Training & Development

Navigating the Future

Crafting an Agile Training Strategy in the Age of AI and Technological Innovation

In today’s rapidly transforming work ecosystem, marked by the swift emergence of AI and digital innovations, the role of HR is more pivotal than ever.

 As HR leaders, it’s time to re-evaluate our training strategies, ensuring they’re not just robust but also inherently adaptive to the ever-evolving demands of our times. This article  guides you in this journey, helping shape a framework that’s not just reactive but anticipatory of technological advancements.

We need to empower our greatest asset – our workforce – to excel in an environment that’s as dynamic as the technology shaping it.

Assessing Capability Gaps

The starting point for an agile training strategy is to ask ourselves ‘why do we need one?’

Secondary benefits to great L&D opportunities are employee satisfaction, increased efficiency, and appeal to potential employees. The number one reason for any L&D strategy is to ensure the organisation and its employees have the skills they need to deliver its capabilities.

Organisations with a comprehensive capability model has a central point of truth from which to work.

It’s impossible for HR and senior leaders to understand all the skills needed to deliver business area capabilities. Most of the work is delivered by specialists who may be unique in the organisation.

HR must understand which capabilities are vulnerable, where there is low redundancy and poor continuity planning. This involves asking senior leaders to identify where chokepoints or skills monopolies exist in their teams.

Your actions:

  • Conduct skills audits to identify gaps
  • Anticipate future skills needed for new tech
  • Align training to strategic business goals

Measuring Training Effectiveness

Learning and development is in constant conflict with work. Managers, running with the bare minimum hours to complete the job, see it as a threat to delivery. Learners often see mandated training as an irrelevance which puts them behind with their work, whilst experiencing exasperation that genuinely helpful training has been blocked by bureaucracy and budgets.

This is a communications problem where  L&D is seen as a disabler for the business, rather than an enabler.

How would I change this?

We need to start communicating the metrics of success both downwards and  upwards. Managers need to know 99% of employees completed health and safety training; employees want to hear that the training has reduced workplace accidents and injuries by 50%.  We need to better measure the effectiveness and impact of training and share it in a way that helps people recognise the value created.

Measuring outcomes is crucial when managing budgets.

Take for example, the ‘lock-in’ approach to training. the ‘we’ll put you through this training, but you have to stay or pay’. It’s natural to fear that an employee may take the training and move to a new employer, but it’s worth remembering that if an employee is forced into doing learning in their own time, they’re doing it for their next employer, not for you. If you end up forcing an employee to do their own development, they’ve already quit.

This is tied to the phenomena of unrewarded loyalty. Studies identified it’s more financially beneficial for employees to regularly job hop than stay with a single employer. The main reason for this is that, unless you’re working in some sort of super-scaling start-up environment, people evolve faster than their employers do.

Therefore, we need to move away from  ‘turnover’ and leavers and focus on metrics like length of service. In 99.9% of organisations, even middle performers are going to get a better offer if they go looking. HR needs to ask how can we increase the average service length to reduce recruitment and retraining costs? If someone leaves before 75% of the average service length, we should investigate. At an organisational scale, we must identify how much (if at all) improving personal learning opportunities affects that number?

Rethinking training

Dragging dispersed teams of workers into a room for training is inefficient and for remote teams, a massive and unnecessary cost. This is about ticking boxes (they attended;  they are trained) rather than creating valuable and lasting learning experiences.

Of course, when done well, it can be powerful. I’ve previously spoken about Atlassian’s approach, where the remote-first organisation has built dedicated teams to support the delivery of memorable in-person experiences for employees. This approach makes the office a place where people want to go, rather than must go

The training room approach fails to deliver personalised and relevant training that meets worker or business needs. As mentioned work is specialised which requires unique skill sets and specialities.

There are many different workforce L&D  requirements, but they can all be put into two groups, universal, and exceptional.

Universal training, for all employees, tailored for different groups, functions, and seniority levels, generally has the same objectives and outcomes for everyone.

Exceptional training is more niche. It may be for thousands of people, or just for one, but has a specific purpose which involves improving an employee’s performance or skills.

E-learning is an effective way of delivering both these types of training.

Universal training through e-learning is simple. A course is added, completion is tracked, with a goal of 100%. However, exceptional training requires more specific and niche courses. Many of these are commercially available; for example, Umbrella HR has produced an e-learning course for line managers to upskill in performance management. But when we look deeper, we run into issues. Employee’s bespoke training needs are often blocked by managers (especially where not directly related to current job role) or delivered informally by a colleague who may or may not be trained. As a result,, capability gaps are not identified, and employees are forced to upskill outside of work just to do their job, breeding resentment.

Your actions:

  • Curate self-service e-learning platforms
  • Facilitate peer coaching and collaboration
  • Track learning outcomes across locations

The Road Ahead

For too many, ‘learning’ ends at school or university and this is embedded by poor support for learning in organisations. But employers can change this. It’s common to have a volunteering days allowance; so, give employees a personal development allowance and measure the impact of this on organisational capabilities.

It’s crucial to support employees through change. We’re living through a period of unprecedented disruption on the global, local, societal, and working levels. Supporting employees with the skills and knowledge they need demonstrates an investment and appreciation likely to be rewarded with improved retention.

The two specific learning areas crucial for organisations to deliver effectively into the future are  skills and knowledge The organisational ‘lore’ is an often-overlooked part of learning, but codifying what has and hasn’t worked in the past embeds organisational learning and prevents wasteful mistakes being made twice.

Organisational knowledge is a key opportunity which data driven organisations are using AI to exploit. Moving information from employee’s heads into formal repositories via intranets and knowledge banks is a crucial part of the bigger picture behind L&D. Practitioners who take an active role in AI development, will be able to effectively control this learning delivery method.

Finally, we often fail to take note of skills and training delivered before an employee joins. Unless a certification or skillset is a job requirement upon appointment, we rarely understand the other skills or competencies that people bring to a role, which results in poorly constructed job descriptions, or worse, we underuse an employee who then believes themselves to have been slighted. Properly recording and, rewarding the full capacity of our employees is an increasing challenge as skill shortages sharpen.

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