With the job market seemingly on its way to recovery, leaders of organisations across Australia will be considering how to utilise learning and development to accelerate their workforce.
The general consensus is that new skills and capabilities will underpin long-term sustainability and growth.
As organisations recover from the economic impact of a global pandemic and a recession, many questions loom – How do we secure our business model for the future? How do we build resilience? How do we engage with customers and suppliers in a post-covid world? How do we become more efficient?
Learning and development is an avenue that can address many of these issues.
For attracting top talent, particularly under the marketing, advertising, e-commerce and communications umbrella, learning and development is a valuable tool. Gallups research indicates that those organisations making a strategic investment in developing their employees were twice as likely to retain their employees and boasted 11% greater profitability.
Gartner studies also show that learning and development, coupled with future career opportunities was the biggest appeal for workers across the globe pre-covid.
Partner of People and Change at KPMG, Lauren Jackson, says that many organisations are viewing learning and development post-covid as an opportunity to invest more strategically in the future, as well as the obvious potential of it as a valuable perk to attract and retain employees.
“When I have spoken to learning and development teams in the past, there was a strong desire to work more closely with the business, but there has been a disconnect for a very long time,” she says.
“Covid has changed that – it has provided that momentum for learning and development to get a seat at the table and really start to drive the agenda.”
Jackson stated the crisis shines a light on business transformation.
“What we’re seeing now is more organisations accelerating, where possible, their digital transformation to automate and remove the process-heavy functions,” she says.
“The knock-on impact is that they will start seeing larger pockets of unused workforce productivity down the line. As a result, more organisations are seeing a big-picture opportunity to reskill and retrain individuals that are identified as potentially being out of a job in a few years.”
“We’ve needed a catalyst to make us realise that we can’t stand still,” adds Jackson.
“We need to be able to reskill people quickly and at scale, it also needs to happen regularly. Covid has brought this into focus and has given us the burning platform to get on with it.”
the catalyst that leads to change
For organisations like Deloitte, COVID-19 has accelerated the learning and development agenda. Connie Hansen, lead partner for leadership and learning at Deloitte, says the company’s 2024 strategy had outlined a compelling case for equipping its workforce for the future, but with COVID-19 “the future is suddenly now”.
“We had been talking about the capabilities we need into the future, and we felt like the future was a long way off, but it has come along so rapidly,” she says.
“Because we had already invested in learning and development digital and virtual assets, we were in a really good place to respond quickly when covid hit.”
About six months ago, Deloitte launched its ‘stepping into the future’ learning program It is structured around four key learning pillars – adaptability, the future of leadership, digital fluency, creativity and problem solving – and its structure is divided between a digital and a virtual campus.
Petra Ladkin, Senior manager of capabilities of the future at Deloitte explains the digital campus is designed for “self-paced learning”.
“We’ve needed a catalyst to make us realise that we can’t stand still,” said Lauren Jackson.
“We curated lots of digital assets for individuals to access whenever they choose, all based on the various skills that sit under the four learning pillars,’ she says.
The program’s virtual campus provides a series of webinar-style presentations from subject matter experts to provide greater context and insights.
“Mental toughness is one of the pathways under the ‘adaptability’ pillar, and there are a number of assets that our learners can access through the digital campus, and then go to the virtual campus, where an expert shares tips and expertise around mental toughness,” says Ladkin.
Feedback from Deloitte employees has been positive, she says.
“Over time, we’ve hit 30% of our organisation accessing the content, which is great, considering we’re still in our infancy of launching. We are hearing that people are really passionate and interested in these sessions, which shows that they are really committed to building their future-focused capabilities.”
skills for the future
An IBM survey from 2019 showed executives are seeking behavioural skills over digital skills in the future. Hansen says a combination of “heart and head” skills is to be prized. She predicts that some of the most important ones will be those that include the term ‘virtual’.
“Virtual leading, virtual working, virtual facilitating – these will be essential skills for the future,” she says.
“We just ran an inclusive leadership activation lab about how to be inclusive when everyone is working form home.”
Jonathan Tabah, Director of Advisory at Gartner, says a growth mindset is an essential skill to cultivate during the covid crisis.
“Gartner research shows that at our current rate of change in the business, across a five-year horizon, we’re going to see more than half of the skills requirements change in your average job,” he says.
“A growth mindset is the recognition that whatever got you to where you are in your career isn’t going to get you to the next point. Building a growth mindset is a self-development activity, but that doesn’t mean an organisation can’t set you up with the right scenarios or coaching in which to do it.”
Technical skills will still be in high demand, and Jackson expects data literacy skills to be among them.
“This involves being comfortable with data, being able to interpret, analyse and provide insights with large datasets and presenting it to tell a story,” she said.
“In every role in the future, there will be a component of this, and we really need to start beefing it up.”
The everchanging environment
Tabah says that while there is no one-size-fits-all approach to learning and development right now, some methods are more effective than others.
“I think that most organisations knee jerk reaction to COVID was to just put all their training online as sit-back learning activities – a webinar, a video, or a module where they could sit back and let the learning content wash over you,” he says.
“That’s an effective way to give someone information, but the learning actually occurs when someone tries to apply it in a sit forward manner.”
At KPMG, learning and development investment has focused on identifying the right technology to deliver what Jackson describes as “in the moment, bite-sized, curated pathways.” The company has implemented the Degreed learner experience program, which connects internal learning systems to worldwide ecosystems of open and paid learning resources.
“It takes the heavy lifting away from learning and development having to constantly curate things themselves,” she says.
“It also enables people to trial and practice things quickly, rather than waiting for a complete learning and development product to build out.”
Jackson stresses that there is still a place for longer-term targeted training.
“You need a bit of everything,” she says. “It’s not about going 100% digital. It’s about looking to the future and saying, ‘What have we got that is fit for purpose? What are we missing? What do we need to do at scale? What do we need to target smaller groups?”
“There’s always going to be unique cohorts within an organisation that need specific skilling, or a longer-term approach, so you certainly still need that within the learning and development ecosystem.”
Influence from this piece came from an article in the Australian HR institute.
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