Evolving learning strategies to keep pace with the modern workforce

Udemy’s Shelley Osborne says learning strategies need to become learning cultures.

From the adoption of smarter technology to the rise of automated processes, the business world is becoming more agile every day. While a widening range of workforce functions have undergone major facelifts, training strategies have mostly stuck with the status quo.

Unfortunately for L&D teams, there has never been a worse time to be behind the curve. Given the accelerating pace of workplace transformation across every industry, the need for continual upskilling through training grows exponentially every day.

Since the very mention of corporate training often elicits either a yawn or a groan, it’s time for organisations to reinvent training programs to not only empower their employees to excel at their jobs, but also build excitement that leads to lasting engagement.

Stop training, Start learning

The first step toward reinventing a training program is to understand a concept that may not only shock you, but will initially seem counterintuitive: the key to training success is to not train at all. Instead, you’re better off working to instill a culture of learning.

Employees who are empowered to build and improve their soft skills are not only better at their jobs, they also become the type of teammates and leaders who bring out the best in others.

For some organisations, L&D departments and specific functions have led this charge, but for others, training is solely viewed as a task to be completed, and little thought goes into measuring tangible learning.

In a learning culture, learning is woven into employees’ daily routines and L&D doesn’t dictate when, where, or how it takes place. Instead, in-the-moment learning is encouraged and employees begin to develop a growth mindset for their own professional development.

Learning cultures don’t happen by magic. With deliberate and thoughtful actions, however, learning can truly become a strategic asset and not just a box to tick off once it’s been completed. From increased employee efficiency to the ability for businesses to close their own skills gap, organisations that have adopted a learning culture have a distinct advantage.

From old school to new age

Long gone are the days when employees believed L&D knew exactly what trends, topics, or skills were most relevant and necessary to each employee’s success. Given the pace of change – of technologies, job functions, business conditions, and so on – it’s impossible to stay on top of everyone’s learning needs.

Employees know better than anyone else what they need to learn and when they need to learn it. By moving away from assigned training and empowering employees to be in the driver’s seat of their development, teams are not only more agile but they’re also actively more engaged.

In a learning culture, L&D (or HR at some organisations) serve as facilitators, not ‘owners’ of learning.

By connecting employees to the necessary tools and listening to their feedback, HR allows businesses to reap the benefits of having workers with the most relevant, in-demand skills and who can do work that impacts the bottom line.

In fact, learning-driven organisations tend to be more efficient, create more customer value and market leadership, and report higher customer satisfaction too, according to Bersin & Associates’ ‘High-Impact Learning Culture’ report.

Employees leave managers, not jobs

Employees crave learning, and they want their employers to give them access to it. In a learning culture, developing every facet of a professional career is encouraged, not just the hard skills that look good on paper.

There’s no question programmers need to keep up with the latest languages and frameworks, and marketers need to understand new automation tools and SEO strategies, but without soft skills, too, employees can’t reach their full potential.

Employees who are empowered to build and improve their soft skills are not only better at their jobs, they also become the type of teammates and leaders who bring out the best in others. By focusing on learning and development from the get-go, managers can instill a growth mindset into their employees early on.

This mindset empowers teams to constantly learn and improve, ultimately resulting in nurtured and engaged employees. Studies have even found that 80% of employees surveyed agreed that learning new skills would make them feel more engaged.

At the end of the day, it’s a win-win. Managers can tap into their employees’ intrinsic drive to learn, and employees in turn, stay engaged while building and developing their skills.

Think like a marketer

While the idea of reinventing training programs to drive a holistic learning culture sounds great, how can leaders make it a reality? Similar to how marketers attract customers by educating them about product benefits and industry trends, L&D professionals must grab the attention of busy, distracted employees and draw them into learning.

By adapting key marketing tactics, L&D practitioners can increase employee learning engagement and improve their own internal ‘brand’. As leaders look to build a culture of learning, simple tactics like executive evangelism, incentive programs and compelling messaging can inspire employees to embrace lifelong learning and encourage their colleagues to do the same.

While the modern workplace continues to evolve and the shelf life of skills shrinks, it’s more important than ever for employees to have the resources they need to stay competitive.

It’s time for L&D and HR professionals to promote the value of continuous learning and move their teams away from the static programs that helped to breed the bad reputation of corporate training.


About the author

Shelley Osborne is Head of Learning and Development at Udemy for Business




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