Facebook recently announced that it would permanently embrace remote work, even after lockdowns prompted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic ease. Meanwhile, Google said its employees could work from home until July 2021. Many global companies, as well as local ones, are following suit as the pandemic forces organizations to adapt to the “new normal.”
This was one of the prognostications of 30 top global experts, from technology executives to venture capitalists and analysts, who weighed in on the pandemic’s lasting impact on how we live, work and think, according to Fast Company magazine.
Everyone agrees that the current global health crisis will change our lives forever. Employees will continue to virtually connect with colleagues and customers, even after the pandemic end. The experts also believe that companies and organizations will accelerate their migration to digital applications and platforms.
“What organizations resisted for a decade is now core to survival and innovation,” Michael Hendrix, partner at Ideo, told Fast Company.
Consequently, digital transformation has accelerated in the past months, as organizations transform their business model and operations, product and service offerings, customer engagement, and employee engagement. Videoconferencing tools, learning management systems, cloud computing, e-commerce platforms and others are being adopted by organizations all over.
All these mean that employees need to learn as fast and as much as possible. Therefore, companies need to enhance learning velocity, or how fact employees learn a new digital skill, and learning density, or how much skill or subject matter employees acquire given a period.
The challenge organizations are facing is how to flatten the learning curve — that is, how to achieve learning velocity and density to adapt quickly, but surely, to the new normal. In my previous column, I wrote that “there’s an urgent need for corporate learning and development (L&D) to be transformed, reinvented, if not reimagined ,to enable employees to learn better and faster.”
To flatten the learning curve, “there are four factors corporate L&D needs to consider, namely the learner, format, systems and content.”
Learner. In my previous column, I wrote that “this is the first time we witness the convergence of the four generations in the workplace — Baby Boomers, which is dwindling in number, but still comprise as much as 10 percent in many organizations; Generation X, which can reach more than 30 percent of organizations; millennials, which comprise more that 50 percent of organizations; and Generation Z, which account for more than 20 percent of many organizations.”
“Generally speaking, as we age, chemical imbalances in the brain become more pronounced which affects our cognitive activity. Hence, across generations, employees’ learning capacity depends on two factors: personalization and independence. Personalization is all about fitting the content and learning methodology to the individual learner, while independence is whether the individual learner needs the control or influence of others to learn, such as a trainer, coach or other HR (human resource) interventions.”
Format. “With the generational differences among learners, there’s a need to adapt the delivery format of the learning experience.” With online learning as the new delivery method, the content should be supplemented with video content and online engagements. Emoticons, such as a thumbs-up or a clap, allow all learners to engage and participate in the learning experience.
Systems. “With these differences on how learning is consumed and delivered to the four generations, systems likewise need to be varied but integrated. E-learning platforms adaptive to the pace of learners should have capabilities to provide microlearning, i.e. short bursts of content, interactive, on-demand, video-capable and mobile optimized. It should incorporate gamification to sustain the attention and interest of the younger generations.”
An important part of systems requirement is a good internet connection and audio/video equipment from a personal computer. Many organizations have provisioned internet and computer allowances to make sure that the learners’ experience is optimal.
Content. I argued previously that “this is where the L&D departments need much transformation.” Not only do employees need to be trained on how to use digital tools, but also skills required in the new normal. In our consulting work, we promote three skills that are needed more in a digital workplace. These are empathy, collaboration and complex problem-solving.
We need to practice empathy in the new normal when we engage and transact with colleagues, customers and suppliers; we need to collaborate better in a work-from-home set up; and we need to solve more complex problems jointly amid an uncertain business environment. All of these skills have applications in virtual selling, virtual negotiations, among others.
Flattening the learning curve will give a competitive advantage to organizations when the economy bounces back. Employees who learn many skills in the shortest possible time can reap the benefits of digital transformation. But human resource departments should be wary of learning or webinar fatigue that is spreading across organizations. Balancing the learner, format, systems and content is key.
The author is the founder and chief executive officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation and country representative of the Institute of Change and Transformation Professionals Asia. He teaches strategic management in the MBA program of De La Salle University. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org