During this time of crisis, how are leaders thinking about training and development? Indeed, as leaders contemplate their medium- to long-term strategy, they might be considering how to cut nonessential expenses — and that might include investments in employee development.

The impact the right employee development process can have is massive —Gallup finds that organizations that have made a strategic investment in employee development report 11% greater profitability and are twice as likely to retain their employees. Consider the following strategies to keep investing in employee development during this crisis:

1. Offer ongoing support and coaching.
During a crisis, organizations must acknowledge and address anxiety and uncertainty. Recent data from a Gallup Panel survey finds  that fewer than four in 10 employees feel very confident that they will be able to continue to meet the requirements of their job successfully, should the outbreak continue.

Employees want an emotional outlet. Equally important, they want to talk about how they can continue to do good work and contribute in the future. Managers play an important role here — specifically by operating more like coaches than bosses. More frequent check-ins and coaching conversations are a necessity right now.

Many companies make employee assistance programs (EAP) available to employees. These programs are a vital lifeline for employees in distress. Consider establishing an EAP-like communication channel for employee coaching, career counselling and performance development, too. Trained coaches would be available to counsel employees as they navigate these uncertain times — listening, giving advice and preparing employees for when things return to normal.

2. Emphasize critical skills, but don’t forget behavioural skills.
85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. The advent of AI, automation and machine learning are rapidly reshaping the job market. As this crisis fades, there will be greater urgency felt to prepare leaders and employees for the future. This will require HR and learning professionals to dramatically reorient and revise their training calendars.

While these next-generation skills are indeed essential, a 2019 IBM survey showed that, in the future, behavioural skills will be the area with more significant gaps than digital skills. Gallup’s latest research highlights necessary behavioural skills for the future of work:

  • Build relationships. Establish connections with others to build trust, share ideas and demonstrate care during challenging times.
  • Develop people. Help others become more effective through strengths development, clear expectations, encouragement and coaching.
  • Lead change. Recognize that change is essential, and disruption is expected. Set goals for change and lead purposeful efforts to adapt work to align with the stated vision.
  • Inspire others. Even in the most trying times, encourage others through positivity, vision, confidence, challenge and recognition.
  • Think critically. Seek information, critically evaluate and help sort through the available information, apply the knowledge gained, and solve problems.
  • Communicate clearly. Listen, share information concisely and with purpose, and be open to hearing opinions.
  • Create accountability. Identify the consequences of actions and hold yourself and others responsible for performance.

The mounting human cost of the pandemic will be immense, and it’s important not to overlook the social and emotional costs that will come with it. It is so important that leaders use these experiences to develop people to adopt a problem-solving, opportunity-focused mindset. Not only does this help employees throughout their careers and lives, but it also ensures that organizations recover faster and adjust more effectively to the new future of work, post-pandemic.

3. Create a virtual network of learners.
Before the crisis, alternative and multiplatform learning modes were on the rise. Many organizations have successfully implemented e-learning. Cloud-based learning, the use of virtual reality, augmented reality and AI in learning are also gaining prominence in the workplace.

But the actual effectiveness of these methods remains uncertain — primarily because few organizations have tested them out. Gallup’s research shows that developing a blended learning approach (online and instructor-led) is most effective. 

During the crisis, virtual learning must be emphasized, but companies ought to encourage open learning and peer-to-peer learning with other employees. This requires investing in the right learning technologies. But equally important, it requires creating a culture where open feedback and dialogue, and collaborative decision-making are encouraged.

Your opportunity to reassess your employee development strategy.
Even as the uncertainty amid this disruption continues, companies would do well to keep investing in employee learning and development. It matters now, for employee support, and it matters for the future of your company — however that may look after this crisis abates.

This time is an opportunity to curate a balanced learning and development program — one that brings the best of online, instructor-led, and experiential learning in a way that best supports employees during this crisis. Doing this effectively will continue to motivate and inspire them beyond the crisis.

COPA e-Learning Partners
COPA has partnered with e-SKY and ej4 to provide our members with online learning. Click the links above to find out more about these learning management systems. 

Source: Gallup