As Learning at Work Week draws to a close we speak to five business leaders about the importance of learning in the workplace
This week is Learning at Work Week – an annual event that encourages learning cultures in the workplace and shines a spotlight on the benefits of continual development. And it couldn’t come at a more important time. According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, skills sets have changed by around 25% since 2015 and, by 2027, this number is expected to double. With new technologies such as AI transforming the workplace, Learning at Work Week 2023 is the perfect opportunity to evaluate what more businesses could be doing to develop their employees’ existing skills and future-proof their organisations.
With this in mind, we spoke to five business leaders about how to implement a successful learning and development (L&D) strategy and why it is so important in the current climate.
Near, far, wherever you are
Approximately 66% of organisations are currently working on a hybrid basis, splitting their time between home and the office. Whilst businesses and employees alike are fairly familiar with this, “many are yet to adapt their learning and development (L&D) strategies to fit with this new routine,” recognises Sadie Wilde, head of professional development at Node4. “Opportunities for learning from shadowing, observing, and listening to conversations between colleagues are significantly reduced when employees are regularly working remotely.”
Organisations with a strong learning culture will find it easier to stay agile and adapt to new technologies
Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and founder of Aqilla, agrees that, “finding time for learning and development can be difficult when employees work on a hybrid basis, and the whole team is rarely in the office on the same occasion. Add to this the ever-increasing workloads that many are experiencing, and it is no wonder that learning and development opportunities are decreasing. But Learning at Work Week is all about promoting lifelong learning and provides a chance for organisations to assess their strategy for the training and progression of their employees.”
With this in mind, it is important to ensure that colleagues still have the chance to collaborate and learn from each other, no matter where they are working. As Jen Locklear, chief people officer at ConnectWise, advocates, “whilst remote learning solutions are convenient, it’s vital that HR continues to find ways to allow staff to connect and collaborate. Utilising new technologies can ensure that remote training still offers opportunities to connect with others. Equally, there’s still value in ensuring there is time and resources for in-person learning. [W]e’re particularly proud of our events for colleagues and partners that offer the space for them to share their knowledge and expertise.”
The ever-changing industry
With plenty of discussion ongoing around AI and its ability to potentially replace hundreds of jobs, many businesses will be looking to upskill and retrain employees to add value to other operational areas. L&D investment is key to achieve this.
“Disruptive technologies such as Generative AI and large language models (LLM) require a new set of skills for businesses to best leverage their capabilities – with those not able to adapt likely to be left behind,” acknowledges Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA, Skillsoft. “With this in mind, it’s clear that developing talent and building skills is more important than ever. Organisations with a strong learning culture will find it easier to stay agile and adapt to new technologies.”
“In order to keep pace with technological change, business leaders should be encouraging employees to grow alongside technology,” echoes Bruce Martin, CEO of Tax Systems.
Considering the tax industry in particular, Martin explains how this technological change has been “fuelled through initiatives, like Making Tax Digital and BEPS 2, and compounded by the emergence of accessible AI and automation”, leading to “an increased need for experts with both tax and technology skills – the rise of the ‘Tax Technologist’.”
Putting it into practice
All of this is well and good but how can organisations implement a successful L&D strategy that will enforce a true learning culture that runs through the business?
“Too often L&D is considered to be an annual training session, but a strong L&D strategy should be an integrated part of our daily working routines,” says Wilde. “[W]e work hard to implement this and encourage learning and development at every opportunity.”
Reflecting on the different policies that her company implements to achieve this, she notes that “we have a strong coaching and mentoring culture, whereby colleagues are encouraged to learn from and support each other in their development. We also invest heavily in our emerging talent programme which hires apprentices and supports them through learning new skills, gaining nationally recognised qualifications and embarking on a long-term career with us. In addition, we run our Exceptional Service workshops and the Node4 Academy, where we teach an array of courses to all our employees, from our new starters to our longest serving. We also ensure a strong focus on leadership development supporting our leaders at all levels including those aspiring to progress into a leadership role.”
Accessibility to these opportunities is also key, as Martin advises, “everyone learns in different ways so encouraging and supporting your employees to manage their own development will enable them to choose the path that best works for them and set them up for long-term success. Competence leads to confidence, so it is important for business leaders to encourage their people to flourish and thrive. It is not enough anymore just to attract the best talent; it is about providing employees everything they need so that they will want to stay. Invest in your people and they will invest in you.”
In addition, Nowakowska recommends that, “content should be able to be consumed on-demand, in bite size chunks that can be incorporated into the workday. For example, on-demand access to videos, podcasts, e-books, and assignments will allow employees to learn when best suits them and will help embed a culture of continuous development. Training providers should offer personalised recommendations and clear learning paths so that employees don’t waste time searching for content and are able to find the learning they need. Furthermore, with hybrid work becoming the norm, programs must be adaptable and accessible from any device, wherever the employee is.”
In summary, Scantlebury concludes that “as they say, every day is a school day, and business leaders should encourage their employees’ continual development.”