Programmatic learning: Moving beyond content 

It’s that word again – reskilling. Alan Hiddleston tells TJ why it’s so important for continuous progression and business culture.

Since the start of the pandemic, businesses have invested in and adopted more technology than ever before to ensure business continuity as staff transitioned to remote work. 

Even before the last year, existing automation trends and emerging technologies were redefining job roles and the skills required in the workplace. However, COVID-19 has added a new sense of urgency. 

Throughout the series of lockdowns, most new staff have been onboarded remotely and their initial training, given the unfamiliar situation, has likely been less effective or in-depth, whilst others have simply had their training put on hold.  

Digital skills are vital to the UK’s economic recovery, but L&D departments are simply not keeping pace. New employees expect their company to invest in teaching them digital skills on the job, but only half of companies are currently able to provide the required training. 

Changing the L&D function  

With digital upskilling and reskilling needs increasing exponentially the race is on for companies not just to provide more relevant courses but to develop a culture of lifelong learning. 

Now is the time for organisations to take stock of the situation and identify the tech talent they currently have.

To meet the requirements of the future workplace, HR and L&D teams will need to move beyond content. After all, digital skills are far more difficult to develop and assess, particularly en masse. The way these departments measure individuals’ progress will need to be far more precise. 

Now is the time for organisations to take stock of the situation and identify the tech talent they currently have. Companies must draw upon the latest technology at their disposal to address the skills gap specific to their business. However, every individual learner needs to be accounted for.  

In short, L&D professionals will have to provide more personalised learning pathways. Not only will L&D programmes need to consider specific learner needs, but learning programmes will have to provide far more flexibility, catering for employees who need to top up their skills on a regular basis and learn in the flow of work.

Programmes will need to be adjusted depending on the complexity of the task or skill being taught, and different employees will require levels of depth in programme depending on their level of experience.  

Programmatic learning: reinforcing positive behaviours 

Compared with traditional corporate training, programmatic learning is a framework that relies on collaboration and feedback, and actively encourages social learning. 


They are continuous, action-based blended learning programmes that provide employees with the opportunity to test their knowledge in real-life situations, with an understanding of how a particular task or skill will relate back to the overall business function. 

Specifically designed to target more complex organisational issues, these types of programmes often span several months, as opposed to the traditional one-off drop-in session. The aim is to develop knowledge and expertise over time, exposing the learner to a depth and breadth of information through a variety of content. 

Employees have the opportunity to acquire a skill and put it into practice, meaning positive behaviours can be effectively reinforced and encouraged.  

Designing a transformative learning programme

Ideally, these programmes should encourage employees’ continuous progression and provide the flexibility to learn on their own terms and at their own pace. L&D professionals should be updating courses more frequently, as business needs or desirable skills change – all of which should be reviewed on a regular basis.  

However, for these programmes to be effective, they will need to address the skills gap on three fronts. All parties need to be involved in the design phase: L&D teams, HR as well as department leads or even line managers.

By doing so, organisations can tap into their home-grown talent by giving subject matter experts and mentors the opportunity to provide more ‘realistic’ content. Together, they can draw upon their experience and design a programme that addresses the skill gaps and needs of the company. 

Providing opportunities for real-world application so employees can test their knowledge in a scenario relevant to their everyday work, with informed feedback from their colleagues.  

The post-COVID roadmap and the future of skills   

The future is still uncertain, and a question mark hangs over workers returning to the office full time. With the pandemic spurring digital transformation programmes for many businesses, it is likely that work and indeed, the workplace, will never be the same as before.


Flexible working patterns and a hybrid workforce are likely here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Businesses will continue to juggle the pandemic, the rising tide of automation, a multigenerational workforce, and a shorter shelf life for everyday jobs. 

All these trends have highlighted the importance of the L&D function and placed a premium on reskilling and upskilling – a skilled workforce ensures businesses are better prepared for all outcomes.  

Businesses have managed the transition to remote working rather well. The next challenge will be how to provide new opportunities for learning and collaboration in the coming months, particularly if work and our everyday schedules become more flexible.

Given the reliance on digital communication channels and other technology, this will require a serious rethink of L&D programmes. After all, the future economy will not only be about developing skills, but ultimately, about changing attitudes and work culture.

Business leaders should instil a culture of lifelong learning in their employees, which they too should practice themselves every day. 


About the author

Alan Hiddleston is director of corporate learning, EMEA at D2L


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