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Preventing a backslide in professional development

By Soffos Team
November 13, 2020

The challenges that businesses have faced in 2020 as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic have been well documented. But one issue that has largely slipped beneath the radar is the setback in the professional development domain.

Our CEO Nikolas Kairinos touched upon this briefly in his last column, when he highlighted the need to adapt HR strategies to the post-COVID era. In our quest to determine just how much damage the pandemic has caused to corporate learning and development, however, Soffos.ai recently commissioned a survey across 2,000 UK adults to delve into employees’ own experiences of professional training during the crisis.

Stay tuned for the full results – but for now, here’s a sneak peak of what we discovered…

Uncovering workers’ concerns

Of those in full-time employment, our survey revealed that just over a third (36%) feel that their professional development has regressed as a result of COVID-19. A similar number (35%) were due to take part in a professional training programme(s) this year that have since been postponed or cancelled.

Many employees also expressed frustrations with the lack of clear guidance and voiced concerns about the future. A significant 46% of respondents said that their employer failed to offer any professional training opportunities during the pandemic. Meanwhile, just two in five (40%) full-time workers are confident that their organization has a clear plan in place to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on their own career development.

So, where have businesses gone wrong, and how can we redress the balance?

Stemming the tide

If we are to address the corporate learning gap that the pandemic has exposed, then businesses must be proactive when it comes to creating training strategies that will genuinely help employees progress in their roles.

The first place to start is to understand that learning does not stop at school or university. Indeed, the workplace can be an equally intense and competitive learning environment, with workers constantly being benchmarked against their peers. As demands for different types of skills change, and automation begins to encroach upon the job market, businesses must ensure that their employees are able to adapt by constantly enhancing their skills.

A lifelong learning mentality must therefore form a core part of any workplace training strategy. One-off initiatives might give employees a short boost or a re-fresher in certain basics related to their immediate role, but they will do little to support sustained personal development.

More than that, each employee will have different requirements when it comes to understanding and retaining knowledge, and will want to refine or explore different skills. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is able to learn in the same way, and not everyone wants to learn the same thing. Blanket training policies will rarely have the desired effect, and can be a waste of precious time and company resource.

Instead, businesses should look to pinpoint exactly what skills their employees want and need to improve upon. Some might already have an idea of what areas they want to focus on, while others might require a quick assessment to gauge what they’re already good at, and what they should work on to improve their performance.

When it comes to delivering training that is tailored to each individual’s learning style and career goals,I would encourage business leaders and HR managers to explore which digital solutions can deliver the right support in the most effective way. After all, the rise in automation comes with numerous benefits for the learning and development space, too.

AI-powered solutions that are able to customize lesson plans can encourage learners to forge their own path to success. If certain employees are visual learners, for instance, there is no point in delivering lessons in lecture format. Innovative toolsets can instead locate and deliver stimulating materials to keep users engaged and ensure that they are actually making progress – rather than passively memorizing information, as is so often the case.

Delivering effective training that can upskill professionals and set them up for long-term growth is something we are very passionate about here at Soffos. We know how difficult it can be to keep staff up-to-date with all the key developments in their field.

We hope that our corporate KnowlegeBot will make the task easier for employers worldwide. For more information about how we are working to bolster corporate professional development, take a look at our website.