Corporate learning is undergoing a paradigm shift as organizations adapt to new ways of working and doing business, in response to the cascade of public health, economic, and social crises that were either caused or exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
These events have triggered an accelerated digital transformation of learning that goes beyond simply delivering content electronically. Approaches to online learning are evolving quickly as learning and training leaders align more closely with business owners and take on new responsibilities for employee engagement, well-being, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Although we are not yet fully aware of all the transitions organizations will need to make to adapt to an ever-changing environment, several adaptations to how business works look likely to stick, with considerable implications for the scope and operations of corporate learning.
Workplace learning is undergoing radical changes
Remote work requires new ways of learning. Although remote work was forced on most by the pandemic, some elements look likely to persist well beyond the health crisis. Some organizations have already decided to extend remote working policies permanently; others are planning hybrid models where workers split their time between home and the office; others still are contemplating ‘dual-presence’ approaches with some workers physically present and others remote. As organizations construct new cultures of working enabled by technology, they will need to develop new cultures of learning. There remains a lot of work to be done in this area. In 2020, only 52% of organizations rated themselves technologically ready for corporate learning that supports remote workers.
Organizations and workers align on purpose. Beyond the ‘what’ and the ‘how,’ organizations are focusing on the ‘why’ of their business and the transition to business models that address the needs of all stakeholders. Although purpose-driven organizations existed well before the pandemic, the confluence of crises over the past year has tested whether purpose is a feature or a fad of the modern corporation. Increasingly, purpose can be shown not just as a way to connect the needs of all stakeholders to the business but as an organizing principle that aligns the purpose of the individual, their role, and the business. However, purpose is about more than employee satisfaction and customer loyalty: 84% of business leaders believe that business transformation efforts will have greater success when integrated with organizational purpose.
Learning drives employee engagement. Corporate learning and training have long been correlated with engaged workforces. Given the need for organizations to quickly adapt to rapidly changing circumstances with the help of highly engaged employees, learning will take on a starring (and not just supporting) role in driving employee engagement. This will involve not just supporting individual growth but also greater alignment with the organization’s priorities, mission, and values.
Learning shapes inclusive work. Initiatives around diversity and inclusion gained heightened urgency in 2020 when they were bolstered by calls for fairness and justice at work and in society more broadly. Fostering inclusive workplaces was a top priority for 72% of organizations as they responded to the pandemic. The challenge for corporate learning is how to move beyond talking about the benefits of diversity to building truly inclusive cultures that value and recognize diverse voices and faces. And this means intentional building diversity and inclusion into the learning experiences that shape an organization’s culture.
Learning fosters well-being and belonging. Human-centered approaches to HR that consider employees’ needs for well-being and belonging are becoming increasingly important and central to success. 73% of organizations are focusing on employee well-being, a broad category that includes health and safety, work-life balance, and stress and anxiety. One aspect of organizational culture where organizations are falling short, however, is creating and maintaining a sense of belonging. 45% of newly remote employees reported that work from home had decreased their sense of belonging
Together, these overlapping shifts suggest a new mandate for corporate learning to systematically cultivate organization-wide capabilities that shape and renew corporate culture. For organizations to develop the capabilities they need to innovate in increasingly complex and distributed environments, individuals at all levels need to learn with and from each other. As a result, organizations are increasingly turning to the power of social and collaborative learning technologies to cultivate cultures of learning, establish connections between learners and experts, and drive learner engagement. Effective learning does not happen in isolation.
Effective learning does not happen in isolation.
This blog is the beginning of a series exploring collaborative learning, including practical advice, case studies, and ‘learning recipes’ that span a wide variety of use cases. Read our brand new Complete Guide to Online Collaborative Learning for the Enterprise which provides an overview of a comprehensive — and effective — approach to collaborative learning. Learn about how critical shifts in corporate learning suggest a new mandate for learning, the key components of effective collaborative learning, and case studies of online collaborative learning in action.