As the world continues to navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, it's more important than ever to have a strong corporate learning strategy in place. In this blog, we'll explore 5 essential questions that can help guide your strategy and ensure that your team has the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the post-Covid business environment. From identifying the specific learning needs of your team to structuring continuous learning, these questions will help you adapt your approach and stay competitive in the changing landscape. So, let's dive in and explore how to build a corporate learning strategy that supports your team's growth and success.
If you’ve browsed through LinkedIn or Twitter in the past days, you might have seen the following image, asking about what drives your digital transformation: is it a) CEO, b) CTO, or c) COVID-19?
A corporate learning strategy is a plan that outlines the goals and objectives of a company's learning and development initiatives. It defines the specific skills and knowledge that the company wants to impart to its employees, and outlines the methods and resources that will be used to deliver this learning. The purpose of a corporate learning strategy is to support the growth and development of the company's workforce and to ensure that employees have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their roles.
This is probably the most obvious shift happening in the learning world right now. And, let’s be honest, pure offline training has been on a decline before, as it has often been not really effective for most of us. Now, digital-first (not digital-only, though) is officially the only way to go. Maybe that’s even the good part about the current crisis, that we can draw a final stroke under a development that’s long been overdue.
Yet, we know the challenge remains to transform lots of your employees’ training needs into digital experiences, as well as to find replacements for all offline trainings (e.g. onboarding trainings, IT training). Some insufficient solutions that won’t solve it alone:
So what can you do?
It makes sense to work hand-in-hand with partners that support you with the operational processes, and are curating the relevant content for you, so that you can focus on the strategic issues of your business. We have experienced many clients that were able to significantly increase the speed of their digital learning rollout with these partnerships.
Yet, take care and don’t let your external partners talk you into a single content source, since this will come with the risk of a vendor lock-in and reduced flexibility for future programs. From our experience in the industry we see great benefits of integrating many different (internal and external) learning content sources. So ideally, each of the learning paths for your employees combines both external (e.g. a general introduction into digital concepts) and internal, company-specific, learning materials (e.g. some guidelines on your specific tools). Having a flexible learning platform and content setup will enable you to deliver state-of-the-art content for many years to come.
While question 1 discussed the “how” of learning, this second question will guide you through the “what”: the content. Again, it’s digital. During the current crisis, as well as in the months to come, we will see companies focusing on resilience and moving to new digital solutions at mind-boggling speed: Local retailers desperately move online. Entire industries focus on new digital value offerings, as their physical supply chains break. The opportunities of new digital processes, products and value offerings are more obvious than ever before. Existing skill gaps will further increase — yet, you can’t afford to leave anyone behind, and your workforce needs to become familiar with using new tools, with new ways of working, with navigating through this changing environment, and needs to be able to shape your future digital projects.
Quote: “Don’t expect the demand for digital upskilling to decline in a post-Covid-19 world.”
Today, companies need to rapidly deploy programs to educate, train, and empower people to work at home. Yet, don’t expect the demand for digital upskilling to decline in a post-Covid-19 world. It’s just the tip of the iceberg. As soon as our economy emerges from the Covid-19 crisis (and the temporary recession that comes with it), skill gaps increase and most organizations will face massive re- and upskilling needs along their entire workforce. In order to address new opportunities and secure your competitive position, your teams need both basic as well as specialized digital skills.
On the other hand each employee will go deeper in one of the fields and require special knowledge in this particular area (represented by the vertical line of the “T”). Here we typically talk about longer training programs for smaller groups, with dedicated learner support through mentors, and demo projects (e.g. in the fields of data analysis, cloud computing, or industry-specific knowledge).
Finally, with all these initiatives we recommend to start “lean” by building proof-of-concepts (POCs) today (e.g. with pilot groups of 20–30 people). Especially the current situation, as well as the post-Covid-19 world, is a great time for (often forced) experimentation. Collect data about the program’s success, and evaluate it every few weeks. From our experience, these POCs will build strong lighthouse projects with internal influencers that will make adoption and engagement in later generations much easier when expanding the program across your entire organization. Forward-looking L&D leaders are getting ready for this shift today and ramping up their digital learning initiatives with the first reskilling proof-of-concepts.
As we’ve seen in the previous question, the learning needs of the workforce will be huge. But it’s not the quantity of required learning content that’s the challenge: it’s the diversity of individual learning needs that will become obvious as you move to a full e-learning setup in a post-Covid-19 world. Sure, digital learning usually means there is more content — easier and often cheaper available than before. And thus, some organizations try to address this diversity with even more external content, buying large libraries or content platforms, hoping to increase the probability of a “match” between individual needs and the content in these libraries.
The result: people are drowning in content, but starving for guidance** through all these learning opportunities. They are overwhelmed and the employee experience (EX) suffers. In the past 12 months we at edyoucated have spoken to many organizations that struggle with the consequences of these learning programs. They started with the worthy goal of saying “goodbye to one-size-fits-all learning” (= learning doesn’t happen at the same time, at the same place, at the same pace for everyone anymore). Yet, moving to digital content libraries without guidance often turns out to be even more “one-size-fits-all” than before (well, after all, these courses are designed for thousands of learners, right?), especially if these programs aren’t supplemented with sufficient learner guidance.
The good news is: again, technology is here to help. With a combination of intelligent curation services and AI-based personalization processes, organizations can provide high-quality and scalable guidance for their learners today. In a post-Covid-19 world, personalized learning is on the rise, and it’s easier than ever before to get started.
Assisted by software, learning paths of your colleagues are personalized to better match their learning needs, their prior knowledge, and their learning style. Learners re-gain control and awareness of their learning process. Ideally, these experiences are complemented with mentors and peer-learning, again both supported by digital platforms.
By using these advanced personalization technologies, we transform a very unsocial experience (people doing one-size-fits all offline trainings or standardized online courses) into a learning experience that is truly focused on the individual, and that brings back the joy in learning.
Let’s face it: digital learning isn’t easier than offline trainings and seminars. It’s so much harder for several reasons:
With the rapid increase of remote digital learning in a post-Covid-19 world, L&D leaders therefore need to focus their attention on something that we call “Meta Learning'' skills: the ability of your workforce to learn mostly self-guided, to structure and time-manage their own learning, and to hold themselves accountable for learning outcomes and transfer. In this sense, it’s very similar (but slightly more complex) to the issue of learning how to work from home, which probably most of you might have dealt with in the past weeks. In order to build a “Digital Learning Literacy” across the entire workforce, we had great success at our edyoucated programs by integrating dedicated meta learning modules into regular digital upskilling initiatives. For example, at one of our most recent clients we have observed an increase of these meta learning skills by 32% (for an assessment on a scale from 1 to 5) within just 4 months.
So to succeed with this question, try to raise the awareness of this topic among your workforce, provide learning paths and content for these topics, regularly assess the meta learning skills of your workforce, and help them with self-reflection. For some inspiration, check out our guide for learning how to learn.
There is an often neglected aspect of the transition to digital learning: again, our workforce is radically different when it comes to digital learning skills (including the meta learning skills mentioned above).
You have probably experienced something very similar when your organization transitioned to remote work in the past couple of weeks: some colleagues have true productivity boosts, and their productivity skyrockets in a distraction-free environment at home. In contrast, others struggle a lot with the basic digital setup of their remote workplace and corresponding habits. That’s not just a question of age, but depends on different factors such as personality type, previous experience, long-term incentives, and many others.
Exactly the same issue applies to digital learning in a post-Covid-19 world, too: some of your employees have basically grown up in a self-learning environment and confidently used digital learning tools from the very beginning. Others are struggling, sometimes even actively rejecting digital learning programs (yet, usually this turns out to be rather an underlying fear than a fundamental refusal of digital learning initiatives in general).
The result: a “Digital Learning Divide”, the formation of “learning elites” among your workforce (those “power learners” that can’t get enough new learning content and truly blossom in the age of digital learning), while others are left behind. So let’s address this question carefully from the very beginning in the setup of our learning & development programs to counteract this development, while keeping the high motivation of our “learning elites”.
To make sure your entire workforce benefits from your new digital learning initiatives, we advise our clients to double-check and strengthen their learning analytics strategy for the coming years. As remote work and learning becomes the new normal in a post-Covid-19 world, it’s your only chance to see what works and what doesn’t. As you’ll get much less information from informal feedback or ‘water cooler talk’ in a remote learning setup, learning analytics data is your friend.
By carefully monitoring the different segments among their learners, we’ve seen amazing insights at different clients that not only increased learner engagement, but also “red flagged” learners who had issues with their digital learning paths. In these cases our clients could step in and made sure these issues were resolved (e.g. blocking more time for learning by talking to the learner’s manager), so that no one was left behind.
In particular the following 3-step approach might help to ramp up your strategy for these issues:
Step 1: Define what to measure. Probably the most important instrument here are pre- and post-evaluations. Some KPIs you might want to measure:
Just to name a few. Of course, there are many more KPIs that might help you to identify precisely where problems are occurring.
Step 2: Collect data. Yet, sometimes “classical” approaches of just handing out evaluation forms might do it for you. The advantage that comes with automatic data collection is a real-time view on all crucial KPIs that allows you to immediately take action in case it’s required.
Step 3: Develop a plan on how to boost learner engagement across all segments. Of course, measuring the engagement of your learner segments is great, but it doesn’t help much unless you actually take action.
Digital learning support via mentoring could help to guide your learners (Source: edyoucated)
One action that we found particularly helpful is by deploying an expert-led mentoring service: an on-demand expert who is always available (e.g. via chat or video call) to help with your learners with any (technical or content-related) issues. Of course, you might also consider to use internal mentors. Another great option is to have regular “check-in’s” and building smaller learning communities (we call them “learning cohorts”). In the past years, we’ve seen some tremendous success with these learning engagement actions.
By the way: this strategy is independent of the size of your digital learning initiative: in fact, for smaller POCs it’s equally important, as you want to exactly understand what works and what doesn’t to make an informed decision about a full rollout.
I hope by sharing these five key questions we have helped you to get a clearer picture of the key issues for digital learning strategies in a post-Covid-19 world. One key aspect of adapting to the pandemic is the incorporation of e-learning technologies, which can help to facilitate remote and hybrid learning experiences. In this e-book, we will explore the basics of corporate e-learning through a 10 step guide and how it can be used to support your organization’s goals. By following these 10 steps and considering the individual needs of your organization , you can develop a strong foundation for a successful corporate e-learning program.
edyoucated is funded by leading research institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).