More than a third (36%) of the UK workforce worked exclusively from home between 24 April and 3 May last year, according to ONS statistics. That number declined over the summer when lockdown restrictions were lifted, but then lockdown two came into force in November last year and now it’s lockdown number three, and a substantial number are yet again (or in some cases, still) working from home, either exclusively or part-time. And when people are working from home, it goes without saying that they are also learning from home.
Of course, office numbers will increase again when restrictions are eased and when the pandemic is eventually brought under control, but not to the same levels as before. Many employers and employees have been won over to the benefits of remote working and plan to take either a hybrid approach (a mix of remote and office work) or in some cases, full-time home working. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute from September 2020, found that 20% of UK executives expect at least one-tenth of their workforce to remote remotely for two or three days a week in the future. That’s a significant shift in working practices.
Just as Covid-19 has upended how and where we work, it has also upended how and where we learn. And there’s no turning back to the way things were before here either. According to the research and analysis organisation Fosway Group, 95% of learning leaders say they don’t think corporate L&D will ever be the same again.
As we all navigate our way through this period of great change, it is important that organisations understand the role that communications play in learning.
The three pillars of agile learning
The 5App approach to building responsive and agile learning is built on three pillars:
To support the development of individuals and teams, by curating the
digital learning people need to develop their skills.
To improve operational performance, by curating the information and resources people need to do their job.
To connect people with what is going on in the organisation by curating the news and information people need.
Communications in learning – what are we talking about exactly?
It is the third pillar, communication, which we will discuss in this article. It connects all three pillars and is at the heart of building engagement with learning.
In a previous article, Getting started with social learning – we provided a pragmatic definition of social learning. It is:
Social learning is learning from and with each other.
This is about helping colleagues learn from each other and with each other.
Much of the learning that takes place in organisations is by its nature social. And at the heart of this is communication. So from a learning perspective, communication is a central feature.
Put into the mix the context in which we are now working and communication becomes even more important. As organisations and individuals are operating in an environment of accelerated change, employees to know and understand what is changing, when, how and why.
So for learning teams, this means enabling and facilitating communication within learning and around it. What’s the point of creating great resources if no one is aware of them? This is a big change for learning teams that have historically focused on designing and delivering learning programmes. Now our audience – your colleagues – demand relevant resources that are easily accessible when they need them. This requires raising awareness of resources and building engagement around them.
And in order to have a culture of continuous learning in an organisation, there needs to be a culture of continuous communication. Organisations need to keep reinforcing the message of learning, alerting employees to new content, to success stories, to the need to keep topping up knowledge and skills and so on. Comms needs to keep signposting people to learning, keeping the momentum going.
The impact of communications in learning
Building effective communications around learning can have a big impact on an organisation.
Greystar a global leader in real estate management and development, built its business school using the 5app hub but it wasn’t until it realised the power of using the hub as communications hub, as well as a corporate university, that engagement really took off.
Curating learning resources with contextual pieces of news, company information and fun social content helped accelerate engagement. Over time, this approach helped Greystar reinforce its values and create a collaborative culture. As a result of putting communication at the heart of its learning, the company achieved a 24% improvement in performance and productivity.
It has been a similar story for 5App partner Hemsley Fraser. In addition to using the hub to curate and share learning resources, the company started to add technical and departmental information as well as company updates. This approach helped Hemsley Fraser employees to feel more interconnected as well as aligning learning and communications with the organisations’s core messages.
According to research produced by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, healthy organisational cultures are based on good communications.
In order to make this happen, ensure they are open, clear and frequent communications and that they come from the top of the organisation. This has to be supported with similarly effective communications from managers. Those in positions of authority must lead by example. By doing so, they will build trust and encourage colleagues to communicate in similar ways. This has become a business-critical issue now that so many teams work remotely. Effective communications have become even more of a priority as a result of the pandemic.
Ensure you understand the needs of your employees and mix up the format of your resources. Taking a curated approach enables you to easily mix up formats to include video, audio, infographics and more. By presenting resources as playlists on specific topics, you are helping employees find and access what they need to know on that topic. Keep a close eye on your learning metrics to understand what resources are working and respond accordingly.
These steps will help put L&D teams on the front foot, by enabling you to communicate regularly and clearly, providing resources employees need, when they need them.
Communications are key to the success of learning. They are key to the success of organisations too. Why? Because clear, honest and accessible communications engender trust. And trust helps build positive learning cultures across organisations.
But, as the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021 shows, trust is in short supply across many of our institutions. That’s why employers must seize this opportunity to improve communications in order to build the foundations for organisational cultures in which employees are highly engaged with developing their knowledge and skills.
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.