Over the last year, those of us normally in office-based jobs have probably all engaged with learning in some form or other. We might have picked up flower arranging, for example, taken up writing, or learnt a new sport with the kids. One thing’s for sure, however: we’ve all had to adapt to the very different ways of going about our job that working from home demands.  

But what about the longer-term? Learning at Work Week kicked off on Monday and it’s a great opportunity to look a little more deeply at the big picture. How has this extraordinary period changed how we learn at work? What can organisations do to keep learners engaged in a world where face-to-face is no longer the default?

Given the economic uncertainty over the last 12 months it’s surprising that, according to a recent LinkedIn learning study, 33 per cent of L&D leaders expect to see budgets increase this year. But while some organisations can afford to implement learning solutions with big price tags, others are forced to operate on slim to non-existent budgets. 

Of course, the biggest change over the last year of course has been the huge shift towards a more online model of learning. The lack of face-to-face contact and the increased need for L&D investment to support with onboarding, compliance, and upskilling have also contributed to a huge acceleration in the adoption of digital learning technologies. For organisations of almost any scale, digital learning went from nice-to-have to must-have almost overnight. 

Most important however has been a transformation of understanding. In the corridors of power learning is finally being viewed as an enabler of success rather than simply a perk. According to LinkedIn, 64 per cent of learning professionals agree that L&D secured a seat at the c-suite table in 2021. In a world where adapting to change at speed and scale has become the prerequisite of survival, L&D has found renewed purpose.

So where are we now?

While the evolution of learning has undoubtedly sped up, the story isn’t universally positive. We’ve seen a slight decrease in perceived development among potential younger demographics (millennials and Gen Z), for example, despite a consistently high appetite for new skills and knowledge.

Now, despite learning and development being grouped together as ‘L&D’, learning and development are not the same thing. But they are linked – so if we’re seeing problems in one, perhaps the solution lies with the other.

In the rush towards digital-first delivery there’s a risk that some people will be left behind. People will only engage with learning if it feels directly relevant and beneficial to them and their personal goals. Digital tools absolutely have a place in the modern world of workplace learning, but without authentic, human engagement digital solutions risk making learning feel like just another administrative task to click through as fast as possible. 

Building a learning culture 

While some digital tools help to engage learners through techniques like personalisation – recommending learning content the same way Netflix would – these aren’t always practical or within reach of every organisation. What can be of benefit to every organisation however is the development of a ‘learning culture’.  

A learning culture doesn’t just offer L&D opportunities in checkbox fashion. It weaves learning through every facet of the workplace, drives people to take responsibility for their own personal and professional growth and uses learning to solve problems and open new opportunities.  

But building a learning culture isn’t as straightforward as making a declaration and expecting people to change their behaviour. Here’s how to get started.

Treat learning as an enabler 

Don’t treat L&D as the realm of HR. Make it part of your problem solving and business development conversations. Consider what additional solutions and opportunities would be unlocked with the right knowledge and skills in the room. Tell stories about the doors learning has unlocked for your organisation. 

Link learning to what matters 

Linking your people to the right learning increases staff engagement both in the learning and in the organisation as a whole. Empower your organisation’s line managers to have honest conversations with their teams about their interests, ambitions, and skillsets to identify potential areas for study that benefit both them and the wider business.

Give people the time 

If learning is something your organisation values you need to be ready to make space for it – and help your people make space for it too. A few hours a month dedicated to reading, watching content online or informal learning will deliver returns that far exceed investment when properly supported by a CPD plan. 

The key is engagement

For learning to continue to deliver on business outcomes in a digital-first, post-pandemic world, L&D professionals need to focus on finding smart, creative ways to engage people in the journey. If you need support with delivering CPD plans, empowering managers to hold development conversations, or storytelling around your learning successes, we’d love to talk.

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