How can HR ace virtual L&D?


With some organisations making remote working a more permanent fixture, employers should consider how they can provide a compelling training offering

Words by Sophie Parrott| Design by Matt Bonnar
 
 

The coronavirus pandemic moved many organisations to remote working virtually overnight. Employees scrambled to create make-shift set-ups and reinvent their working day from the confines of their own home. Even though a large portion of employees are still working from home and don’t have access to the same technology or corporate facilities that would have back in the office, employers shouldn’t press pause on workplace learning. This is corroborated by a recent McKinsey report Adapting Workplace Learning in the Time of Coronavirus, which stated that businesses can’t afford to put ‘capability building on hold’, whether the effort is to reskill the workforce or roll out company-wide training that contributes to a company transformation. Regardless of where this L&D is completed – whether it is back in the office or completed from an employee’s coffee table – it is still crucial for organisations to invest in staff training, as has been highlighted by statistics. According to research published in the 2018 Workplace Learning Report, 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in their career development. At a time when people are feeling more isolated and morale is likely to take a hit due to COVID-induced anxieties, having the opportunity to complete virtual L&D may boost spirits among the workforce and help workers upskill for the future. But, how can HR and L&D professionals create a good virtual training offering for remote staff? HR Grapevine spoke to the experts to find out.

Take colleagues on the journey; it’s much easier to get buy-in [and participation] if colleagues feel they are part of the process

Consider short and long-term L&D options

Siri Wikander, a speaker and expert in digital collaboration and learning – and the former People Director at Scandic Hotels, previously told HR Grapevine that employers can ace virtual L&D in two ways. “In the short run, the most important thing now is to try and learn new digital ways. The challenges with digital transformation we had before coronavirus will remain [the same] after coronavirus and now is a golden opportunity to upskill, reskill and increase collaboration to be ready for the future,” she explained. Wikander’s thinking is in line with recent stats which have shown a spike in the demand for workplace learning during the pandemic. For example, the UK time spent viewing LinkedIn Learning content has increased by 73% alone in March, with more than 1.2 million hours of learning content being consumed in a single week. The Cornerstone Institute for People Development said that the demand for online learning has ‘exponentially spiked’. While the pandemic and subsequent period of remote working may have catalysed a spike in virtual L&D offerings, Wikander said it is crucial that employers consider workforce learning in the long run too. “It is crucial for management [teams] to invest in an insight study to really identify what their strengths and development areas are both when it comes to employees and business goals,” she explained. That way, HR and L&D professionals can be sure that their offering helps the business to meet goals.

 

Consider short and long-term L&D options

Aside from launching training that aligns with business goals, it is crucial that staff are considered during this process and asked about what they want to learn and what would help them complete their jobs to a higher standard. According to Glenn Grayson, Head of Engagement, Communication and Learning Experiences at Missguided, employers should “start at the heart of your business” when launching new L&D programmes. What Grayson means by this is that employees should be asked what skills or knowledge they want to gain and then consider how this aligns with company values, and the people or business strategy. “Take colleagues on the journey; it’s much easier to get buy-in [and participation] if colleagues feel they are part of the process,” Grayson previously told HR Grapevine. When it comes to making L&D offerings engaging, he said it is important to keep the content varied as this will appeal to different audience types. Missguided’s learning experiences lead shares this example of how they have implemented an engaging L&D offering at the online fashion retailer. “As well as practical courses on Excel and PowerPoint, we throw in some themes and topics just because our colleagues have told us it interests them such ‘how to organise your wardrobe’,” Grayson added.

The challenges with digital transformation we had before coronavirus will remain [the same] after coronavirus and now is a golden opportunity to upskill, reskill and increase collaboration to be ready for the future

The importance of ‘learner-centric’ design

Finally, keeping the learner in mind when designing the programme is something that HR and L&D teams should never overlook. Afterall, if employers want staff to engage and participate in workplace learning, the content needs to be appealing and delivered to them in a way that is digestible and memorable. Ben Meakins, a Learning Design Expert at Crossknowledge told HR Grapevine that when launching a virtual learning programme, it is important to use the mindset of ‘learner-centric’ design. He explained: “Engagement comes from a behavioural reaction to the learning experience and knowing your audience means you can design to their needs.” To help achieve this, he suggested that the programme designer empathises with the learner and considers what they would want to take away from the training. “What does this practically look like? Try copying your colleagues in the marketing department when they profile their customers. Create a ‘learner persona’ of how they want to learn. If you do a ‘Learning Needs Analysis’ – this will cover why they need to learn. Together with the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ you can create an engaging learning experience,” added.

 

This crisis will increase the digital transformation speed exponentially

With a large portion of employees still working from home due to the pandemic, and some organisations such as Twitter and Mastercard allowing staff to work from home more permanently going forwards, HR departments will likely need to make their L&D offerings more virtually accessible. As Wikander puts it: “The coronavirus [pandemic has forced] people to use digital meeting, collaboration and learning tools on a large scale for many weeks and there are big chances that the behavioural change will remain after coronavirus.” She concluded: “This crisis will increase the digital transformation speed exponentially.”


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