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People power! Why L&D is driving business survival


Article by: Erin DeVito, General Manager, Americas – Impact | Published: 1 June 2021

Erin DeVito, General Manager, Americas – Impact 1 June 2021

The last twelve months have brought into stark focus that businesses are their people and its success or failure hinges on their talents, their agility, and their resilience. The Covid-19 pandemic has tested all of these skills like never before and at lightning speed.

Despite the vast differences in the ways organizations have responded to the challenges of the pandemic, Impact’s CEO Business Leadership Survey reveals a surprising number of commonalities emerging, as we see businesses move out of fire-fighting mode and into planning for the future.

Emerging trends
Regardless of social, cultural, geographical and economic differences, three clear priorities are coming out on top: 82% of CEOs said they need to invest in changing/ transforming the organization ahead, 89% want to invest in more innovation and 79% plan to invest in more people related change, in skills and behaviors.

However, with 40 years’ experience in unlocking human potential through experiential learning, at Impact we know that for each of these components to be successful, a culture of learning and development is essential. Specifically, it needs to be one that is both personalized and based on learning in the flow of work.

Impact has been inundated with requests from clients not only asking to transfer L&D programs into the online space, but perhaps more tellingly, to also advise on how to maintain workplace culture in order to embed the learnings they need to enable teams to survive and thrive in the lockdown age.

We often reiterate to clients that learning is not just about providing content. Moreover, just in the way that a one size fits all approach to customer relations will seldom be sufficient, the same can be said for learning and development.

Methodologically, one of the fundamental mistakes businesses often make when it comes to L&D is to separate out the learning from the work itself, looking at what you want them to know rather than what you want them to do as the final output. There can be a chasm between what we know and what we do.

Impact’s experiential model of learning focuses on the acquisition of knowledge, developing the skills required to put that knowledge into practice, providing space for reflection and activating this through direct experience (the opportunity to put into practice what you have learnt). Oftentimes organizations just focus on knowledge and skills.

For learning to be activated, it needs to be socialized – this means talking about the learning, implementing it through workplace culture etc. and to do this against the current backdrop presents some interesting challenges and opportunities.

Learning and development in a Covid-age
Impact’s report highlights a number of emerging trends, which will have a significant impact on how businesses prioritize their learning and development programs now and into the future:

  1. Working from home will become the new norm: This will mean a greater focus not only on digital infrastructure and skills, but also developing the ability to transfer face to face skills into the virtual space, from leaders engaging with colleagues in a remote environment, through to virtual selling.
  2. Broad and deep digital skills are the enablers of efficiency and effectiveness. As digital tools have become vital to keeping businesses functioning, there are also potential benefits in improving efficiency and effectiveness. This has implications for skills levels in using technology effectively and means leaders and managers will need to upskill in using technology more to help colleagues and teams perform, to improve productivity and reduce costs. As well as the cost saving implications, there are so many other amazing ways technology will serve us in the future. For L&D professionals technology and data will help us find ways to embed learning where it is needed most and when – quickly. Scaling and the efficiencies to do this will be hand in hand with a very human approach. Increasingly technology will put learning in the hands of the learner and with that comes a demand or opportunity to find solutions for highly customized solutions for each individual’s needs.
  3. Agility will become a critical organizational competency. We have had to learn to be more agile through the pandemic, to work at pace and to reduce the time between the decision making and the doing. CEOs are recognizing that this is not going anywhere fast and need to ensure their teams are ready to react in the moment and work agilely to be able to thrive in these unpredictable times, as they recognize that uncertainty is here to stay.

Connecting the process of change with the process of learning
In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented a global experiential learning event. It has pushed everyone, in their own way, into difficult, yet important and possibly profound processes of having to learn and adapt.

Ultimately, change is the constant in everyone’s lives right now. Changing an organization can be frustratingly difficult to do, even at the best of times. But leading change when the future is so uncertain can feel impossible. The only way to successfully lead change in this environment is to connect the process of change with the process of learning and personal growth. It is the need to learn that is driving so much of the focus on internal communications, on dialogue, on listening, coaching and managing. By doing so, businesses can learn more: understanding what works, how to unlock agility in a way that is unique to the individual business, how to best engage and maximize the talents and capabilities of the team and, perhaps most important of all, to learn how to work at the pace that the current climate demands.

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