How to

Creating a change resilient skills strategy


Throughout the last few months being adaptable to change has been crucial for HR teams so how has L&D fared?

Words by Jade Burke | Design by Matt Bonnar

Words by Jade Burke


Design by Matt Bonnar

In 2020, work has been an ever-changing beast that HR leaders have had to constantly reassess their approach to. As a result, workplace offerings have changed. It is highly likely that employee benefits no longer centre around social activities such as gym memberships or free end-of-week beers whilst the office fruit handouts and frothy coffees have long since ended. With so much unilateral change it does beg the question if L&D has also evolved.

Adaptability is something that I think is key in order to be resilient to change

Of course, like much else, L&D likely has changed, if only because it is so crucial to many aspects of work life. Like benefits and comms, getting development offerings right is crucial for employees. Research published in the 2018 Workplace Learning Report found that 94% of staff say that they would stay at a company longer if their employer invested in their career development. A study by TotalJobs also supports this. In 2018 the jobs board shared that two in three UK workers have changed jobs due to a lack of L&D opportunities. But to get an L&D strategy right going forward what should it now entail given 2020’s wholesale change?

Building L&D into a business

For an L&D strategy to work, according to McKinsey, as stated in their report Elevating Learning & Development, it should attract and retain talent, develop people capabilities, help to establish a values-based culture, build an employer brand and motivate and engage employees. The management consultant firm add: “The shift to a digital, knowledge-based economy means that a vibrant workforce is more important than ever: research suggests that a very significant percentage of market capitalisation in public companies is based on intangible assets – skilled employees, exceptional leaders, and knowledge.”

Lyndsey Karp, Client HR Consultant at learning & performance management platform Bridge, shared that an L&D strategy should also cover three key aspects. She tells HR Grapevine: “(It should entail) leadership buy-in, consistent communication, and regular support. It should be something that is talked about every day in every department.”

If Karp’s ideas are taken one step further, it would seem savvy for HR to consider how best to intertwine L&D within the overall business strategy, particularly in these ever-chanigng times where employees are looking to their employers for increased support and development opportunities. This is how Tess Smillie, VP People Team, UK&I and Europe Head Office at Samsung Electronics, describes L&D at the electronics giant, describing it as a vital component within Samsung’s overall strategy. She continues: “I believe that to create a resilient strategy, the why needs to be solid but the how needs to be built to adapt. For example, our L&D strategy is linked to the business strategy; delivering learnings to support business priorities and results. Its aim is to equip colleagues to be future ready and evolve capability.”

 

Adapting to change

Changing processes is something many individuals and companies are retiscent about. Many of us are creatures of habit which can prevent unilateral embrace of change and adapting to new ways of working. However, Regina Borda, Managing Director of restaurant chain Pizza Hut Europe and Canada, believes that adaptability is the key - particularly when organisations are looking to be resilient to uncertain outlooks. Borda adds: “Adaptability is something that I think is key in order to be resilient to change and just this sort of more nimble way of working and not waiting for things to take so long and to just get on with it.”

For Pizza Hut in particular, L&D has been essential throughout the pandemic as the firm has to teach employees a range of different things, including resilience and adaptability. She enthuses: “I think you’re going to have to be adaptable very quickly things change especially in our case. We have team members working in a wide range of roles and our training and development programmes are very broad. It’s about teaching people how to make a pizza all the way to how to run multiple restaurants, so adaptability is really key.”

 

L&D strategy only sticks when leadership sees it, supports it, and lives it

What are employers doing?

“The last few months our L&D team had to make many changes, very quickly. Both in terms of new content and in terms of how to deliver learning. We had to consider new delivery schedules; delivering in new formats, shorter and sharper; trialling new technologies and prioritising topics of increasing importance, such as remote management and wellbeing,” says Tess Smillie, VP People Team, UK&I and Europe Head Office, Samsung Electronics.

“Sometimes it’s really about getting things/changes to people in a speedy way and being less pressured. Like I mentioned previously, we have used this time around to upgrade our health and safety protocols, which is very different to what we have used before. And that’s going to continue, things that would have taken us six months before now take us six hours and that’s true for everybody. I guess people are figuring it out and getting on with it versus waiting for a budget or waiting for permission,” shares Regina Borda, Managing Director of Pizza Hut Europe and Canada.

The pandemic drove overnight changes that would have taken years to influence or implement, without that necessity

 

Leadership buy-in

Of course, to create a new strategy, a business ultimately needs the support of its leadership team – something that might be even more crucial as firms review spend in every department. For example, according to change management firm Prosci, projects with effective sponsorship are 3.5 times more likely to meet or exceed project objectives than projects with ineffective sponsorship. Therefore, gaining buy-in from senior leadership members can make all the difference when it comes to the success of an L&D strategy.

This is a notion that Karp also supports, pointing out that things must start from the top, as she says: “Get your leadership to prioritise employee development. L&D strategy only sticks when leadership sees it, supports it, and lives it. If your leadership doesn’t do it, no one will, so start at the top, not the bottom.”

Karp’s colleague, Ryan Houmand, who is also a Client HR Consultant at Bridge, shares a similar insight, stating that to make a change-resilient L&D strategy, employers must ensure that their line managers are also on board as if they “don't embrace it, it will never fly”. “Get your line managers to love your L&D strategy and the toolset you land on. If it's not top down it won't get off the ground,” he continues. “L&D professionals and the HR team can't do it on their own. They can't "will it" to happen. They don't have enough influence if these first two constituencies, top leadership and line managers don't embrace it.”

 

Looking forward

As that face-to-face interaction is no longer a possibility, the need to embrace online L&D options is even more critical. Due to this, it is likely that more change will be on the horizon in the future as businesses and HR teams learn to adapt to the new ways of working as a result of the crisis, as Samsung’s Smillie puts it: “The pandemic has brought a level of change no-one was ready for, and pretty much, overnight. It has tested us all. The pandemic drove overnight changes that would have taken years to influence or implement, without that necessity.”

As a result, she believes that the crisis will have a lasting impact on L&D and has already prompted employers to think about what their employees truly want and are reacting quickly to these demands, making for a much more versatile and fluid L&D offering for staff to enjoy in the future. Smillie concludes: “I see this as an opportunity for L&D teams to align with those aspirations and go beyond improving operational capability to also enhancing employees’ quality of life.”


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