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The biggest L&D challenges holding companies back

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At this point, it makes sense to understand the major challenges that plague learning and development programs and how organizations can address each challenge. But first, let's look at what the data tells us. According to research by the Harvard Business Review,

  • Around 75% of 1,500 managers surveyed from across 50 organizations were dissatisfied with their company's Learning & Development (L&D) function.
  • 70% of employees reported that they do not have mastery of the skills needed to do their jobs.
  • Only 12% of employees were seen applying new skills learned in L&D programs to their jobs.

So where are companies going wrong? Here are the four possible areas:

  1. Training at the wrong time: Companies often undertake L&D initiatives when their employees are already overburdened with work or have other commitments that require their attention. If enterprises chart out L&D programs in which employees have to have time or interest to learn, the entire initiative will fail.

    Solution: The L&D program should empower the employee with the freedom, time, and flexibility to learn at their own pace as well as convenience.
  2. Training for the wrong things: According to German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, if new information that is taught is not applied, the learner will forget about 75% of it after just six days. In other words, the program should find ways to incorporate the new learnings into the employee's daily work to drive better knowledge retention.

    Solution: This can be done by embracing the lean learning method where:
    A. The learner learns about the core of what they need to learn.
    B. Then, they apply the learning to real-world situations immediately.
    C. They receive immediate feedback and refine their understanding.
    D. The learning cycle gets repeated.
  3. Training without a learning ecosystem in place: Enterprises still focus primarily on in-person classroom teaching. This kind of unidimensional teaching will no longer fly in today's digitally-savvy world. Employees demand a comprehensive blend of learning formats at their fingertips, available via multichannel options—thus, giving birth to the need for a broader learning ecosystem.

    Solution: Organizations should evolve their learning ecosystems to encompass a wide variety of learning formats such as online courses, classroom training, mobile learning, expert sessions, internships, etc. For example, HDFC Life leverages gamification to enrich the learning experience of its employees for key areas such as competency and functional training. Additionally, Infosys has developed a gamified platform, "Accelerate," to ensure that every employee actively contributes towards organizational goals by opening up opportunities for short-duration projects.
  4. Training is seen as a "cost": Enterprises that view L&D with a "cost" mindset will always look for short-term gains—a big mistake. The learning and development process is an ongoing exercise that is aimed at benefiting the employees at regular intervals.

    Solution: Enterprises need to view training as a mid to long-term investment and not a one-time overhead cost. It is important to understand that the learners will not start to demonstrate the benefits immediately; it will occur over a period of time.

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Standard Chartered Use Case: Preparing Employees to be Future-Ready

In this section, we will dive deep to understand the main L&D-related challenges Standard Chartered faced and how the bank tackled the same.

Problems faced:

  • Technological changes: Advancements in emerging technologies such as automation, blockchain technologies, cloud-based platforms, artificial intelligence, and data processing was creating operational issues for the bank.
  • Changing user needs: The enterprises was dealing with increased demands from clients for personalization, 24/7 access, and an improved customer experience.
  • Faltering productivity: The bank was unable to keep up and improve on competitiveness as well as productivity.
  • Shift in skills: The bank realized a greater need for a shift in the skills mix. In simpler words, there was greater demand for data and technology-related roles over the next five years.

Proposed solution: To enable the effective reskilling and upskilling of its existing workforce instead of relying exclusively on hiring new talent to meet the strategic priorities and business objectives.

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Strategies applied and lessons learned:

  • Data-driven approach: To understand the scale of the challenge and the need for critical skills, the brand drew on a blend of external insights, internal interviews with 30 senior leaders, and workshops. This also helped them understand the top-ten skills to focus on and provided a clear view of the "future" roles (roles in-demand) and "sunset" roles (roles where fewer people will be needed) over the next five years. The brand then put together a learning infrastructure to support people to reskill, redeploy as needed, and pilot an end-to-end reskilling and redeployment pathway approach for the initial five "future" roles.
  • Experiential learning: The bank implemented a digital learner experience platform, "diSCover Lab," in Singapore to make high-quality content more accessible, boost job readiness, career prospects, and future competitiveness of the Singapore workforce. In addition, the aim was to encourage a learning and growth-centric mindset among employees by:

     - Launching a 30-day challenge competition to drive adoption and build familiarity.

     - Leveraging its Global Learning Week, which brought together senior speakers both internally and externally, to highlight and discuss the importance of learning with colleagues. Through the diSCover Lab, the bank aims to train and upskill 8,000 employees in Singapore by 2022. The diSCover Lab provides a flexible learning environment and embraces a "hybrid" approach of virtual and face-to-face training. Think of diSCover as the bank's "Netflix of Learning," where employees can access a multitude of bite-sized learning modules and curriculum, from blockchain to data, to Artificial Intelligence, and personal development. The platform is personalized, career-focused, fun, engaging, and experiential in nature.

The results?

  • 82% of colleagues registered on diSCover, and an average of 25% actively used diSCover every month.
  • The overall volume of personal development learning increased by 16% in 2020, despite a complete halt to all classroom courses owing to the pandemic.
  • The future skills academies delivered 47% of all personal development learning in 2020.
  • Quarterly learning hours via these academies more than doubled in Q4 2020.

Important tips to remember when creating an interactive learning platform:

  • Embrace an end-to-end approach that supports colleagues from reskilling to redeployment.
  • Keep the employee experience and needs at the forefront of every initiative.
  • Ensure that the learning is fun, engaging, experiential, and tech-driven.
  • Remember that learning technology is an enabler and not the primary focus of the L&D program.
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