Donna Stephenson, Commercial Development Director of Soffos.ai
It has been no secret that some companies have struggled to keep up with their plans for employee learning and development (L&D) throughout the pandemic.
Indeed, while some employees have enjoyed the increased flexibility that remote working practices have allowed, many firms have grappled with the unique challenges that come with training a dispersed workforce. According to recent research from Soffos, 39% of businesses have struggled to make time for training throughout the past twelve months, meanwhile similar numbers (36%) have found it difficult to train and develop employees who are not based in the office.
Internal communication has also taken a hit, with an additional 38% reporting issues that have hindered collaboration within their business. After more than a year of remote work, the truth is that this state of affairs will no longer suffice. In fact, findings from a separate survey suggest that throughout the next year, employees would consider leaving their job if their employer does not invest more actively in their professional development.
With this in mind, here are some factors for businesses to consider so that they can build back better from the pandemic…
Improved digital infrastructures will bolster employee development
One of the key considerations that firms should address is the collaboration factor. As is often the case with remote setups, it can be tempting for employees to work within their own individual bubbles, often with little occasion for cooperation with colleagues. Not only does this mean that workstreams can become blurred, but staff can also lose out on important opportunities to learn from their colleagues – such was the case for over a third (38%) of employees surveyed in the aforementioned Soffos survey.
Consequently, many organizations will have shifted their plans for staff training until these initiatives can take place face-to-face. That said, as an increasing number of businesses are facing calls to approve plans for long-term hybrid work, clearly a change is in order. Businesses must ensure that they have adequate infrastructure and processes in place to replicate in-office collaboration opportunities as staff remain geographically dispersed, and make their offerings more engaging to a remote workforce.
Far removed from the ‘learning by numbers’ approach that seminars and training meetings of the past have followed, companies should look to emerging fields like gamification to approach their engagement from a new perspective. Utilizing immersive technologies will not only provide staff with the incentivization and knowledge they need to progress in their roles, but also a much-needed connection to their company culture.
Moreover, businesses can also look to deliver the crucial aspects of their company values by upping their investment in enterprise applications of virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) technologies. In the years to come, these solutions will deliver mandatory training and peer-to-peer learning in a way that is indistinguishable from a traditional office setting and create new opportunities for teams to put their heads together in a virtual environment.
As cutting-edge AI-powered learning solutions increasingly come into play, business leaders will be able to make up for the opportunities lost throughout the pandemic. Unlike their traditional counterparts, these platforms will be able to keep up a running dialogue with learners until they have demonstrated a full understanding of courses and modules. While many of these platforms are still in the early stages of their development, they will be equipped with the ability to learn continuously and build upon the knowledge they gain thanks to advances in machine learning (ML) – meaning that there will be no question too difficult as these technologies become more sophisticated. Through continuous interactions with users, AI and ML platforms can refine their output, both improving the quality of their answers and ensuring that they are delivered in a succinct and digestible format.
Employees will therefore be able to ask questions and receive immediate answers, no matter their desired time or place of learning. Given the ability to enjoy a more autonomous style of learning, staff will be able to learn and progress in their role out of interest, rather than as a mandatory compliance exercise, which should set them up well for the future.
Fortunately, many organizations are already taking note, with almost half (43%) of those surveyed by Soffos saying that they plan to invest in AI to deliver more advanced employee training within the next 12 months.
Looking beyond generic solutions
For the companies that have made a concerted effort to implement digital alternatives to training, many have found that their platforms of choice have left a lot to be desired on the employee satisfaction front. So much so, that a third (33%) of employees said that the solutions offered by their employer were too generic to aid their professional development.
Instead, business leaders must allocate more of their budget to investing in platforms that have the ability to produce sophisticated data analytics. Not only do these platforms make it easier to build a personalized learning programs for each individual employee, without too much time or resource-intensive planning, but they also provide HR staff with valuable business intelligence. In some cases, these insights will provide administrators with the tools they need to uncover particular knowledge gaps within teams, or even across the business, and tailor their training plans accordingly.
What’s more, particularly in highly skilled roles, administrators will be able to review staff competencies, and flag opportunities to upskill and re-skill with more ease. And as some 52% of UK businesses intend to invest in data analytics in the next twelve months, these technologies will hopefully become a mainstay of corporate learning in the future.
Although it has been a difficult year as far as L&D is concerned, it is positive to see that many companies are looking to make the most of pioneering technologies to boost employee development. Looking on the bright side, the onset of the pandemic has broken down many of the barriers that have in the past hindered plans for remote work and training. Now, the future looks bright for remote training.
Donna Stephenson is the Commercial Development Office of Soffos, the world’s first AI-powered KnowledgeBot. The platform streamlines corporate learning and development (L&D) to deliver seamless professional training for employees.