Learning & Development in a Changing Workforce Model


There’s a new wave of change in the working world. With remote working becoming the latest buzzword, companies are being forced to change their business models in ways more than one. There is an evolution in the way they are hiring, working and engaging. A stark change is also reflected in the ways in which ‘learning’ is happening in the companies given there are so many other “tech” and “non-tech” disruptions taking place. It’s a challenge that L&D leaders have to deal with in such a distributed model of working. The remote workers are a unique case because their learning needs have to be fulfilled,no doubt, but they cannot be a part of traditional learning programs. This calls for new rules and more innovative L&D strategies to suit such workers.

Here’s a look at some key priorities that L&D leaders will have to take into consideration before designing learning strategies for a dynamic workforce as (I) discussed with some amazing learning leaders yesterday on a tweetchat arranged by People Matters ahead of its 2018 L&D Conference on 23rd October. We also look at what solutions could best fit these challenges.

1. What are the key challenges that L&D leaders will face in a distributed world of work?

Today’s workforce comprises of a very versatile demographic that is different from one another on so many counts. They speak multiple languages, work in different time zones, locations and possess different learning styles.Since the workforce is spread across the globe, managing Classroom Training, Live Training or Online Learning are a big challenge considering the variation in technology and access across the length and breadth of the workforce. It is not easy to cater to such a diverse group and L&D leaders have to be on their toes all the time to fulfil their learning needs which call for newer processes and systems.

This is where modern learn-tech comes into picture. LMSs today support multiple languages for users and become extremely engaging since they localize the process dissolving all geographical boundaries. Multi-lingual LMSs are strong tools for a company and provide the support that it needs to ensure that all its employees, wherever they may be in the world, are receiving the best out of their training programs. Similarly, the multi-time-zone support in LMSs also proves to be a great benefit for remote workers who work in different time zones.

LMSs help satisfy different learning styles too thanks to their features like Mobile Learning, Instructor-led Training or ILT, Social Learning, which can be used independently or as a part of a blend (Blended Learning).

Top Challenges

2. What should be kept in mind while designing learning interventions for a changing workforce model?

The new workforce is spread over different generations. In many organizations, several generations including Millennials, Baby Boomers, Gen Ys, Gen Zs,etc are working together at any given point. They are creating a situation that is both full of opportunities as well as challenges for the L&D. Thanks to their age differences, their technology affinity is also different. While some prefer Online Learning, others want traditional ILT. Some depend on ‘push’ learning, others prefer to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to choosing what they want to learn (Pull Learning). There is also a vast variation in the styles of learning. Some are comfortable with ILT, some depend on Social and Informal Learning, some prefer Mobile Learning while others opt for Blended Learning.

Designing learning interventions need to factor in all these at a more micro level than before. The process gets even more complex thanks to multiple languages and multiple time zones that these individuals speak and work across. Learning interventions also need to factor in the lack of (or, at least, lesser amount of) human interaction on a daily basis within the teams.

Key things to factor at a Micro-level

3. Amidst a workplace marked by an increasing number of remote workers, how can L&D leaders ensure learning on the job happens for remote employees?

The learning needs of a remote workforce are as unique as their working style. It is upto the L&D to ensure that such a workforce gets on-demand learning. Mobile Learning (via LMS with support for online as well offline learning) is one of the best answers that modern learn tech provides because it can guarantee anytime, anywhere, any device learning that also ensures Just in Time (JIT) support.

Mixing (Mobile) Learning with Performance Support and Gamification too have high business impact. Remote workers require learning interventions that can put them in the driver’s seat where they are motivated to seek learning opportunities. Gamification works the best because it boosts employee motivation, engagement and retention. Gamification identifies “what” the learners exactly want, focuses on motivation that drives their performance and instils a recognition/ reward culture within the organization.

Micro-learning also works well in this respect because it involves activities that feature bite-sized, easy to understand content with short-term lessons or projects that are designed to provide ‘bits’ of information.

Mainly, Adaptive Learning that customizes/personalizeslearning for each learner has to be embedded within the work processes and chances of ‘push’ learning working out are very less when it comes to remote workers.

Key to-dos

4. How can organizations employ technology to support the learning and development of remote employees?

Technology is a key factor in enabling a remote workforce, which means it is also the solution to support their learning and development needs. While there are simple tools like live virtual meetings to make learning available on demand, there is also more advanced technology like Artificial Intelligence and automated Chatbots. AI systems identify learner’s needs and establishes models which focus on method and reason. Chatbots are programs that facilitate text conversations, integrating them into the training process and augment employee productivity. These aspects are a great way to make sure that remote employees are learning better.

Organizations can also provide the best of delivery platforms for on demand learning via mobile apps. A great way is to develop mobile LMS apps and utilize their responsive or app-based design to deliver learning. While Responsive design is about providing the content and functions perfectly sized to fit onto a mobile device, native apps make the best use of the power and ubiquity of mobile device. Both methods are known to leverage the huge flexibility of mobile learning and provide a rich experience and efficiency.

Key Tools to be used

5. Even in this changing workforce model, what is the one thing about L&D that will not change?

The workforce is changing and L&D is constantly redefining themselves to cater to this increasingly flexible workforce. But there are some things about L&D that have not changed over the years and will remain constant over time. L&D is one of the most critical factors in any organization because they upskill the latter’s most important resource: its employees. So the ever growing importance and criticality of L&D for each employee will never change, although, their style of working may keep differing to adapt to changing times. There will be a constant push to design learning interventions that are quick, effective and on-demand. L&D will continue to enable learners to seek learning rather than simply pushing learning their way.

Ever growing Importance and Criticality

While L&D continues to re-invent themselves to cater to an increasingly changing workforce that consists of remote workers with unique learning needs, there are some challenges that they are facing in this new paradigm of working. However, L&D is known to constantly change the rules of the game by coming up with innovative and disruptive learning strategies and putting their best foot forward.