If there’s one thing that many employees hoped they’d have more of when working remotely through the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s time to spend on learning and personal growth. But even with no commutes and (sadly) less time spent chatting at the watercooler, time continues to be one of the biggest obstacles that stands between employees and learning. In fact, between all of the obstacles associated with remote work, employees have less time than ever. And learning has never been more crucial.
In the midst of the crisis, our team at Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) surveyed 1,000 employees and 500 C-level executives and HR managers from around the world to learn about their views on skills development in the modern workplace. Our findings, compiled in our report, "A License to Skill: Embracing the Reskilling Revolution," revealed that 61% of employees see time as a barrier to their development. This, paired with the acceleration of workplace change, fuels employee insecurity immensely:
- 30% of employees are concerned that their jobs won’t be needed in the next few years
- 47% feel concerned that their role will change significantly in the next few years
- 21% of employees were concerned about their job becoming too digitally technical and the same number believed their role would be filled by more qualified candidates
- 18% thought their role would be automated by a machine
This level of unease can lead to uncertainty, disengagement, lost productivity, higher absenteeism and greater turnover. Learning is one way to curb these fears—but how can you encourage employees to make time for learning and build their skills, when their time is most scarce?
Making Learning a Part of Everyday Work
Employees need many things to feel confident about their position and work, continuous feedback, mentorship, clarity and of course learning. For example, a role won’t become too digitally technical if the employee has spent time developing analytical, digital dexterity and domain skills in their chosen field. The investment in continuous development keeps employees’ skills up-to-date—subsequently shrinking the skills gap and boosting confidence—but there’s a perception that learning is something employees have to do outside of work, on their own time. Learning in the flow of work not only breaks through the barrier of time, but delivers learning in the moment of need, often making it more effective. And it makes learning a part of the work, not apart from it.
By integrating learning into the flow of work, employees can access and receive training as they complete their typical workday tasks. If they need to apply a new skill or leverage a new tool, they should be able to simply access content around these unfamiliar concepts and gain the necessary knowledge in the moment. This is more natural and effective because it’s active and scenario-based. Employees apply what they’ve learned right away, which ensures that lessons stick. Plus, removing the hindrance of switching back and forth between work and learning sparks a cycle of efficiency: The employee is simultaneously completing their work while improving their skills and setting themselves—and their company—up for success in the long-run.
Creating a Culture of Learning
Investing in learning technologies that offer learning in the flow of work is a critical part of preparing workforces for the future. But, it takes more than technology alone. The sentiment that employees should always be learning needs to come from all levels and be woven into the very fabric of an organization. Learning technology might be the way in which employers can actually execute on always learning, but simultaneously setting cultural shifts in-motion is how real change occurs.