July 28, 2020

Meeting Learners’ Needs in the New Normal

By Mette Søs Gottlieb, Learning Expert

Once the pandemic has passed, how will it have changed what a “normal” workday looks like? The massive remote work experiment seems to be working, and industry experts are predicting that many organizations will institute greater flexibility and expanded work-from-home policies. Social learning programs will play a key role in helping with this transition.

Shifting to remote

Pre-pandemic, many employees were enjoying the option to work from home, though not all organizations embraced it equally. For large organisations such as Microsoft and Google, implementing a work-from-home strategy may not be as big a challenge. However, for many companies, remote work is a whole new situation. It requires finding the right technology setup to create appropriate, effective working conditions to maintain their business continuity. Companies also need to send critical information and procedures to all employees, and now, training also must be conducted remotely. The right kind of digital learning can help foster these changes and ensure success.

The current state of onboarding

There’s a correlation between how much effort you put into onboarding and how successful it is. Sadly, many companies don’t have an onboarding process to begin with. New hires come on and are handed a binder of information to read – that’s it. Other companies don’t approach onboarding in an agile way with continuously updated sets of collateral, documents and procedure aids. Instead, it’s treated as a one-and-done, point-in-time activity as if things don’t change – even as the world around us does.

If there is an onboarding process in place, it’s all about human resources-related procedures: time sheets, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), codes of conduct, compliance and so forth. Then new hires are thrown into the business function pool and expected to swim. Perhaps they will find a mentor or “work buddy” who can show them the tricks and tips of the company, but as an employer, you can’t always be sure that person will explain things the correct way. Or maybe the person you partner the new employee up with isn’t happy with how certain things are done, or they’re only explaining what they want the new hire to know. That leads to a whole crop of new challenges – such as having to later re-teach employees things they were taught incorrectly, which is harder than doing it right the first time.

The new workplace paradigm

There’s long been a stigma attached to remote work – for many managers, at least. And that’s the idea that working from home means a decline in productivity. This belief continues to persist, even as multiple studies show evidence of the opposite. The experience of working and managing through the pandemic may finally change the minds of many holdouts. They’re seeing proof as they interact with employees working from home that if you give your staff trust and responsibility, things do get done.

This cascades down to the realization that it’s no longer necessary for all employees to be in the same office at the same time on the exact same days – taking the same train or the same commute routes and then spending the same number of hours in the same place. Leaders may want to find ways to justify this style of working because it’s what’s familiar, but there are increasingly fewer instances in which such arguments are valid. Even as many countries start to open up businesses, most governments and health officials are advising that if employees can easily work from home, they should continue to do so. Companies will need to have offices and other places where people can go to meet and work together – but it may not always look like the typical 9-to-5 office building structure most of us are used to. You will still need a place to gather – but maybe it will no longer be every day that you’ll see your co-workers in person. Maybe you’ll meet up once a week, once a month or a few times a year at conferences or other events. Face-to-face time cannot be replaced completely.

Make learning tools available

To successfully implement these changes, you will need to get your employees on board and engaged. Having a healthy work culture that supports both collaboration capabilities and learning motivation among employees is no longer a bonus, but a necessity for any modern business.

What keeps your employees engaged, skilled and ready to jump on your company initiatives is their access to learning tools. Your employees are your secret weapon when it comes to successful adoption of new tools and initiatives. By driving end user adoption and usage of new tools, organizations can make the most of their investment and truly unlock the extensive capabilities of these technologies.

Making the mindset shift from thinking of learning as a uniform, structured, activity to a more integrated, engaging part of an everyday workflow can create real shifts in not only your business culture, but in your employee’s efficacy and resilience to company change.

This follows along with the idea of “Learning in the Flow of Work,” developed by industry leader Josh Bersin. This concept recognizes that learning is one of the largest determinates of continued success and thus should be better integrated into day-to-day work tasks and activities. With the introduction of this idea and the rise of digital learning technologies, it’s easy to see the shifts being made towards the individual learner. The experience of the individual learner or worker is now front and centre for many businesses.

Elearning, or what’s referred to now as digital learning, has a less-than-exciting reputation. As in watching a video of a personality-free expert drone on as he flips slowly through a PowerPoint presentation. But there has been significant evolution when it comes to digital learning. It’s more interactive today, and much of it can be done when it’s convenient for employees, on their own terms, incorporated into their daily workflow.

es will have the opportunity to engage, be social and collaborate during their learning process. In this way, training helps build a learning culture.

A new way to work and learn

The massive – and in some cases, sudden – adoption of remote work has been a largely successful experiment that will forever change how, when and where we work. While the pandemic continues and after, as more employees ask for expanded remote work policies, employers need to find education and training solutions that align with the new “Flow of Work.” This meets individual needs, helping workers feel valued and leading to greater engagement and productivity.