By Mette Søs Gottlieb, Learning Expert
The COVID-19 pandemic prompted millions of workers around the world to switch to remote work as organizations scrambled to stay productive. But even once quarantine measures are lifted, the world’s workforce and economy won’t go back to exactly how they were. There will be some fundamental shifts. For many, remote work may become a full-time or part-time norm moving forward, and flexible workdays may become standard.
Let’s look at some of the changes we can expect to see and how digital learning programs can help employers adapt successfully.
Remote work was already a popular option with employees before the coronavirus pandemic, though not all organizations embraced it. For large companies such as Microsoft and Google, implementing a work-from-home strategy may not be a challenge. However, for many companies, remote work is brand new, and they need to find the technologies that create appropriate, effective working conditions to maintain their business continuity. Companies also must be able to send critical information and procedures to all employees. This communication often includes training, which organizations now must conduct remotely.
It’s likely that some of these changes become permanent. Fortunately, the right digital learning can ensure success.
For many experienced managers, the new work-from-home reality has required them to confront their previous notions that working from home means a decline in productivity. However, the experience of working and managing through the pandemic may change many minds. As they interact with employees working from home, leaders now see proof that if you give your team members trust and responsibility, they can be productive and successful.
For this reason, it’s becoming clear that there’s no logic in or necessity for having everyone in the same office at the same time on the same days. 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.
In the future, we’ll still need for offices or other sites where people can go to meet and work together, but this approach to working may not always look like the typical 9-to-5 workday in a traditional office building. We will still need a place to gather, but we may not need to see our co-workers in person every day. Maybe you’ll meet up once a week, once a month, or a few times each year at conferences or other events.
Employees must buy into changes for these shifts to occur successfully. Having a healthy culture that supports both collaboration and learning is now a necessity for any modern business.
What many leaders don’t yet understand is that what keeps their employees engaged, skilled and ready to jump on company initiatives is their access to learning tools. Employees are an organization’s secret weapon when it comes to successful adoption of new tools and initiatives. By driving end user adoption and use of new tools, organizations can make the most of their investment and unlock the extensive capabilities of these technologies.
Shifting learning from a structured, one-size-fits-all format to a more integrated, engaging part of an everyday workflow can create real shifts in not only business culture but in employees’ efficacy and resilience to company change.
Industry analyst Josh Bersin developed the concept of “learning in the flow of work.” This concept recognizes that learning is one of the largest determinants of success and, thus, should be integrated into day-to-day work. With the introduction of this idea and the rise of digital learning technologies, it’s easy to see the shifts being made toward individualizing learning. Indeed, the experience of the individual learner is now front and center for many businesses.
Digital learning has developed a reputation for being boring — think of watching the teacher from “Ferris Bueller’s Day off” on a video chat as he flips slowly through a PowerPoint presentation — but there has been significant evolution. Modern digital learning is interactive, and much of it can happen when it’s convenient for employees, on their own terms, incorporated into their daily workflow.
Some organizations were already operating with some level of remote work capabilities; others were thrown headlong into working from home because of the pandemic. Either way, the standard office set-up is likely to change forever as leaders see that employees can work at home just as or even more productively as they did in their cubicles. As more workers lobby for remote work policies, organizations will need to find ways to deliver education and training that fit each learner’s needs and preferences. This type of digital learning results in more up-to-date, skilled and engaged employees — no matter where they’re working.