Learning will need to be better integrated into employees’ daily tasks, especially in busy environments, in order to develop the skills needed as workplaces become more automated, L&D experts have advised.
With the World Economic Forum predicting that 54% of the global workforce will need to be reskilled by 2022 as more manual tasks become automated, employers need to dedicate extra resources to learning and development (L&D), delegates at last week’s CIPD Festival of Work were told.
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But organisations will need to reimagine their L&D strategies to ensure staff are able to continuously develop their skills while minimising time spent away from the job, according to Brian Murphy, global head of learning transformation at AstraZeneca.
If staff are taking time out of their day to develop the skills needed for the future, the learning needs to be useful to them. “We need to make sure it’s worthwhile. How many of us have done compliance training that’s not relevant [to our roles]?” he said.
“There needs to be a mindset shift and we should design work to incorporate learning into the workflow.”
Traditional learning techniques, such as classroom-based learning or online courses, are not always accessible for staff in more hands-on roles in the hospitality or retail industries, for example.
Thomas Bacon, head of L&D at McDonald’s, said the learning management system (LMS) it currently uses is inaccessible to staff in its restaurants unless they take time away from their daily roles and access it on a computer. Instead, it is looking at a blended learning solution to minimise the time staff spend on training.
Short videos and “bitesized” learning materials might be more useful in roles where workers were not able to take much time away from their daily tasks, suggested Lidl’s head of L&D Alastair Cumming.
“We can’t take people away from the shop floor for long periods of time,” he said. “We’re developing an app that staff will be able to access when they want and how they want.”
Stephanie Wheat, HR business partner at Highways England, said technology could enable organisations to offer L&D in an engaging way, but the requirements would differ between organisations and job roles.
Highways England, which is responsible for the operation and maintenance of England’s A-roads and motorways, uses VR simulations to develop the skills of workers who are on the road and help them learn about the consequences their actions – such as putting out a road sign or closing a lane on the motorway – will have on the road network.
However, Cumming warned that technology such as apps cannot be relied upon for all L&D and employers need to meet the needs of all staff, including those who did not have a smartphone or prefer to learn offline.
“There’s absolutely a place for the classroom. It helps with applying the knowledge and it’s a discussion place to enable people to make mistakes and learn from them.
“[L&D] must be aimed at the people who are learning, not the L&D team,” he said.
There needs to be a mindset shift and we should design work to incorporate learning into the workflow” – Brian Murphy, AstraZeneca
While the responsibility for ensuring the workforce has the necessary skills ultimately lies with the employer, Murphy noted that employees also have a role in making sure their abilities meet the needs of the business. He suggested allowing staff to take control of their own development, but they should be given a framework outlining the skills that will need to be learned. Employers will still need to provide the tools and materials from which to learn from.
“These things are really important in creating a culture of continuous learning,” he said, adding that giving staff the power to decide what they learn would help learning become a democratised experience”.