Research findings indicate that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on employee training and development, now that traditional-based settings are no longer encouraged. Besides, emerging trends indicate that businesses will have to change their previous employee learning and development strategies and embrace new technologies that power remote learning and training.
COVID-19 IMPACT ON TRAINING DELIVERY METHODS FOR EMPLOYERS
1. Repository of Digital Learning Assets
- In an era more in tune with remote working, creating a repository of digital learning assets has emerged as an alternative to traditional classroom training delivery method. This move is in line with the new workplace training norms, which are becoming more collaborative, multi-dimensional, and social.
- Employee training during COVID-19 has been largely facilitated by technology that supports on-demand learning and sharing. In this regard, organizations are also considering microlearning solutions/assets that enable the creating of a repository of digital learning solutions.
- In response, organizations can build various microlearning assets like, “micro videos, interactive eBooks and PDFs, audio podcasts, GIFs, game and simulation-based nuggets, blog posts,” etc. Organizations can also digitize their existing learning materials to be used in online classes.
- Creating digital repositories allows employees to share user-generated learning contents, which are then made available to all employees in the organization. Moreover, a digital repository can contain assets that offer both formal training and complimentary learning.
2. Restructuring Post-Training Support
- While learning is not a one-off thing, to beat the forgetting curve, learning can be implemented at different stages, spaced over time, or repeated at regular intervals. Therefore, for learning to be successful, post-learning solutions are as effective as the initial training.
- In the wake of COVID-19, the delivery of support for employee learning has been reconfigured to be delivered during the virtual learning journey and is characterized by “pre-reading, online discussion forums, and post-learning reflections.”
- Likewise, employers can embed learning in their organizations’ workflows by offering digital solutions for performance support, as need arises. Once the initial training has ended, the organization needs to provide performance support to help employees improve their performance.
- Training support materials can be offered in different ways, including giving employees specific digital assets they can rely on for a step-by-step guidance to help progress the learning. For example, companies can offer audio tours to support continued learning for employees.
THE FUTURE OF TRAINING IN THE CORPORATE OR BUSINESS SECTOR
Continued Growth in Remote and On-Demand Learning
- Most businesses and corporations were reluctant to embrace remote and on-demand training solutions; however, the COVID-19 pandemic left them with no option but to implement this form of workforce development delivery. Statistics indicate that from 2017 to 2020, the use of online training has expanded from 27.3% to 39.2% in the healthcare sector and 14.6% to 27.8% in public safety.
- While most professionals argued that these remote and on-demand training formats could not mimic the engagement of in-person training, they later learnt that the drawbacks of these online-based employee training solutions are not as bad as initially thought of.
- In this regard, experts predict that companies that may have not been used to remote training ought to take the necessary steps in ensuring they can deliver 24/7 training and support for employees learning remotely.
- Importantly, the approach should emphasize building a new culture of continuous learning and training. Moreover, experts assert that corporations and businesses need to have digital repositories for easier access of resources by employees. On that note, businesses should give employees access to different learning experiences and training aligned with their time, interests, level and expertise.
Increasing Usage of LMS for Tracking Training
- The use of learning management software (LMS) was not widespread in the past, compared to how it has become more prevalent in the wake of COVID-19. In 2015, an estimated 33% of organizations in health and human services used an LMS, in 2017 the figure shot to 45%, before plateauing at 44% in 2020.
- According to the report ‘State of Training 2020’ mild to major changes regarding the use of online learning were observed by 80% of health and human services respondents; however, it was found out that the use of an LMS was previously low when compared to other healthcare sectors.
- Based on that finding, it is anticipated that going forward, the post-COVID-19 trend in online learning can significantly boost efforts to increase the use of an LMS to track employee training in health and human services.
- In early 2020, about 47% of the healthcare sector used an LMS for tracking employee training, versus 39.7% in 2017. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 24% of respondents claim to have started using an LMS.
WHAT THE INDUSTRY THINKS WILL HAPPEN POST-COVID?
Innovating New Ways of Corporate Training
- While the traditional classroom approach to employee reskilling was broken long before the pandemic hit, their impact on employee training were more significant as opposed to only online based.
- According to a McKinsey report, a handful of organizations have been successful with the conventional classroom training approach, whereby the efforts deployed tended to focus more on “in-person, hands-on learning using real business problems or competitive simulations.”
- Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a halt on the traditional gold-standard programs for employee reskilling because of physical-distancing requirements and remote-working. In this regard, leaders who recognize the importance of transforming their workforces are now facing another enormous challenge.
- This unprecedented bend in the road is forcing many businesses to innovate their capability-building model fast, even so, experts warn that the implications of this sudden change will persist after the pandemic ends.
Rapid Evolution of Digital Solutions for Training Delivery
- Business leaders are now calling for innovative capability building that fits in today’s virtual worlds. They are interested in capability that can achieve both learning and behavioral change through “day-to-day application of new learning and skills across broad segments of the workforce.”
- According to these leaders, such a flexible and robust capability is the “holy grail of behavioral change” and foundation of strong business operations. It would address remote working challenges and ensure employees apply their new skills often.
- The COVID-19 constraints have set off the new revolution in workforce upskilling, giving rise to numerous opportunities to experiment with the science of learning and behavioral change in the corporate environment.
- McKinsey reports that businesses that have innovated their capabilities have delivered continuous behavioral change driven by superior capability building in a virtual world.
AI & VR in Employee Training
- Research suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) can speed up employee training and learning via augmented reality and virtual reality (VR). It can also customize training content to match the needs of each employee.
- COVID-19 necessitated the need for VR to help employees do their jobs, especially in training employees in “soft skills” to enhance customer service and managerial skills.
- VR offers a more conducive and customizable learning environment that is immersive to ensure employees take training serious and safe where the trainees are less self-conscious to talk freely compared to when they face real people.
EMPLOYER & EMPLOYEE READYNESS FOR TRAINING DURING COVID AND POST-COVID
Increased Investments in Training Technologies
- Before the pandemic, many companies in the U.S. had shown interest in training and upskilling their workforce. Over 20% of employers had anticipated to increase their investments in learning management systems (LMSs), eLearning, digital content solutions, social/collaboration tools, and training delivery platforms.
- In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies that may have not invested in learning technologies found themselves in need of additional technologies to match the demand from their employees.
- Before the pandemic, over two-thirds of businesses said they were ready to provide new training solutions, i.e., hardware, software, internal expertise and resources.
- The graphic below shows the outlook for companies anticipating to adopt new learning solutions.
Employees Share Positive Sentiment Regarding Training
- Employees have shown interest in remote working, a positive indicator of their interest in remote training, which often accompanies remote working. A PWC survey found out that 70% of employees were ready and working remotely and 30% had flexible work arrangements with their employers.
- The interest in remote working and training is further confirmed by a survey on executives that found out that 30% were anticipating they would need less office space in the future because or remote work. On the other hand, 19% foresee no change, while 50% expect an increase in office space.
- The survey also shows that the U.S. workforce is ready to try remote working two or three days per week. Meantime, companies are also restructuring to provide better collaboration spaces to optimize office time and space.
- In a survey to determine what remote employee need to be more productive, 48% of the respondents suggested they be rewarded with new experiences, training, and learning. Overall, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to be prepared to embrace new and innovative digital solutions for training and working remotely, including a virtual-first mindset.
Remote Workers Demand Training, Technologies, and a Positive Culture
- A survey asking employees which changes they would consider while working remotely revealed that among other things like evolving culturally, remote workers want training.
- About 73% of the respondents “planned to evolve culturally to implement a hybrid work environment” that includes visiting the office and working virtually.
- On the other hand, 42% of the respondents “planned to change managerial and employee training focusing on leading and operating in a virtual or blended environment.”
- Lastly, less than 33% of the respondents said they would prefer their employers to invest in virtual collaboration technologies.
TRADITIONAL CLASSROOM SETTINGS IN THE FUTURE — POST COVID
- With many employees working remotely, it has become impossible for employers to offer “in-person, classroom-based skills training.” Survey findings show that 40% of respondents claimed that their employers were planning to make a permanent move to online training, versus 18% who anticipate to revert back to in-person classrooms — 42% of the respondents were not sure.
- Organizations that previously relied on classroom settings for employee training moved their programs online once the social distancing policies were implemented. According to the findings, the shift had little to no effect on the quality of training employees received.
- About 70% of the respondents confirmed that before the pandemic, their training was offered online and in classroom settings. Interestingly, 86% of respondents whose employers provided classroom-based skills training to their staff have moved those training programs online.
- Based on these findings, it is unlikely that many organizations will go back to provide classroom-based employee training, considering that social distancing extends in the future post COVID-19.
TOP DIGITAL TOOLS FOR EMPLOYEE LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT
- Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 17% of U.S. workers were remote five days a week; however, once the pandemic hit, the number jumped to 44% working remotely for an entire week. It also emerged that collaboration was their key challenge as they resorted to remote working.
- While working from home, employees used different tools, with some proving more valuable compared to others. Based on a survey, the top five collaboration tools for U.S. remote workers were as the pandemic struck and usage statistics were Zoom — 36% , Microsoft teams — 19% , Skype — 17%, Google Hangouts — 9%, and Slack — 7%, as shown in the image below
- A PWC report revealed that 32% of all employees in the U.S. working remotely wanted better hardware, i.e., laptop, monitor, printer, chair, etc., to improve their productivity while working remotely.
Employee Engagement with Remote Working Tools
- During May 2020, an estimated 109 million Americans were engaging with the above mentioned collaboration platforms, equivalent to 41% of the total U.S. internet audience, compared to 9.9% in 2019. The year-over-year increase is quoted at 322%.
- During the pandemic, two providers emerged at the top in providing technology and communications to support remote working activities. The two platforms were Zoom and Microsoft Teams, which increased by 813% and 943% in unique visitors year-over-year (May 2019 vs. May 2020), respectively.
- The graphics below shows the engagement levels of the top digital tools used for remote working during the pandemic
- According to the report, Zoom and Microsoft Teams held the deepest user penetration; however, there is room for other collaboration platforms in the U.S. Interestingly, the report noted that 40% of Microsoft Teams clients also used Zoom.
TRENDS IN EMPLOYEE TRAINING DURING COVID-19
1. Designing Programs for Efficiency not Resiliency
- A previous Gartner organization design survey report found out that about 55% of business restructuring focused on streamlining business operations, roles, supply chains, and workflows to improve efficiency.
- While this approach captured efficiencies, it resulted in business fragilities because existing systems lacked the flexibility to respond to the disruptions. Contrary, resilient organizations were well-equipped to respond and correct business course quickly with change.
- In this regard, new businesses are creating roles and structures around business outcomes to boost agility, flexibility, and formalize how processes can flex, in order to build a more responsive organization. The new structures should also offer employees diversified, adaptive, and flexible roles to enable them acquire cross-functional knowledge and training.
- Importantly, diversity leaders will see increasing involvement in designing and flexible work and employee training solutions that cater to the needs of employees of all backgrounds when the organization builds new workflow solutions.
2. Embracing New Technologies
- In the past, learning and development professionals across industries have been among the early pioneers of new technologies. In the post-COVID-19 era, it will be more important for them to continue with the trend.
- Businesses and training professionals will shift their focus on technology with respect to three critical areas, including taking advantage of a “learning management system (LMS) or learning content management system (LCMS) more effectively.”
- Second, training managers will need to ensure they have appropriate collaboration tools that can reach remote employees who can no longer avail themselves for in-person meetings in an office space.
- Third, training managers need to leverage these new collaboration technologies to facilitate sharing feedback with remote workers.
3. More Emphasis on Social Learning Methods
- COVID-19 has affected the delivery of remote employee learning and development, which is expected to increase the adoption of social learning techniques post-pandemic. Presently, providing effective and engaging learning solutions that boost the success of a business’ learning strategy have a direct impact on the business’s bottom line.
- On that note, deploying social learning methods and solutions as part of the remote employee training suite will become a necessity, and no longer optional.
- In comparison to traditional classrooms for employee learning and development, social learning follows a real-life approach to learning and emphasizes how employees interact with others for “just-in-time learning and skill acquisition, adopting a 70:20:10 learning framework.”
- Overall, in the future, expect to see many businesses embrace social learning formats throughout the entire remote working period, including measuring the effectiveness and progress of the new programs, while adjusting their internal approach to employee training and development accordingly.
DEVICES AND TECHNOLOGIES FACILITATING EMPLOYEE REMOTE TRAINING
- A Statista report focusing on tools used by law firms to support remote working found out that 97% of law firms were using video meeting apps to facilitate remote working. An estimated 74% of individuals started using video meeting apps once the pandemic started.
- 91% of law firms were using remote desktop software, 72% webinars, 46% used Team chat apps,32% collaboration tools, and 24% preferred live streams.
- The graphic below illustrates the engagement levels based on the devices employees were using to access remote working technologies.
- As per the graphic above, it appears that many remote workers prefer using these technologies on their desktops, except for Slack and Telegram that have the highest usage on mobile.
- OKTA.com published a report titled ‘Business at Work From Home,’ which revealed that Zoom, Palo Alto Global Protect, and Cisco Anyconnect were the top three fastest growing applications and tools based on the number of unique visitors at 110%, 94%, and 86%, respectively.
- More stats on the other contenders are included in the graphic attached below.