A time for reflection and forming good habits
Having just completed our annual Speexx Exchange conference, which attracted 450+ attendees across four European capital cities, it's been a reflective time for me in considering what 2014 will bring. The role of global HR and L&D professionals is ever-evolving and the need to align workforce skills to business goals is even more critical.
A live survey at the Speexx Exchange Berlin event presented some interesting findings for the audience. Firstly, 52 percent of delegates cited "flexibility and instant accessibility" as the top advantage offered by e-learning, but only 13.6 percent said that e-learning helped to "reduce direct training costs". By contrast, 41 percent of delegates said that their organisations were not fully structured to support mobile learning and 46 percent invested less than a tenth of their training budget in e-learning programmes. Secondly, a quarter (25 percent) of those attending the conference have switched to a cloud-based platform; while 17.5 percent of organisations still used a local LMS which implies that many departments may still be working in silos. The third point was that the vast majority of delegates (85 percent) felt that social learning will become effective in their organization by 2016 which underlines the potential of informal learning for effective workforce development.
Human collaboration unlocks learning potential
What was echoed in discussions with HR and L&D at the event was that communication skills remain critical to the success of organisations. Open communications will also impact on securing a successful talent management strategy. Here's why.
Businesses with subsidiaries in multiple jurisdictions will require one integrated, standardised talent management system that is consistent across the board. Such a unified approach is essential to accurately measuring both the current skill level, as well as the outcome of the talent development strategies. For instance, companies often overestimate their workforce's proficiency level in a foreign language, such as Business English, which is crucial for conducting effective business on a global level. When unified tests are conducted, many organisations face the harsh reality that there is, in fact, a large gap between the assumed skill level and the actual level of communications skills within their workforce. Once a standardised system is in place, the measurability of skills becomes far more accurate, and the results more visible.
New Year resolutions
Enterprises in many sectors are facing the spectre of skills shortages and the resulting recruitment and retention issues once more. For example, the Institution of Engineering and Technology's Engineering and Technology Skills & Demand in Industry Annual Survey 2013' found that half of UK engineering companies are recruiting engineers but an increasing proportion are experiencing problems getting the people they need, especially experienced staff. Confidence in being able to recruit sufficient suitably qualified engineering, IT and technical staff over the next four to five years has continued to decline. This skill shortage is likely to be the same across other sectors as the economy begins to pick up again.
The 2014 challenge for businesses is to re-examine their talent management strategy; with the aim of achieving a high return on investment that is both in line with their organisation's budget and long-term workforce needs.
1. Balance budget with benefits of e-learning: In stagnant economic times, organisations are faced with investing the right proportion of their L&D budgets in e-learning. Rather than just 'throwing money' at new technologies, this means carefully calculating an appropriate budget, complementing it with a hands-on, long-term strategy aimed at ensuring maximum usage by staff in order to achieve optimum learning targets.
2. Move towards the cloud: 39 percent of organisations are still using local LMS. This means there is a significant gap between the opportunities offered by technology and its actual usage. Organisations need to find innovative ways to step outside traditional 'silos' of local training in order to embrace a global approach, with the aim to offer students a truly empowered learning experience.
3. Embrace mobile devices: Mobile devices are an invaluable way for providing flexible, on-demand access to essential blended learning information to a user anytime, anywhere. Although learning solutions available on smartphones and tablets promise to revolutionise training delivery, the survey revealed that while 76 percent of organisations provide mobile devices at work, only 36 percent offer mobile learning. This means that unless organisations adopt a collaborative, adaptable approach to social and mobile learning, end users will remain disadvantaged and unable to enjoy the benefits of a fully integrated solution.
4. Business alignment and long-term tactics to strengthen performance:Learning through a combination of regular assessments and review of competency levels with instructor-led support has been proven to ensure continuous skills enhancement. Integrated learning systems provide a sticky productivity tool that can be used even after a course ends and also improve ROI on existing learning infrastructures. This may include templates, such as email communication, customer presentations and dictionaries with work-specific terms. All of these will support the 'application' of such skills in the longer term.
5. Business communication skills are not just about vocabulary or grammar exercises. They are about tailoring training to an organisation's individual circumstances. A course involving any form of communication empowerment must be aligned to the practical needs of both the business and the user. The upward trend of organisations using language technology, particularly for Business English, is indicative of a global shift in recognising the significant long-term value of enhancing and maintaining communication skills.