One by-product of 2020’s rapidly changing world of work is a renewed focus on learning and development (L&D). Some companies have had to quickly train employees on remote work and culture. Others have had to roll out COVID-related safety training pronto. In short, L&D became business critical in a radically new way in 2020. And it’s a wake-up call for many organizations.
To meet their charter, L&D departments must empower their companies to swiftly train people in an ever-evolving world. And for many L&D organizations, that’ll mean investing in better L&D solutions in 2021. Here are three arguments you can use to convince your boss it’s time to modernize the way you train.
1) Remote workers need remote training that doesn’t stink.
A recent Gartner survey found that 82% of business leaders plan to maintain a partial work-from-home structure even after COVID-19 is no longer a threat. In short, remote work is here to stay. And even if your organization plans to resume in-person operations, COVID has made it clear that organizations need remote training capability.
Not only is it risky for L&D to rely on in-person training, but it’s also not smart. Online training empowers an organization to quickly build and deploy training that’s needed now, not 3 months from now. Online training is easily adaptable as needs (or knowledge) evolve. Online training is scalable and cost effective. You build it once, and there’s no limit to how many people can consume it. And, online training is convenient for employees, as they can take it anytime from anywhere.
Let me offer an example of how online training can make a serious business impact. When COVID hit, the phone disinfectant start-up PhoneSoap experienced an unprecedented spike in sales. With the surge in new business, the company desperately needed to train a huge volume of customer service reps. And it needed to do it while people were under government-mandated lockdowns.
With an online training system, PhoneSoap created and disseminated online customer service training in a matter of days. Reps completed the training from the safety of their homes, and PhoneSoap could easily track online who had or had not completed the training. The company can now also update training quickly to make sure reps are always prepared to service customers effectively. “We were able to streamline the training process and train reps quickly and thoroughly,” says Kelli Sprunt, communications manager at PhoneSoap.
2) Culture is a differentiator, and it needs safeguarding.
Today, customers have a lot of choices, and they are increasingly choosing companies that make doing business with them easy, memorable, and pleasant. As customer experience becomes more important, so does L&D’s responsibility to safeguard and transfer the practices, traditions, and styles that define the customer experience. Often, company culture is lived but not deliberately and carefully passed on. It’s propagated through employee-to-employee interactions that are fleeting and can be lost forever when an employee leaves.
Take Sean Ham’s story. In 2015, he took over Iconik Coffee, a local coffee roaster in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over 5 years, it amassed a binder filled with best practices to keep Iconik “Iconik.” At first, it conducted in-person training and sent around Google docs to train employees on Iconik Coffee’s culture and special way of doing business. “We’d find out three months later that someone had never clicked to do the trainings and were showing up blind to this valuable information,” Ham says.
When COVID hit, Iconik decided to spend the time keeping staff productive, engaged, and employed by transferring all the critical culture content into an online training system. Now the company can easily see who has completed all the training—and make sure day-to-day interactions with customers reflect its mission and values.
In this age of customer choice, L&D departments must reduce the risk of losing precious cultural capital that sets their organizations apart. They can’t afford not to invest in a modern training system that makes it easy to capture, distribute, and track knowledge to and from employees about the special way they work.
3) Democratizing training will multiply the power of your internal knowledge.
L&D’s role is to facilitate people’s development at their organizations. But often, the training created by L&D departments takes a long time to produce and becomes quickly outdated. And many L&D departments ignore one of the best resources they have for people development: their own employees.
Employees have a wealth of up-to-date knowledge to share that can enrich the work (and sometimes lives) of other employees. But usually, they have no way to showcase that knowledge other than unwieldy PowerPoints or laborious documents. These are not engaging or compelling knowledge-sharing mediums. Thus, it’s not very fun for employees to share their knowledge, nor is it enjoyable for other employees to digest it.
L&D departments need to recognize the power of building a learning culture and unlocking the knowledge currently stuck in employees’ heads. L&D’s role is to facilitate employee development, and that includes giving employees a way to easily train others on what they know. Successful L&D departments understand this and use learning to build a sense of community that attracts, motivates, and engages their employees.
What if your L&D department saw employee-created learning not as a threat but as a value-creating strategic advantage for the company? In that frame of mind, it’s critical to invest in an online training platform that democratizes training. The return on investment (ROI) is incalculable, and the cost of not shifting mind-sets is high.
While I suspect we’ll all be happy to have 2020 in our rearview mirrors, the volatility of these times has proved illuminating for many organizations. We’ve realized that business as usual, while comfortable, isn’t always wise. We need to constantly learn, evolve, and train our people when we have to pivot quickly. And we can’t afford not to invest in the means to do so.
Lucy Suros is the president of Articulate, one of the first and largest fully remote companies in America and a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business with two product lines, Articulate 360 and Rise.com, an all-in-one training system. Suros runs every aspect of the company and regularly writes and speaks on the topics of virtual training and remote work, sharing much of what she has learned from leading Articulate.