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A new year, a new lockdown, but the same priorities and challenges for UK employers: digital-first working, communication and learning. Employers made the switch to digital ways of working as a result of the first Covid-19 lockdown. This third lockdown will consolidate those changes in working – and learning – practices. It remains to be seen how the rest of the year will play out.

At 5App, the year starts where we left off in 2020. Our focus will be on supporting our customers with their challenges. These fall into three areas:

  1. Organisational agility
  2. Reskilling/upskilling
  3. Remote working

The last 12 months have shown us that organisations that have been able to respond quickly to change have been better equipped to succeed in challenging circumstances.

1. Organisational agility

The first Covid-19 lockdown forced organisations to change the way they worked. And it accelerated the way learning supported colleagues. Learning was driven by employees who were keen to find out more about the virus as well as how to work remotely. Being able to access wellbeing resources became a priority for many employees too. This shift to responding to learner demand required a more agile approach to learning, which is why curation became such an important part of the learning offer. By compiling playlists of resources on in-demand topics, learning teams could quickly respond to organisational needs. This is a very different approach to creating a course directory and associated resources and pushing them out to employees. Covid-19 has put paid to that way of working for learning teams.

In the coming twelve months, learning teams will build on this shift to providing support on an on-demand basis. By monitoring usage and search data and other impact data L&D can see which topics colleagues are searching for and which resources are popular (and not so popular). These insights enable the L&D team to remain responsive to need by monitoring what’s in demand.

Responsive communication is also a key part of helping the organisation be agile and adaptable. As well as creating resources on demand, L&D teams must also focus on how these resources are communicated. This involves understanding audience needs and how employees like to receive resources. By building awareness and focusing communication according to the needs of the audience, L&D becomes highly relevant and proactive. This marks a fundamental shift away from being a reactionary function. For communications to be effective they need to be targeted. A one-size-fits-all approach isn’t likely to work. Think carefully about how you segment employees and the best way to communicate with each segment. Again, data is your friend. It can show you what works and what doesn’t work.

Reskilling/upskilling

Research published in 2020 by the Open University shows the UK economy is still suffering skills gaps. These have been made worse by the pandemic. Despite the fact that the skills pool has grown due to job losses, employers continue to face difficulties recruiting for specific skills. In the year ahead, employers will be looking to reskill employees to fill new roles and to upskill employees to ensure they continue o be effective in their current roles. When it comes to upskilling, research from Degreed shows that the most in-demand skills cover a range of technological, social and cognitive skills.

Rapidly scaling up knowledge and skills across the workforce will be a business-critical priority in the coming months. To deliver on this, employers will need to take a new approach – one that is not face-to-face. McKinsey says the focus needs to be on three areas:

1. The rapid evolution of the digital delivery of knowledge and skills

2. New tools and approaches to engage and motivate learners to change their behaviors

3. Reinforcement techniques to help embed learning (when people are working remotely)

Managers and leaders have a vital role to play in supporting virtual learning. We have previously written about the factors that drive high performing learning cultures. It is worth restating them as they drive significant change within organisations. They are:

  • Clarity of purpose
  • Holistic people experience
  • Thriving ecosystem
  • Agile, digital infrastructure
  • Continual engagement
  • Intelligent decision-making

To accelerate skills development in the year ahead, managers will need to work hard to develop a learning culture in which team members can learn and grow. Learning teams must ensure that managers are well supported to make this happen. And that they have the tools to share learning resources in a timely way.

Remote working

Working away from an office is not going to come to an end in 2021. In fact, research from the Institute of Directors tells us it is here to stay. We are barely a year into ways of working that, for many organisations, are a far cry from how they worked previously. Old habits die hard and the culture of working from an office and its associated policies, procedures, and mindsets will take time to shift. But shift they must.

Remote working requires new ways of leading, managing and operating. This new operating model will continue to evolve over the coming year. It will have implications for each business function which is why learning teams need to remain aligned to business priorities. Digital-first learning provides L&D with a great opportunity to provide highly responsive, adaptable and evolving support to the organisation. And to achieve real business impact.

To deliver on this, it will require vision, leadership and operational excellence. And it will need to be supported by flexible and scalable technology. Now more than ever, learning teams will need technologies that can quickly deploy highly accessible resources, and at scale.

Remember, remote working means remote learning. And that means L&D must work closely with managers to make it happen. There’s much room for improvement based on research published in the report How the Workforce Learns. Some statistics worth reflecting on include:

  • Only 40% of workers agreed that their manager helps them to understand what skills they need to advance in their careers
  • 22% say their managers do not encourage or enable learning at all
  • Just 17% said their managers help create a plan or set goals for developing skills.

There is still much to do to build effective, sustainable remote working practices in which learning and performance can thrive.

5App 2021 agenda – conclusion

Throughout the year ahead the 5app team will be helping customers, organisations and the learning community with practical guidance on how to improve skills development, organisational agility and remote working practices. We will continue to develop our technology to ensure that we can provide practical solutions to these challenges.

With lockdown marking the start of the year, we hope everyone stays safe, resilient and focused on making improvements to working and learning that we will continue to enjoy in the months and years to come.

Use a platform that supports your new ways of working and learning. The 5App Hub can help in supporting your L&D strategy, creating a learning culture and in aligning learning with the business needs and objectives.

Get in touch to find out more.