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Goodbye, 2021! We usher in each new year with the traditional “ball drop”… and also a pledge not to drop the ball on New Year’s resolutions.
But often that’s easier said than done. Some studies show that only 4% of people stick to all their New Year’s resolutions. Many abandon ship within months or even weeks.
But I’m not talking here about resolutions related to exercise or other forms of self-improvement. For businesses, the new year brings an opportunity to define new business-related goals and resolutions — and put processes in place to follow through on them.
Given my background in education, I’m particularly passionate about driving learning and development (L&D) improvements within businesses. Amidst the upheaval we’ve seen the past two years, and the turnover companies are experiencing during the “Great Resignation,” L&D is especially important to business continuity and resilience, employee retention and great customer experiences.
So let’s look at key training resolutions companies can make for 2022 — and ways to keep them! — that will be a win-win (win) for businesses, their employees and customers alike.
1. Focus on upskilling and reskilling
As market conditions, industry regulations, job requirements, customer needs (and so on!) evolve, employees often need to “unlearn” and relearn key information and competencies, and diversify their skill sets. Closing knowledge gaps and providing more on-the-job training can help employees grow their confidence, perform better and feel more secure about their future.
Plus, upskilling and reskilling are good for the business too! Consider this information from Deloitte’s 2021 organizational resilience report, which notes that “an adaptable workforce begets a resilient culture.” The study found that business leaders ranked “flexibility and adaptability” as the workforce trait most important to their organization’s future. In addition, 69% of C-level executives whose companies had implemented training or rotational programs to help reskill workers prior to the pandemic said that their organizations weathered the events of 2020 “well/very well,” compared to their peers.
So how do you know when employees can use a knowledge or skills refresh or diversification, and on what? Combine a “gut-check” from managers with training-performance data and training-needs assessments. Taking inventory of employee knowledge and performance at planned intervals can give organizations the momentum to follow through on their upskilling and reskilling goals.
It’s also important to note that these learning processes don’t just have to be part of structured, formal programs. You can enable employees to tap into various learning ecosystems (including reputable online communities, wikis, forums and knowledge bases) and provide them with various “knowledge cards” (with informal, useful, quick on-the-job tips), just-in-time videos and other digestible, mobile-ready content. Incorporating gamification can also make upskilling and reskilling fun and measurable.
2. Develop training experiences for the hybrid workforce
Wherever your people are, they need ongoing training — whether they’re onboarding; learning about new products, messaging or strategies; undergoing compliance training; and much more. Chances are, in the year ahead, many of these activities will be conducted remotely.
This gives organizations an opportunity to strategically employ different training modalities, considering the right approach for the situation and learners at hand. Keep in mind that gathering everyone together, especially when your employee base spans time zones, can be difficult. (At CYPHER LEARNING, we offer all-hands meetings at multiple times, when they need to be live.) Still, live training — conducted in-person or online — may be a good fit for interactive activities such as role-plays. In many other instances, asynchronous e-learning (consumed at the learner’s schedule and pace) will make sense.
Once learners have consumed online training and demonstrated their knowledge, it’s also important that their training experiences not be one-sided. Managers should commit to delivering feedback efficiently and in a format suited to their employees — be it through online chats, audio recordings or even videos.
How can organizations follow through and see if their training experiences are meeting the needs of their hybrid workforce? Focus on meeting learning goals rather than hours logged, and solicit feedback from trainers and learners alike.
3. Don’t neglect the “soft side” of training
When I talk about the soft side of training, it’s in reference both to developing soft skills and to seeing how employees themselves feel about their training.
Of course, employees need more than just knowledge about your business and its products to do their jobs well. So commit to providing training on other important topics that are relevant across industries: communication skills; empathy; time management; diversity, equity and inclusion; how to best learn online; how to best manage employees and their learning remotely (when employees are stir-crazy, lonely, experience digital fatigue, etc.); and more.
There’s typically no need to reinvent the wheel — pre-packaged modules on topics like these exist that can be customized for your business. And you can stick to your goal of addressing key topics by creating a training content calendar.
Also query employees about the range of training they participate in, along with training formats. What did they like best? Where would they suggest improvements? What did they find engaging?
Interestingly, in the near future, learning management systems (LMSs) will likely incorporate learners’ ratings of training content into their learning journeys — so your employees can continue to pursue the topics and types of content that interest them and relate most to their professional development. Many learning systems also support competency-based learning, which focuses on skills mastery and enables learners to advance in their learning paths after demonstrating knowledge of the material — in other words, helping tailor training to the individual.
Resolving to keep training resolutions
The benefits of defining, refining and keeping training goals are numerous — ranging from a more skilled and adaptable workforce, to more fulfilled employees, to better talent retention, to improved business results and more.
Whether it’s these resolutions or others, use the new year to gain new perspectives into your training initiatives and align them with your overall business goals. For example, at my company, where we’ve been growing rapidly over the last year, we’re looking to enhance new employee onboarding, measure the results over an extended period of time and include even more informal learning opportunities as part of a continual culture of learning. So in the year ahead, here’s to improved, flexible and results-driven learning experiences for your organization — and best wishes for a healthy and prosperous year!