How businesses can adapt their L&D strategies for the better in 2021

AI can help inform and personalise your L&D strategy, says Nikolas Kairinos.

For those who hoped that a swift return to the office was on the cards alongside the rollout of new COVID-19 vaccines, the first few weeks of 2021 have made it clear that remote working is now likely to stretch further into the coming months.

The beginning of a new year typically inspires employees to make new resolutions, create plans to learn new skills, and re-consider their career ambitions, with HR departments on hand to support these goals.

But at the moment, delivering effective learning and development (L&D) opportunities continues to pose a challenge for businesses. On one hand, strict social distancing measures and the ‘new normal’ have accelerated progress in digital transformation projects far beyond expectation, but still, employees have been less than impressed with the COVID-proof training initiatives on offer.

Adapting L&D to the individual

It goes without saying that no one employee learns in exactly the same way, and developing a one-stop-shop training strategy without catering to individual learning styles is a recipe for disaster.

Particularly when it comes to keeping staff engaged and helping them retain information they need to perform optimally in their roles, generic training just won’t be sufficient.

Once a clear picture of an employee’s needs is established, HR departments should be able to design a personalised plan for a member of staff that takes into account where there might be knowledge gaps or room for improvement

To keep things interesting, L&D efforts must therefore be employee driven. How this should be interpreted will depend on your organisation; staff, for instance, could be encouraged to provide their input by engaging in feedback sessions about existing courses and software with line managers, or take part in learning style questionnaires and assessments to uncover how they prefer to learn new information.

Once a clear picture of an employee’s needs is established, HR departments should be able to design a personalised plan for a member of staff that takes into account where there might be knowledge gaps or room for improvement, while increasing the likelihood that the course will eventually translate into stronger performance.

Fostering a ‘Socratic’ learning style

Similarly, now that workforces have been dispersed across the board, and employees are no longer working from one, centralised location, many employees have been suffering from the lack of in-person training available.

To mitigate this, business leaders would do well to combine their digital training strategies with a more human element. 

Whether this is following up on courses after the fact to discuss what has been learned; enhancing elearning software with moderated forums and classrooms where users can ask questions and learn from their peers; or investing in software that can do all of these things and more, there are a whole host of ways to ensure employees remain proactive about L&D.


Another effective way of doing this is by investing in AI-powered software and natural language processing (NLP) tools that use a ‘Socratic’ method of teaching to augment the learning process.

This works by using voice and text natural language conversation to prompt employees with conversational cues, so that they can discuss learning materials rather than receiving pre-determined answers to common questions.

The result is that employees don’t feel as though they are being formally taught, and can instead participate in intuitive training that mimics real-life mentoring sessions.

Learn to be clever with your elearning investments

But first, organisations should determine which platforms will work well within their business, and which will not. Naturally, this will vary between organisations, and business leaders should think twice before blowing their budget on a product that promises the world and fails to deliver. After all, delivering effective L&D isn’t as simple as taking on a ‘build it and they’ll come’ mentality.

To find software that will work well within your organisation, think about the language and style of communication that you use within your business. Is this complex and heavy on terminology, or informal and jargon-free?

Knowing this should help to inform your L&D strategy, and HR leaders should decide on a product that teaches in a way that is in keeping with their house style. After all, employees should be able to easy digest the material presented to them, and understand how it can be applied to their day-to-day.

Software powered by artificial intelligence (AI) tends to demonstrate its worth when it comes to measuring these improvements. For example, some products will have the ability to provide metrics that list specific questions that were asked by employees, how many times they were asked, by whom, and when, so that HR leaders can adapt their strategies accordingly.

Looking to the future

Almost two in five workers (40%) state that they would be more open to online learning resources if they were augmented with AI that could tailor training to their personal needs, which demonstrates that employees are more confident than ever in the ability of tech to transform L&D.

While it’s true that 2021 is likely to be another difficult year, organisations should have some peace of mind that many of the barriers to embracing digital change have now been overcome.

One of the few silver linings of the COVID-19 crisis has been that employees are now more open to the vast potential that tech has to offer when it comes to their professional development, and there’s no time like the present to make this a reality.


About the author

Nikolas Kairinos is founder and CEO of Soffos


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