Organisations leveraging L&D for survival

by Beau Jackson

HR must prioritise learning and development (L&D) to create genuine change in the workplace, argues a new report.

Priorities have shifted in the past year as the majority (64%) of L&D professionals said reskilling the workforce has become an organisational focus, with a 159% increase in CEOs championing L&D objectives.

This contrasts with just four in 10 survey respondents (40%) who said that their organisations had a ‘strategic, forward-looking approach’ to L&D in 2019, before the pandemic struck.

David Collings, report co-author and professor of human resource management at Dublin City University (DCU) Business School, said that a long-term vision for L&D has been critical to organisations’ abilities in adapting to the short-term pressures of the past year and develop new lasting ways of working.

Speaking to HR magazine, Collings said: “Business models have been reimagined in many industries and the pace of change in relentless.

“L&D is central to enabling organisations to respond to these changes and to proactively prepare their workforces for the future of work.”

Collings and John McMackin, DCU Business School assistant professor in human resource management and organisational behaviour, identified seven key insights from organisations with the strongest L&D programmes in their research.

These were:

  1. Identify a 'North Star' to guide L&D decisions – define the objective of overall L&D programme.
  2. Establish a skills baseline – conduct a skills audit to understand employees’ current abilities and identify potential gaps.
  3. Align L&D efforts with strategic priorities – plan for skills that will be needed in the future, for example those relevant to AI and automation.
  4. Ensure that the L&D team has the right skills and resources – digital and analytical skills, for example, are more in demand in L&D professionals than before.
  5. Design learning to accommodate evolving conditions – budget cuts and a remote workforce means that teams will have to get creative with how L&D is provided.
  6. Create individualised learning pathways – because every employees’ needs are different.
  7. Stay agile and adapt over time – choosing responsiveness over perfection in L&D programmes.

The insights are intended to provide L&D teams with a roadmap for how to make their programmes more of a strategic priority.

“The priority for HR and L&D leaders should be to deliver on short-term priorities while keeping a watchful eye on the future and developing the skills pipelines required to deliver on that future,” Collings added.

He said the seven insights should be used by HR to find the right fit rather than them all being ‘must-haves'.

“If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that perfection can be the enemy of the good. So, I would really encourage HR and L&D leaders to experiment and iterate.

“Develop a minimum viable product around some of the key insights and pilot it in the organisation. This should help to build or reinforce the business case for strategic L&D,” he said.

Collings and McMackin’s research can be found in full online here.

Useful resources:
HR Magazine
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