Coping with COVID: Employee Development Ideas in a Paused World

The impact of digital transformation on business processes, cultures, and customer experiences is compelling large organizations to have Learning and Development teams rev up their development engines with increased training budgets and online learning investments. Small and mid-sized businesses that may not have dedicated learning and development resources are also feeling the pinch. For them, development may be even more critical given the broader impact of a single employee.

With the world paused, organizations have a rare opportunity to think strategically and creatively about employee development to deliver cost-effective and efficient learning paths.

The 2019 PWC CEO Survey found that “79% percent of CEOs worldwide are concerned that a lack of essential skills in their workforce is threatening their organization’s future growth.” The survey also cited how CEOs plan to address the issue. Almost half—46%—said, “significant retraining/upskilling is the most important initiative to close a potential skills gap.” This is different from previous years when hiring from other sectors or leveraging gig economy workers was the prevalent approach.

Personal Employee Development Plans: the Role of Leaders and Managers

With dispersed teams and remote workers, managers may be inclined to foster engagement and connection through fun virtual activities. These activities can indeed be beneficial, but they won’t “feed the soul” of employees over the long haul. For meaningful and lasting development, managers should have candid and constructive one-to-one discussions with each employee about where they want their career to go and how they can help them get there.

Focused discussions like these are a powerful way to drive employee engagement, shared ownership, and interest in learning. In turn, learning drives innovation, creativity, and a wide range of positive business outcomes, including higher job satisfaction and productivity. When leaders prioritize learning and development, they demonstrate the value they place on their employees and set a tone for building a culture of learning, innovation, and high performance. The key is this:

  1. Managers should work with employees to establish development goals that will enhance and support their success at the company and desired career path.
  2. Managers should provide learning options for each employee. (More than half of the surveyed learners in LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report said they would spend more time learning if managers had specific course recommendations for them.)
  3. Managers should exemplify the importance of learning and development by actively advancing their own personal development of hard skills (e.g. technology, process certifications) and soft skills (e.g. leadership, design thinking, communications).

Available Resources and Ideas for Employee Development and Training

Employee development is often perceived as costly and time consuming. Today, an enormous array of quality educational content is available for both individual learners and enterprise-level learning libraries. Reputable content and curriculum delivery firms, universities, and industry associations offer wide-ranging, fee-based soft- and hard-skill programs with online learning portals.

It is important to note, however, that quality learning and development resources do not have to break the bank. Free and low-cost options abound and come in many forms—podcasts, webinars, e-books, videos, white papers, blog posts and more. These can serve as individualized resources or can be tapped into and discussed virtually as a team via virtual “lunch and learns.” Examples include:

The Time is Right for Staff Training and Development

Even as business returns to a more familiar sense of normalcy, technological advancements and the need for learning and development that embraces and optimizes business will continue to increase. Additionally, the need for reskilling (learning new skills for a different job function) and upskilling (learning new skills within the same job function) will also become more pressing for organizations. Take this moment to determine how your organization can benefit from a learning culture. Chart a course of activity today, no matter how small, that can improve business performance and strengthen the workforce. Engaging employees with learning that is tied to their success will yield long-term dividends and energize employees as they navigate their currently remote realities.

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Contact a vcfo HR expert for a free consultation on how to strengthen your company’s learning and development initiatives.