Aligning Learning Culture With Flexible Working Post COVID-19
The business world has changed immeasurably in 2020 and with it, the expectations of the workforce. Adecco data suggests 75 per cent of workers want to retain the flexibility over their schedule afforded to them when working from home, while 77 per cent of business leaders believe their company will benefit from increased flexibility.
With many businesses looking towards a more flexible future with a dispersed workforce, a key challenge to be overcome is ensuring the company culture, and the importance of continuous learning embedded within it, isn’t lost. This is particularly pertinent when you consider a third (31%) of employees have left roles previously due to a lack of training.
It is increasingly likely that a mixed model of flexible home, office and remote working will be a much bigger part of life in the future. Although widely seen as positive change, it is likely in all of these scenarios that there will be less time for colleagues to socialise, have serendipitous conversations and share ideas as freely as before. More broadly, ‘company culture’ might prove harder to build, support and become less tangible for employees who have significantly reduced face to face interactions.
In fact, with a more disparate workforce, companies may witness sub-cultures forming, both positive and negative. For example, if there is a sub-section of the company that disagrees with certain decisions being made, this could result in toxic Zoom calls which undermine the culture a company is looking to retain. To decrease the likelihood of this happening, leaders need to be communicating regularly with individuals on what they’re doing, why and the plans for the future. If employees know the company is moving together in the right direction, they’re more likely to get on-board. The most successful companies will realise that learning and development (L&D) is a key piece of this puzzle.
The value of L&D
L&D is one of the few elements of a business that touches everybody in the organisation, responsible for everything from the first impression during new starter induction sessions to traditional training all the way through to exit interviews. It’s all L&D. It’s unfortunate then that it can be seen as one of the more dispensable elements of a company when times are hard, despite the vital role it has in building a culture, driving professional growth and retaining talent.
The difficulty for businesses who may be considering cutting L&D spending or resource is that, right now, companies need staff to be as agile as possible given the segregated nature of the flexible workforce and the fundamental changes many businesses are undergoing. A recent Fosway report explained that only 5 per cent of organisations think their learning strategy and investment will go back to what it was before the pandemic. The same report showed organisations having the greatest success from video, mobile and bespoke learning, suggesting that the unique challenges caused by the disruption requires high impact, accessible and tailored learning approaches. Unsurprisingly the cheaper, off the shelf training solutions have not been able to produce the same results.
Delivering a learning culture
Currently, many businesses adhere to the mindset that if employees haven’t completed particular training modules then they don’t have those skills. This of course isn’t the case at all. Workers that haven’t carried out any training at all can still be doing an outstanding job and find they learn best by doing. Meanwhile, there will be others who find they adopt new skills more quickly in a traditional classroom setting, or through digital learning platforms. In short, for a learning culture to become embedded into a company in our current landscape, it needs to be as agile and flexible as the business itself.
Employees are now being trusted to work from home, so leaders should trust them with how they learn as well, rather than assuming everyone will embrace one style of training equally. For example, in a global company with thousands of employees working across dozens of different departments across numerous continents, how can it be expected that each and every worker will learn X, Y and Z from the exact same learning experience? There are too many differentials in play for that to be successful. When you have employees working from offices, at home, on the road and in plants, companies must view them as individuals and approach their L&D needs accordingly.
It’s time for the old school attitudes towards L&D to go out the window. Learning doesn’t have to take place in a classroom, take the shape of a three-hour video or even roundtable sessions. It could be a mixture of all three, or none of the above. It’s about what keeps the workforce motivated and engaged. Companies will begin to see true change once they have flexible, personalised learning in place, that is aligned to the needs of the employee and the working culture.
Options are limitless
2020 has proven more challenging than any business could have imagined, but the response to the global health pandemic has illustrated that rapid change is possible and can result in positive outcomes. Businesses should be looking to embrace the vital role L&D can play in establishing and retaining a learning culture now that flexible working has become normality. This is only possible once companies produce a learning experience that speaks directly to the needs of each individual in the business through personalised, flexible learning. Those who don’t could find themselves getting left behind.