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Professional Learning for a Remote Workforce

Paul Gautier

Senior Learning & Development Specialist, EPAM
Blog

Today’s business leaders must rethink processes and culture so that working remotely is a success, not just for the short-term but for the foreseeable future. Vital to this transition are Learning and Development (L&D) departments, who have been forced to quickly reconsider their content and delivery strategies to keep up with the changing business landscape. From focusing on new content priorities for businesses (such as cybersecurity, compliance and employee well-being), to delivering learning content to a completely remote workforce, it’s an enormous undertaking.

Importantly, the demand is there. Shortly after remote working models began in the U.S., 60% of learners said they were more likely to take a course and 71% said the best thing an employer could do is move courses online.  Without commutes and the bustle of our usual social lives, some learners have more time to fill, while others crave new learning as a way to buffer themselves against so much uncertainty. 

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION, ACCELERATED

COVID-19 has expedited the need for digital transformation, especially in the L&D space. Unfortunately, some companies who were behind in their transformation journey before the pandemic hit are feeling the pressure now more than ever. These companies have temporarily suspended in-person training and moved courses online for the duration of the pandemic. In March, a survey of 200 L&D professionals revealed that 57% postponed training and 44% shifted to business-critical training only. Of course, that’s not a long-term solution given that we know now that remote working is here to stay. Some training, for example around cybersecurity, shouldn’t be put off.

A fast-paced response to new remote learning models often doesn’t account for the way people learn online, which means missed opportunities to improve content and delivery. We already knew a 40-slide presentation wasn’t the most engaging way to teach a concept, any concept, either in person or online. Simply digitizing content or moving the same material from a meeting room to a teleconferencing app can result in a poor learning experience, low engagement and ultimately decreased learning outcomes.

There is still a place for traditional text-on-screen e-learning and videoconferencing, but virtual learning can be so much richer. Through the strategic, coordinated use of videos, articles, podcasts, eBooks, games, quizzes and webinars, we can move beyond crisis teaching to professional development that is relevant and future-proof. We are constantly learning about how we learn. For example, one comprehensive study showed that learning in short bursts, microlearning, works better in some circumstances. Using remote social elements, fostering a sense of community online, can also boost engagement.

The move to online professional learning offers an opportunity to revamp content that wasn’t working. To effectively transform, businesses must consider a comprehensive new approach to learning and how it is organized. 

LEADING AGILE LEARNERS

Leadership, from management all the way to the C-suite, can support better learning by recognizing employees who are eager to learn, promoting and incentivizing learning, staying engaged and communicative about learning progress, and identifying growth areas for employees, including soft skills.

So many changes are being forced upon us, but we can manage the change productively. Rethinking professional learning for a new era requires a perspective shift, but now that we know the working world has been permanently altered, we can recognize that the improvements we put in place now will show dividends for years to come.

It’s time to put crisis thinking aside and focus on permanent change, which requires:

  • Supporting leadership through the development of a new learning culture
  • Short- and long-term planning that guides organizations through this transition and into the future
  • Converting instructor-led training to e-learning
  • Developing new learning content (podcasts, games, etc.)
  • Curating courses acquired externally (e.g. from LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, YouTube)
  • Deploying and customizing learning management systems/learning experience platforms for the above

With thoughtful planning, adjustments to professional learning can provide a cascade of benefits for the entire organization, including the flexibility that digital naturally brings, which is a must-have in these unknown times. Organizations that manage this transition well will be best positioned to truly transform no matter what the future brings.

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