In order to be successful in this technologically driven workforce, Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning (HBPCL) stresses that leaders should build digital fluency among their employees. Beyond developing skills in domains such as data analytics, automation, and blockchain, digital fluency also means being able to spot trends and seize the possibilities that new technologies can unlock for an organization.
Leaders should also go beyond training programs and help employees take advantage of opportunities to learn on the job, such as co-designing new roles that advance both employees’ development and organizational priorities and helping employees practice new skills and expand their professional networks. Leaders who utilize such tactics enable their organizations to gain competencies critical for sustained high performance.
Elisa Friedman, Senior Manager, Editorial and Curation at HBPCL, has joined us to discuss how you can get your leaders on the same page when it comes to training their direct reports to be digitally savvy in order to keep up in this technological climate.
HR Daily Advisor: As the workforce continues to adapt to the technology that’s been put in place, what advice would you give leaders who may need to upskill workers who lack the technological skills needed to perform the job?
Friedman: To keep pace with continual changes in technology, organizations must equip managers and employees with new competencies and foster a different mind-set. While employees must opt in to their own digital upskilling and invest the time and effort required to acquire new skills, leaders also need to make investments that support lifelong learning for everyone.
Leaders should consider the impact of technology across all areas of their organizations and promote the use of data and analytics to guide decision-making and planning. Finally, 21st-century leaders are responsible for creating work cultures that support digital transformation and openness to experimentation.
Organizations looking to digitally upskill their workforces would benefit from PwC’s example. PwC has developed a comprehensive workforce strategy to build the “digital fitness” of all its people, equipping them with a broad base of knowledge across a variety of domains, such as data, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, blockchain, and design thinking.
PwC develops digital fitness through tech-enabled learning, including podcasts, gamification, immersive skill building, multimedia content, and quizzes pushed through mobile platforms not limited by the traditional boundaries of classrooms.
HR Daily Advisor: HBPCL research shows that an organization’s approach to talent development will make or break its success. Do you have any strategies you can offer that will help HR/learning and development (L&D) pros better develop their workforce?
Friedman: Organizations should encourage L&D to incorporate learner-driven experiences for employees. Because managers today are so time-pressed, L&D must ensure its programs enable individuals to make the best use of the time they have. Making learning experiences relevant to managers furthers their development, which benefits their teams.
Another important strategy is personalization. Employees today do not want mass-produced, cookie-cutter learning experiences. Personalization offers employees control over how to tailor their learning to their unique needs at a particular moment. One day, they may want an intensive experience, but another day, they may favor a short-burst approach. Learners also want to be able to choose the type of content they experience, whether video, article, or podcast.
Although learning is increasingly self-directed, today’s leaders should take a more active role in their employees’ L&D. Leaders should behave like coaches, providing consistent feedback and offering new ways for learning on the job. They also need to give employees opportunities to apply what they’ve learned.
Most importantly, leaders must work to keep the lines of communication with their employees open. In our research report with Degreed, we found that only 38% of managers conducted periodic check-ins with their employees. The percentage of managers checking in with their direct reports should be higher—and those meetings should be more frequent.
The lesson for leaders? Employees want to be in control of their learning, but they still need guidance to ensure they’re focusing on the right learning.
HR Daily Advisor: According to the HBPCL research, digital fluency means being able to spot trends and understand how new technologies can benefit an organization. How does someone become digitally fluent? Is this something that can be trained? How would organizations be able to transfer this skill to their workforce?
Friedman: An employee becomes digitally fluent by developing a working knowledge of the opportunities and challenges of the digital economy and the mind-set and skills required for success. Additionally, it means being able to spot trends and seize the possibilities that new technologies can unlock for an organization.
An effective leader recognizes digital technology’s potential to help the organization more effectively serve customers and create new value for customers and the business. Leaders should commit to the right investments, assets, and processes. Employees should be empowered to learn new digital tools and given the time to apply that learning. The acquisition of new skills and their demonstrated impact need to be celebrated—and credentialed.
HR Daily Advisor: Employee engagement continues to be an issue for many employers across the country. HBPCL research says that “leaders who can inspire others to deeply connect with the organization bring immense value,” which can also help improve employee retention. What are some ways leaders can inspire their workers to keep them more engaged?
Friedman: Senior leaders can inspire their employees by laying the groundwork for effective learning experiences, as well as deepening the connections between individuals and their organizations. In the joint report we conducted with Degreed, 30% of employees felt they lacked guidance to direct their learning, while another 30% felt that their company didn’t recognize or reward workplace learning. As a result, employees felt disengaged and were often critical of their employer’s L&D methods.
Leaders can remove this roadblock and inspire engagement by articulating a clear, overarching purpose. This purpose includes how the company’s activities contribute to the social good and address important issues of the day, as well as how employees’ work and learning support that purpose. Another tactic that senior leaders can implement is improving the connection among managers, L&D, and learners. The Degreed report found that only 39% of managers gave regular feedback on performance or skills, while 38% conducted periodic check-ins.
Managers must make the effort to connect more often with their employees, as workforces thrive when managers give learning recommendations, open up development opportunities, and agree on relevant goals for upskilling.
Lastly, leaders should empower employees to make learning a habit. To do this, leaders should combine external and internal motivations to encourage employees to learn. When employees feel supported in their learning goals, they tend to be more motivated—and contribute their best to their teams and organizations.
HR Daily Advisor: These are all amazing tips to keep in mind when developing your entire workforce! To learn more about HBPCL and Degreed’s recent research, click here.