The newest generation of employees are digital learners accustomed to interactively gaining knowledge online as needed, and that’s a big problem for many organizations.
According to a recent employee experience (EX) survey from Forrester Consulting that was commissioned by SAP SuccessFactors, Qualtrics, and EY, about 40% of people managers and direct reports were not satisfied with the quality of corporate training they received. What’s more, while human resource (HR) leaders rated coaching and learning as one of the most important drivers of good EX, they rated learning software as one of the least important tools for enabling it. To address this challenge, organizations are retooling the learning experience.
“We learn best through experiences, and companies need to provide the kind of holistic approach to learning that employees expect,” said Jill Popelka, president of SAP SuccessFactors. “It’s a guided, personalized journey that provides microlearning for people in bite-sized formats, including experiences and, often, expert coaching.”
Experiential Learning Is More Effective and Less Expensive
Even before the pandemic mandated social distancing, organizations have increasingly gone digital with employee learning. In this latest shift, learning encompasses far more real-world experiences, featuring virtual training and mentoring.
“Instead of sitting in a classroom for a week, people want to engage with an expert who understands a lot more about a topic than they do and bounce ideas off of them,” said Popelka. “Companies no longer see the value of paying for costly in-person training. There are new ways of delivering a fantastic learning experience using technology for virtual learning. This allows people to explore new skills development online and then follow up with coaching.”
Popelka said that over 1,000 customers are relying on the intelligent mentoring offering within the SAP SuccessFactors Succession & Development solution. “Virtual coaching and mentoring are a hugely important element right now, helping employees find the right people for guidance.”
Flexibility Is Central to Learning Transformation
In year two of the pandemic, employees expect far more flexibility in all aspects of work, and training is no exception. The EX survey findings provided clues to help employers transform learning strategies. For example, just over half of employees said they received the coaching and training/development they needed to grow. Moreover, only 37% of employees felt their employer was accepting of mistakes and used them as a source of learning and growth.
“Every employee is expecting more flexibility in the hybrid work environment, and that’s going to drive this new reality of reimagined learning,” said Popelka. “No one wants to passively watch an all-day lecture where the instructor teaches you something. The newest generation of digital learners dive into apps, videos, and podcasts where they freely share their ideas and want to be heard. For them, learning is not a passive task; it’s an active experience.”
Learning Strategies for Interconnected Business
Some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies have used SAP SuccessFactors solutions to provide microlearning and coaching for partner education as they’ve developed and rolled out vaccines throughout the pandemic. Sharing knowledge in smaller chunks was ideally suited to the vaccine rollout, which continues to be characterized by unpredictably fast-changing events.
“These organizations are able to educate their full supply chain,” said Popelka. “They’re training source suppliers for their medications, along with people receiving those medical treatment supplies in a timely, compliant manner.”
Buffeted by constantly changing policies and procedures, other leaders in the healthcare industry are also turning to short-form, more digitalized employee training. In many cases, real-time virtual training is the only way for pharmacies and hospitals to make sure employees have the latest mandates for themselves and their customers.
In the retail sector, grocery stores have shifted to real-time employee education to keep up with safety protocols and consumer demands. This spans supply chain and inventory control to keep shelves stocked and to better manage staffing levels and check-out procedures.
“Every industry is much more interconnected, and companies need to have the right information from various places,” said Popelka. “To prevent people from getting frustrated, companies need to provide a seamless learning experience of well-organized, diverse content that’s easy to find, use, and refer back to at any time.”
Creating Lifelong Learners
Holistic learning has fast become part of the EX revolution, opening up greater opportunities for employees and, by extension, business resilience.
“By connecting people on an integrated, cloud-based platform, companies can more easily find out what interests an employee, and help them locate learning opportunities,” said Popelka. “This gives people access to experiential learning like fellowships and internships, along with experts for coaching relationships to help them move forward. We are creating lifelong learners for personal growth and business resilience.”
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This blog also appeared on SAP BrandVoice on Forbes.