The Coronavirus as intense and hard-hitting as it has been will eventually subside and possibly disappear. What we will remain with is what we have always had, our businesses and our staff. One major strategic goal for most businesses in this day and age is to invest in their staff by providing opportunities for learning and growth. People are the only repository of knowledge and are therefore the main resource in business, because of this current climate of rapid technological change, it is becoming necessary for them to be in a continuous learning mode. There is no need to press the pause button on critical capacity-building interventions for your staff due to the current pandemic even as you continue to increase focus on employee safety.
Workplace learning is emerging as one of the earliest and hardest-hit business activities. Based on observations by McKinsey & Company as of early March, roughly 50% of training programs through June 30, 2020, have been postponed or cancelled in North America whilst parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe, the figure is closer to 100 percent.
According to the Balanced Scorecard system developed by Kaplan and Norton, one of the main strategic focuses of business is Learning and Growth. The objectives in the Learning and Growth perspective of the strategy map are the enablers of the other perspectives. In today’s knowledge-based economy, managers must know and understand that intangible assets are the main drivers of value creation. As you look at trends over the past 20 years it becomes clear that the value of intangible assets in contributing towards business success has increased so much that it has overtaken the contribution of fixed assets. These intangible assets of the business can be split into three distinct areas of capital – human capital, information capital, and organizational capital. This article focuses on Human Capital.
Human capital refers to skills, talent, and know-how necessary to support the execution of the business strategy. Motivated employees with the right kind of skills, know-how, and tools are the key ingredients in driving process improvements, meeting customer expectations and ultimately driving financial returns. It is critical to close the skills gap in strategic positions, train employees for success and recruit and retain the best and the brightest employees for your business to be successful. Businesses can therefore not afford to put capability building on hold. Whether the effort is reskilling at the business-unit level or a company-wide aspirational transformation.
To continue enabling and delivering value-creating efforts, businesses need to adapt programs and delivery, and embrace, establish and expand virtual live learning. Companies need to exploit digital learning and the various technologies that are at their disposal. Some of the more established companies have already begun to do so with IBM deciding to hold its “Think 2020” client and developer conference and its “PartnerWorld” for business partners as “a global, digital-first event” with a combination of live-streamed content, interactive sessions, certification, and locally hosted events and Google changing its Cloud Next event, which attracts some 30,000 attendees, to a digital-only conference this year.
Human Resources managers and their Learning and Development teams need to be work closely with business unit leaders and their IT departments to identify the most important business objectives so that they can develop and deliver corporate training digitally that enhances employee’s knowledge and skills leading to long term solutions and success.
To accomplish that goal, it may be necessary to engage external vendors for training such as consultancies who have seized the moment to provide digital learning opportunities for clients. Those in charge of L&D of staff can even request training programs that are specific to their organisations which their employees can attend in the comfort of their homes. More online learning may be among the results of workplace disruptions due to COVID-19. But as operations go back to normal in the future, the experiments in remote learning should inform practices in the future, a blended approach of in-person and digital learning interventions may change your employee’s for the better.
All segments of the workforce are experiencing a rise in the use of digital solutions to business problems, from frontline managers to senior leaders. In regions such as Asia, where travel restrictions and work-from-home policies have been in place for weeks, digitally-enabled experiences have also created new benefits such as maintaining a sense of community and purpose. Around the world, organizations are using digital learning to increase collaboration among teams that are working remotely, as they take courses together and collaborate in virtual formats (such as videoconferencing and instant messaging).
Although it may be too early to say how COVID-19 will ultimately affect the accelerated adoption of digital learning. What is different today is that keeping people safe and reducing risk has, for now, displaced cost as the key driver behind digital learning. This is the time to embrace virtual learning.
Fadzai Danha is a consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd a management and human resources consulting firm.
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