Training offers businesses a route to upskill their employees: future proofing their business. It can also help to boost retention, with employees increasingly valuing their own professional development.
Learning at Work Week is an annual event designed to promote learning cultures in the workplace. It’s a great opportunity for organisations to refresh their learning and development programmes, ensuring it meets both their business needs and serves their staff. With that in mind, WeAreTheCity spoke to seven experts, to get their insights on both the benefits and challenges that come with building a successful learning culture.
One of the biggest challenges many companies have faced in implementing successful learning and development programmes over the past few years is the shift to hybrid and remote working. “In the current climate, learning and development opportunities are more important than ever but also harder to come by,” explains Sadie Wilde, Leadership and Talent Development Partner at Node4.
”In an office environment employees can learn a huge amount from simply shadowing, observing, and listening to conversations between colleagues. As many switch to a hybrid working model with only one or two days in the office per week, these opportunities are significantly reduced.”
“Finding the balance between supporting remote working and providing sufficient development opportunities can be difficult,” Wilde adds. “Online learning platforms are a great place to start – they not only provide soft skills and training content, but having a mutual platform that all colleagues work from helps to connect the team when they are physically apart. Making the most of being together when in the office is also essential for learning and development.”
Jen Locklear, Chief People Officer at ConnectWise, notes that, done well, these platforms can allow for points of connection and collaboration in a long distance team. “It’s up to HR to ensure that learning and development opportunities are suitable for everyone, wherever they are based. There’s also an increased need to ensure people-managers are equipped to manage remote employees effectively.
“New technologies allow for more innovative learning opportunities meaning that remote training and development doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. It can be a great way for employees to collaborate and connect virtually. Of course, there’s still great value in designating time and resources to bring people together; our events for our colleagues and partners are one of the things we’re most proud of at ConnectWise!”
Online platforms also offer other advantages over traditional in person training sessions. “The best content can be consumed on-demand, in bite-sized chunks, to be incorporated into the work day easily,” furthers Tony Prevost, HR Director, EMEA at Skillsoft. “Training platforms should also offer personalised learning recommendations, so staff don’t waste their time searching for content. Where possible, embedding learning into day-to-day workflows so that staff can ‘learn by doing’ will lead to faster skills development.”
As well as being suitable for any location, training programmes should be designed to allow continual learning, which can be adapted as new skills needs develop. “In today’s digital age, the majority of organisations are undergoing almost constant change – whether it’s managing a hybrid workforce or keeping up with the latest digital transformation trends,” explains Terry Storrar, MD at Leaseweb UK. It’s for this reason that a career in IT is appealing to so many; the challenges are always evolving and never the same from one day to the next. However, this also means that IT professionals are faced with an environment where they are constantly called upon to adapt and learn on the job. In this climate, it’s essential that they are provided with the correct culture and tools to do so.”
“Offering learning and development opportunities also makes a business more likely to remain competitive in a difficult hiring market, allowing them to continue to grow,” he adds. “In order to hire and retain the best and brightest, businesses need to be prepared to offer continued growth and development for all their employees – not just new starters. Time and again lack of career development is cited as one of the biggest contributors for employees leaving. And yet, 15Five’s 2021 survey found that most employers (55.5%), do not offer a clear path for advancement.”
Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal, argrees: “Continued learning is vital to long-term employee retention, which is a reason why it is imperative that employers improve onboarding and retention strategies. Organisations don’t have the luxury of losing top talent, especially with the challenge of the current skills shortages. By getting these areas right, companies will be paid significant dividends, particularly in terms of employee engagement, productivity and retention.”
Whilst learning is important across all stages of careers, it is particularly important for younger employees who are new to the workplace. “The youth of today have had a difficult couple of years with disruption to their education and the challenge of beginning their careers in a hybrid working environment,” notes Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder at Aqilla. “From our work with Young Citizens, we know all too well that young people long to engage with society and be an active part of their community. This eagerness should be encouraged and utilised by organisations through the implementation of learning and development opportunities.”
Furthermore, training opportunities such as apprenticeships that are deliberately aimed at the youth can broaden recruitment options. “While traditionally many jobs may have expected you to learn the skills and knowledge required during your education, today there are more pathways open to those willing to learn and work hard at the same time.” posits Gillian Mahon, Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile. “Apprenticeships are an excellent way to encourage more people of all ages and backgrounds into different industries, including the software industry. These programmes give the apprentice an understanding of what working in this industry would be like, and provide training in the skills required to be successful.”
“Learning at Work Week provides a chance for organisations to assess their strategy for the training and progression of their employees,” Scantlebury adds. With retention rising 30-50% for organisations with strong learning cultures, the benefits cannot be underestimated.