Hidden Challenges in Employee Learning
Before the pandemic even started, Learning & Development teams were well on track in implementing enterprise-wide learning programs. This foresight paid off when they had to redeploy, reskill or upskill their employees quickly when the pandemic struck.
The post-COVID future of the workforce is mired under its own set of uncertainties and suppositions. While we cannot yet predict a framework to overcome these, we can safely assume that employee learning will play a significant role.
In light of this, it is crucial to understand and remove the roadblocks that might be preventing your employees from leveraging your learning modules.
Barriers are not always visible
Yes, enterprises have gone above and beyond to ensure that their internal learning academies are updated regularly and empower their employees with all the tools they might need. Despite this, stakeholders routinely see that employee engagement is not up to the mark.
Microlearning modules curated by SMEs that can be consumed on-demand are the preferred method of learning. However, despite a significant chunk of people signing up for these, very few of them actually go on to complete them and get certified.
A few researchers from the University of Chicago studied this very phenomenon as it was playing out in a very large tech company. Their solution? Create an Empathy Coach whose only role is to motivate and gently nudge students to increase engagement. Over a period of six months, the researchers noted that the services of the Empathy Coach had paid off in a big way. The online course discussion board had taken on a life of its own and engagement among peers was at an all-time high.
Such invisible barriers need to be identified earlier if we are to seriously consider learning academies as the solutions for our future talent needs.
Leave no employee behind
Often times, global enterprises that have a robust training program in place fail to — by design or by accident— ensure democratic access to these programs across all geographies.
For example, a company with its office in a tier 1 location has face-to-face management training/mentorship programs available for their employees. However, in the same company, these programs are not available to employees working out of a tier 2/3 location. This may be because face-to-face programs require the trainer to travel and may not be feasible in the long run. The result is that employees in those locations are rather unfairly left out of the career development process.
It took a calamity like COVID-19 for leaders to recognize that virtual solutions are the answer to this problem. Still, several companies, to their own detriment, are under the impression that re/upskilling talent in such locations might backfire on them. “Where is the benefit if they take the training and leave or ask for higher compensation?” they ask.
Research has shown that talent nurtured within the organization stays on average 35-45% longer than talent that has been hired for that specific role. There’s your answer – longer talent retention periods. Hiring is an expensive exercise to undertake every time there is a need for talent. Those who want to leave will leave, no matter what. But there is no doubt that employees who learn a crucial skill at a company will develop loyalty and take ownership of the job role.
Shockingly, this barrier in even more visible across MNCs that operate across countries. A L1/L2 in one geography may not be offered the same career development opportunities in different geography. Whether it’s geo-politics, racial or simply logistical is something workforce planners need to thoroughly examine and solve.
Skills come in all colours
Another reason why employees might be hesitant or even unaware of career development modules is the lack of role models. This barrier, which we will call the diversity barrier, is a significant enough deterrent preventing your minority workforce from upskilling.
A top investment firm recently revealed that just 2-4% of their senior management are black. This is despite the higher proportion of black people being hired for entry-level roles. Somewhere along the way, as they’re climbing the ladder, minorities drop out of the race. Prejudice & other factors aside, a major contributor to their loss of motivation is a lack of roles models at the top.
If there are such role models, then it is a proven fact that the organization encourages diversity and it is worth the effort put into learning new skills.
A diverse workforce projects a sense of comfort and security to its minority talent and is crucial to helping them overcome any psychological barrier they may have towards re/upskilling.
Hallmarks of a modern Learning & Development practice
Learning & Development strategies that are designed to address the above-mentioned barriers to employee development share a few common characteristics like:
- Enterprise-wide buy-in: There cannot be a holistic learning program without everyone from the leadership to the interns being on the same page about their benefits. Training leaders across all levels in mentorship helps them identify the early signs of any invisible barriers.
- Communication: Ensure your company-wide emails about a leadership seminar are not just restricted to one talent-rich location. Leverage virtual tools to provide access to learning materials to all employees. But most importantly, communication should be focused on increasing awareness among minority talent about career development opportunities available to them.
- Alignment: You cannot help your employees overcome any barriers if they do not like what is on the other side in the first place. Ensure that the learning modules you offer are in alignment to not just market needs, but also with employee skill levels.
Draup for Talent’s Diversity Navigator tool intelligently analyzes ethnic/gender representation across talents and suggests actionable insights to fill any gaps via re/upskilling initiatives. The Reskilling Navigator tool can then be leveraged to develop course frameworks and career path simulations for any job roles across the organization.