By Nikolas Kairinos, Founder and CEO, Soffos
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, e-learning platforms and online training became less of an option and more of a necessity. Although such software had been on the horizon for quite some time, as news of the pandemic and strict social distancing measures brought in-person programmes to a standstill, employers were left with little other choice than to adapt their learning and development (L&D) strategies.
From virtual lectures and Q&As, to industry-specific webinars and tutorials, corporations and small businesses alike have changed the way they share knowledge and upskill their employees. That said, this move to entirely digitised learning has not been without its trials and tribulations.
The pandemic has thrown up different challenges for businesses across all sectors looking to bolster the career development of their employees. Indeed, a significant 42% of full-time workers admit that they find it difficult to properly engage with learning materials and training courses when they are conducted online, according to a recent survey commissioned by Soffos.ai.
With the new digital landscape to endure for the foreseeable future, e-learning platforms remain the obvious solution to the need to support workers' career progression. So, here are some things to consider when considering whether your L&D strategies are in tune with your employees' needs…
Taking a person-first approach
One of the first questions employers should ask themselves, is whether their e-learning L&D caters to the masses. If this is the case, it might be time for a change in tack.
The truth is, most businesses are guilty of taking a blanket approach, where a made-to-measure plan is what is actually required. The biggest problem with this is that generic learning solutions, designed to inform your employees using only one simple method (think basic lectures and top-line Q&As), fail to take into account individual differences and learning styles. Naturally, one style won't be for everyone, and employees might fail to adequately absorb and utilise new information if the way it is presented does not chime with their preferred learning technique.
Ordinarily, in-person sessions provide an antidote to this, as mentors are often able to customize information to suit workers, or else answer any questions when needed. But as we are likely to be working from our kitchen tables for some time yet, it would be wise for companies to determine how their staff members work best.
A positive first step would be to conduct an organization-wide survey to find out individual learning styles, before investing in new resources. HR leaders should then work with employees to plan an L&D programme that fits their unique needs and goals, and encourage active learning methods. For example, supplementing standard lecture and exam-based learning with other methods, like online moderated classrooms and Zoom de-briefs will ensure that individuals are engaging better with content.
Ensuring that learning is holistic
Another problem with straightforward online L&D is that it often lacks a 'human' quality, so employers would do well to keep this in mind when developing their training strategies. It goes without saying, but unless your organization has already invested in state-of-the-art software, users won't be able to ask their computer questions to clarify material, and will often be left with a library full of resources but nobody to turn to if they get stuck.
In the aforementioned Soffos.ai survey, only 19% of workers agreed that online learning software or courses are an effective replacement for in-person teaching. And although replicating in-person training sessions is a difficult task in the working from home environment, there are some ways that organizations can get a head start.
One such method would be to encourage active discussion amongst colleagues, or consider checking in with employees after courses have been delivered. Doing so will ensure that the experience lends itself to a more "Socratic" style of learning, and allows members of staff to engage in an exchange of information, enabling both peers and mentors to contribute.
For organizations with bigger budgets, investing in Natural Language Processing (NLP) software that does all of the hard work for them will pay dividends in both staff productivity and employee relationships. These tools work by utilising voice and text natural language conversation to prompt your staff with conversational cues, allowing them to discuss learning materials without ever needing a training leader to supervise. This is a great way to make learning feel engaging and informal, just as though employees were talking to an experienced member of staff.
Looking to AI for answers
Increasingly, investing in technologies that look to make a big impact by using artificial intelligence (AI) will be the best move for employers when upskilling their workforce. And with some luck, this will mean that the days of generic training solutions – ones that rely on large pre-made archives which contain no reference to specific organizations and their individual practices – will finally be a thing of the past.
Cutting-edge AI technologies will render such strategies null in the future, as they will be able to adapt training materials to suit specific organizations. From integrating company lingo, cultural nuances and information specific to certain roles within your company, the AI-powered platforms of tomorrow should hopefully speak your company's language.
The benefit of this, is that like your employees, AI technologies will learn consistently from their interactions with members of staff, and will be able to adjust their output. For example, if an employee doesn't quite understand a specific piece of information, AI-powered software will be able to reword this to make the material easier to digest.
Ultimately, although the past year has been tricky for HR departments developing their L&D strategies, the future looks bright for e-learning. In the weeks and months to come, there are a number of things business leaders can do to boost their training strategies, and ensure that their employees are set up for success.
Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos, the world's first AI-powered KnowledgeBot. The platform streamlines corporate learning and development (L&D) to deliver seamless professional training for employees. You can follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.