The position of learning and development as an organization functions has changed drastically over the last year. Especially owing to the COVID-19 pandemic - when all organizations had to necessarily fast track technological developments and, as a result, had to teach new skills to employees in the process of technological adoption - there is now a concrete understanding that this was not a one-off situation, this is definitely going to be a long term process that will continue to develop as organizations themselves navigate business challenges.
According to the LinkedIn 2021 Workplace Learning Report, 64% of learning and development professionals now believe that a singular focus on learning and upskilling is a “need to have” instead of “nice to have” - up from 27% professionals believing the same in 2020.
With this background in mind, let’s take a look at Australia, which has had a very specific response to the problems that were brought into focus during the pandemic - “How do we make sure that our employees stay up to date on the latest developments in the industry, and how do we ensure that it happens in the shortest time possible?”
Agile Learning in Motion
The degree of change between pre and post-pandemic operations has been drastic, to put it mildly. According to ADP’s workforce analysis for 2021, one of the key factors for organizations to make sustainable growth would be to be agile in the right ways, maneuvering uncertainties across industries. In connection with this, agility in learning is also important, and many Australian organizations have taken the mantle upon them to ensure that learning happens, even from home, or elsewhere for that matter.
PwC Australia has taken up the initiative in several ways. First, they have an engagement strategy for their employees, called Digitise our Core. With this, they had already started the upskilling process for all their employees even before the pandemic struck, and as a result, today 80% of their employees have completed the digital learning modules that were necessary as a part of this program. And the learning doesn’t just end there - if the participants wish, they can enroll in a deeper learning program if they feel that’s the direction they wish to take.
When the pandemic struck, PwC quickly redesigned the program to focus on digital fitness and skills, which offered a mix of self-paced as well as virtual workshop experiences.
In addition to this, they also released a report in August 2020, called “Where next for skills?”, which focused primarily on how business outcome-driven upskilling can reboot the Australian economy. In particular, this report is important because it narrows down the scope of upskilling - going from institution-led learning efforts to a focus on micro-credentials, which helps out both in terms of business impact and also makes things simpler for the candidate. The key here is to focus on creating a foundation for lifelong learning so that it can continue to be built upon by organizations of any size as they scale up and head into the future.
New L&D trends
With hybrid work being popular with a majority of Australian organizations, there’s no doubt that new learning and development trends will emerge. According to Josh Bersin, “the number and types of learning and development (L&D) tools is expanding, including tools for learning in the flow of work, macro learning, microlearning, collaborative learning and language localization.” With that in mind, let’s take a look at what some of these trends could be.
Hybrid learning - No surprises here! As the office space has become an extension of the home, so has the space for learning become home as well. Considering that the hybrid work arrangements for each company will be different, so will the structure of hybrid learning differ from one organization to another. Ultimately, this will involve a mix of on-demand business skills as well as upskilling for future proofing - and each will have to factor in the kind of work a company does.
Soft skills - Regarding what people wish to learn beyond technical skills that equip them for business growth, Josh Bersin said: "People want to know how to be good managers, how to be good leaders, how to work in teams.” Given that the pool of talent is constantly expanding, and along with it the need to work across diverse groups of people across the world, soft skills as well as change management are going to become key pillars of learning and development as time progresses.
Better Employee Experience - Highlighted by the Josh Bersin 2021 HR Tech guide, employee experience is a crucial part of how people learn, and companies need to invest in this as well. Not only does this make a lot of complicated processes simpler - such as finding out what is working and what isn’t - it also allows for employers to craft detailed learning programs that will work well for specific groups as well.
Learning Online and Offline
As we’ve seen so far, there is a huge impetus for every organization to invest in learning and development, as there is a direct correlation there with employee experience as well. Being on the precipice of great economic growth, Australian organizations now need to take the leap forward and implement both rigorous as well as flexible learning programs - tailoring them according to what will work better for their organization, in tandem with what the future holds in store. A culture of continuous learning is imperative, as learning and development becomes the key enabler to scale the growth of both business and its people.