-Term

Now and in the near future, many organisations will be struggling financially during these uncertain economic times, forcing them to make budget cuts and say goodbye to valued employees and business partners for good.

While it wouldn’t be uncommon for employers under these circumstances to assume they should also make cuts to their L&D budgets (i.e. ‘cutting the fat’ where they feel they can afford it), the irony is that under the present conditions, the best thing a business can possibly do is invest in digital learning and development for their employees.

Yes, it’s true that many organisations have seen a need to reduce the size of their overall workforce; however, when organisations downsize, there’s an immediate need to multiskill employees and close any imminent skills gaps so that business can continue to run as usual with few hiccups. The same method applies to those organisations that have too few people to run their business but can’t afford to hire anyone new.

L&D is a practical function that helps drive a business’ short-term objectives, as well as their long-term direction. The focus is on shaping the desired culture amidst a pandemic, implementing new ways of thinking, developing new behaviors, and driving strategic change and future opportunities.

This means that even in downsizing, albeit with fewer employees, there’s an important role for L&D in any organisation and evaluating how learning strategies should evolve.

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The future of L&D in a post-pandemic world will not be what it once was. We’ll continue to see digital technology as a bridge to making businesses run successfully but on an accelerated timeline, meaning people professionals will need to work overtime to meet the demands of the ever-evolving, tech-forward working environment.

To this end, being more intuitive, productive, and cost-effective will redefine whether employers and their shareholders simply see L&D as a nice resource to have or rather a  vital workplace function.

We’re rooting for the latter.

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