How Training Technology and LMS Support Upskilling
Reskilling the workforce has long been top-of-mind for organizations. Today, as leaders respond to global disruption, many with a remote workforce, they are relying on training technology and learning management systems (LMS) more than ever before.
The COVID-19 global health crisis and economic instability compel many companies to “do more with less” when it comes to the important priority of reskilling and upskilling. Fortunately, workforce training technology is mature enough such that companies can choose from a range of functionalities that fit their needs and budget.
When one multinational insurance company transitioned to remote work, its HR leaders recognized that roughly 500 of its workers weren’t being productive. Instead of immediately reaching for short-term solutions to improve productivity, the company shifted its focus to preparing their people for the jobs of the future by reskilling. The company’s priority remains its people—and that includes equipping them for tomorrow.
Leaders are trying to cut through the noise to find the best solutions for their employees—whether in a period of growth or crisis. For example, hospitals, research institutes, and health organizations are meeting the needs of frontline workers by creating training technology and educational resources to prevent and limit exposure to COVID-19.
While the latest advancements are changing the game for LMS, not all tech investments may be right for every company right now. Here’s what companies can consider when investing in a new solution.
- Functionality that’s tied to your business objectives
When choosing among the many options of training technology, the first thing to verify is that a solution’s functionality can support a company’s needs. Once companies determine their business goals and a solid workforce strategy, they can look for functionality that’s tied to achieving those objectives. For many companies, flexible, open platforms may be needed to support multiple, critical elements of a business.
One energy company, for example, would only allow employees who had completed required certification training to have authorization to enter a particular part of a nuclear facility. The company needed an LMS that could fully integrate employee credentialing to its training courses and sensitive operations.
Similarly, a pharmaceutical company may need to validate learning to comply with requirements tied to national drug regulations. A solution that offers ecosystem innovation, including partner apps, can provide additional, flexible functionality throughout the employee lifecycle (including recruiting, onboarding, development, and succession management). While some large companies may need open solutions that support a variety of use cases, others may want niche training technology that targets specific industries, such as education or health. Either way, companies should stop and look for technology that most precisely supports their goals. And, given the range of solutions now available, you may be able to design an LMS more perfectly tailored to your company’s strategy than you realize.
Many companies with multiple locations or a large workforce will need an enterprise-driven LMS, whether they are reskilling hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of employees.
As more companies turn to their remote workforce during the global health crisis, small or medium-sized companies may also need solutions that can be scaled securely and efficiently in their employees’ homes. Mobile learning technologies that can be accessed on the go, such as via smartphones, could improve adoption for remote workers and employees who lack dedicated training time, including salespeople on the road.
While tools that incorporate virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) training may not be conducive to tactile situations, they may be beneficial to prepare employees for emergency or unique scenarios. These emerging technologies are a great example of how modern training tools can help businesses address new challenges and help employees upskill and reskill.
Walmart, for example, trained more than one million employees in 2019 with VR to offer learning with sensory immersion, including testing it as one way to interview job candidates. The company also sent VR goggles to store locations to train employees to set up a machine that retrieves orders that customers placed online. The VR goggles now replace the need of three or four people to travel to the store location to assemble the machine, maintain it, and train how employees interact with it. Whether working in retail, oil rigs, or farms, many employees could reach new levels of productivity and engagement with customizable solutions that are built to scale.
- Collaboration among employees—and employers
In many settings, enabling employees to drive their own learning can improve program adoption, engagement, and a culture of learning. Many employees will respond positively to iterative upskilling that provides a sense of ownership and pride over the knowledge they gain. For one company, that kind of iterative upskilling took the form of videos that employees would produce and share to train colleagues about areas of their own expertise.
Social learning can bring benefits to a remote workforce in particular by countering the potential isolation, anxiety, and lack of motivation that teams may face. Social boards, chats, and game-style “missions” are some LMS features that can improve collaboration while maintaining social distancing. Managers can also use features like these to target skills that match new priorities and encourage teams to reach their goals.
- Change management support
Introducing an upskilling program across an enterprise is a major undertaking in organizational change management. The alignment of values, people, and culture to achieve a desired outcome won’t come just from adopting a new technology. Change management is a critical part of any company’s learning experience discussion for at least three reasons.
First, making sure the technology fits an organization and its people will raise adoption rates so employees and the organization can get the most value from it.
Second, responsive, data-driven change management will provide a longer shelf life for the technology.
Third, adding any training technology to an organization will require governance, including assigning responsibility over roles and the segmented data that you may collect from it. Many reskilling experts will say that governance is just as important, if not more important, than the reskilling technology itself.
HR leaders aren’t the only ones investing in these solutions. The majority of learning users for training platforms tend to be outside HR, including safety, compliance, and sales training. While budgets remain tight and tensions can simmer between departments about which group should own and manage upskilling and reskilling priorities, LMS options should provide a proven return on investment (ROI). Efficiencies can include the decreased time it takes to find and share information or increased revenue (or decreased costs) from standardizing employee training technology and support. An independent study of SAP Jam, for example, by Forrester Consulting found that the average ROI increased by 18.5% from 2016 to 2018 as customers found more ways to use the collaboration platform.
To support the change management that comes with introducing a new technology, companies should look for solutions that offer the ability to beta-test, iterate, and customize it to the workforce’s needs. Enterprise-wide solutions should offer customer support to leaders and employees for a seamless learning experience.
- Beware of buzzwords, stay focused on your people
Today’s LMS can use advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to provide everything from coaching to employee development plans at a scale like never before. But as leaders assess LMS options that offer these new technologies and buzzwords, it’s important that they first remain committed to a workforce strategy focused on business goals.
While features like gamification and social learning could have a major impact on some organizations, they may lack relevance for other companies’ goals. For many organizations, instructor-led classroom learning may still have its place in the future. Continuously listening to employees will provide actionable insights to respond to their needs and design an effective learning experience.
Many upskilling experts will agree that learning and upskilling is a journey for employees and employers. As companies invest heavily in new technologies, the overarching goal is to invest effectively in your people.
A company’s long-term workforce strategy comprises more than the LMS it chooses. Learning experience management includes the new skills and knowledge people will attain as well as an efficient, agile way of working. The optimal upskilling program will help shift people to new, future-facing roles and support breakthrough innovation across an enterprise.