Learning & Development Leaders: Prioritise these 3 skills in 2022 to meet the ‘new normal’ head-on
19th January 2022
Over the past two years, we have experienced a seismic shift in our work environments. The move away from the office towards a hybrid model has presented unique challenges to almost every industry, just as we have witnessed great opportunities for progress.
Leaders in Learning & Development are being depended on to solve problems on everything from cultural transformation to compliance solutions.
We’ve seen smart learning leaders avoid becoming overwhelmed through a clever tactic: focusing on quick deployment of training in skills that are immediately relevant to navigating the headline challenges caused by the pandemic.
By rolling out rapid and targeted training in ‘crunch point’ areas, L&D professionals can give themselves enough breathing space to take a step back and consider big-picture strategies for the future.
With the adoption of new technologies, and the need for strategic agility, identifying which skills could make for a quick win can be challenging. We are living in a time of mass automation and digitisation, where technologies are advancing faster than our education system can react. This is a significant contributor to an increasing skills shortage across many industries and roles. What’s more, the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on the global job market, spreading a tidal wave of job moves across the world as people reconsider what matters to them.
We’ve distilled these macro trends into three punchy areas for learning leaders to focus on. By offering agile, high-quality upskilling content in these areas, you can meet the ‘new normal’ head on, winning you back precious time to think about your organisation’s wider, strategic needs.
Onboarding & inductions for a remote workforce
Implementing a comprehensive onboarding process is proven to maintain a high retention rate, job satisfaction, and employee performance. The latest Skills Advantage Report from LinkedIn shows that 'employees at organisations with highly rated cultures are 25% more likely to report being happy working for their organisation, and 31% more likely to recommend working for their organisation'.
For many employers in-person onboarding has been an area of opportunity, while remote onboarding has brought new challenges for both the employer and the employee. A recent article by Forbes describes how the shortfalls of remote onboarding can result in:
- A loss of culture, manifesting doubt about the company, its values and goals.
- A loss of connection with colleagues causing division and uncertainty about company expectations.
- Physical isolation due to a lack of personal relationships with colleagues.
- A breakdown in communication when systems, software tools and procedures are not properly implemented.
These shortfalls can result in increased turnover alongside wasted money and resources. However, remote onboarding does not need to be this arduous: there are plenty of changes employers can make to create a seamless onboarding experience for their new starters:
- Evaluate your virtual onboarding process to identify the gaps: Through Learning Experience Consultant-led analysis of your workforce and the development of learner personas, Learning Leaders can identify the gaps that are being created by hybrid and remote working and address them with personalised, tailored learning packages that engage and retain the very best talent.
- Consider how you can make dispersed teams feel motivated and supported: Keeping an open line of communication is one of the most effective ways to make your team feel connected and heard. Hold regular check-in meetings to ensure each team member has the tools and support they need to perform their best. In a company culture where employees feel they can be honest and their feedback is being heard, they are more likely to feel connected.
- Assess your technology and collaboration tools: Do you have the right communication and collaboration tools in place? Are you making the most of the technology you have? The onboarding journey is a critical time for new recruits to make connections within the company alongside building their skills and networks which help boost their professional development. Whilst automation and centralised digital experiences are key to optimising the administrative side of pre-boarding, it is the tools that enable communication and collaboration that cultivate the sense of belonging for new recruits.
Leadership skills in a time of rapid change
In what is now being referred to as the ‘new normal’ of work, learning leaders are faced with situations they have never had to deal with before: difficult discussions around Covid, announcing changes that impact employees, and keeping the balance sheet healthy – all while battling to retain talent in a fastmoving job market.
The new quarterly report from the 2021 Global Leadership Forecast (via Forbes), revealed the lowest rating leadership confidence statistics in 10 years, with only 11% of surveyed companies reporting that they had a ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’ leadership bench.
With our leadership visibility in decline, and a growing lack of confidence in covid-related decision taking, there has never been a more relevant time to invest in the development and skillset of our leadership teams.
By focusing on the right areas for leadership training, we can give our leaders the confidence to thrive:
- Building and growing talent in the face of uncertainty: It is the role of a manager to provide ongoing support and inspiration, and managers need to have the ability to help their teams embrace new knowledge, skills and career development. The recent Skills Advantage Report from LinkedIn shows that 91% of employees say it is important for managers to inspire learning. Line managers have a direct influence on their teams' abilities to do their best work. Employers that invest in their manager skills can benefit from a wave of momentum across their organisation.
- Projecting confident and empathetic leadership: The ability to project confident and empathetic leadership on topics that require more sensitivity has never been more prevalent. L&D is becoming more strategic, delving into business challenges such as D&I, internal mobility and employee retention. Now is the time to be evaluating your senior leadership team and what you are trying to accomplish as an organisation. Aligning your senior leadership team with your L&D is essential to foster a culture of continuous learning.
- Augmenting strategy with soft skills: The ability to build and foster relationships with colleagues and clients is pivotal to learning leaders. As organisations work to recover from the pandemic, leaders are looking to realign their skillsets with the demands of a hybrid professional environment, highlighting how soft skills such as adaptability, problem solving, active listening, motivation, stress management and comprehension are more important than ever before.
Diversity & inclusion at a time of major cultural shifts
Global research shows that despite increased investment in D&I efforts, diverse employees are struggling the most during the pandemic. According to McKinsey it is ‘women, LGBTQ+ employees, people of colour and working parents’ who are facing the biggest disadvantages within the workplace and when it comes to work-life balance. Their survey revealed that workers across demographic groups and geographies reported a 'closely related set of challenges linked to:
- Mental health
- Work-life balance
- Workplace health and safety
- A missing sense of connectivity and belonging with colleagues
- Concerns about job opportunities'
Although most employers have D&I as a top priority on their agenda, many still find the implementation of D&I strategies challenging. Companies with a lack of diversity miss out on great ideas and different, valuable, perspectives. D&I training should cultivate a work environment where everyone can thrive by teaching employees to:
- Interpret the complexity of D&I: When planning D&I interventions is often difficult to know where to start. D&I matters can present themselves in multiple ways and knowing how to fix them can feel like an impossible feat. The result can lead to practices that are disconnected or potentially ineffective. A 2019 report by the CIPD on diversity management, highlights that ‘good intervention is only possible when the problem is fully understood’ and that a key step to building inclusive workplaces is mapping the issues themselves before exploring potential solutions.
- Push for constructive action on issues of representation: Educating employees about equal opportunities within the workplace, knowing their rights, and empowering staff to challenge policies and practices that are not representative. Do your employees have a clear direction when it comes to raising D&I issues? Ensuring that employees feel seen and heard is crucial to cultivating an inclusive workplace, and examples of best practice need to be demonstrated from the top down.
- How to promote an inclusive culture for lasting, meaningful change: A strong, positive working culture will ensure all employees are made aware of their importance to the organisation. Creating an inclusive culture ultimately boils down to whether your employees feel listened to, across all levels of the organisation, and that they feel action is being taken as a result of voicing their concerns. Company culture can be many things to different people, when prioritising change consider everyone’s input equally, and remember that this should be a two-way line of communication between leaders and employees.
How to do it quickly and well: agile responses to human issues in the workplace
Amidst the everyday noise of our increasingly digital lives, learners are looking for bite sized, easily consumable content that enhances their daily thinking.
Microlearning and content libraries are nothing new. Crucially, when sourcing this content, work with a partner who also offer the following:
- Trusted, high-quality sources for their content.
- A tailored learning pathway or curated learner journey; not just a collection of loosely relevant videos.
- Support in raising awareness and engagement in the content amongst your workforce.
Combine these three elements, and you’ll have an agile programme that yields quality and results.
If this sounds like something you’re interested in...
Now that you have identified your L&D priority areas, why not take the next step and explore our Skills Library of over 500 top-of-the-range microlearning courses.
Our quality content is based on expert research and advice drawn from the likes of Porter, Kotter, Blanchard, De Bono, Covey, Fosway, Mintzberg, McKinsey, BCG, and Kotler.
Our Learning Consultants will support you to map your learner journeys in the skills areas that are of greatest priority to you, and provide services to help raise engagement and awareness amongst your learning workforce.