The increase in remote work leaves HR with a number of challenges to address, but the longer it goes on, one area that becomes a bigger and bigger issue is training, or learning and development efforts.
Training and upskilling remote employees is a different proposition to in person training, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done just as well. To help us understand more about how to ramp up your remote training efforts and what to expect as you do so, we sat down for a brief chat with Christopher Lind, Head of Global Digital Learning for GE Healthcare.
HREN: Recent events have seen the workforce shift dramatically to remote work, but as that becomes the norm, do you think it’s only natural that teams become more global and more diverse? And if so, how do you think this will impact the way HR functions?
CL: I think it’s easy to assume that because remote work is becoming somewhat of a norm, it will naturally lead to a more global and diverse workforce. However, I caution leaders who are assuming the one will automatically lead to the other. Does it open the potential for it? Absolutely. However, there’s still a lot of work to do to shift the mindset and existing infrastructure and processes to encourage a global and diverse workforce. There’s still a lot of people managers who will by default choose what they’re familiar and comfortable with when they make a hiring decision. In terms of the impact it has on HR, I think it’s a continued focus on who we choose for roles that lead people and the way we develop people who desire to lead others.
HREN: The shift means taking a different approach to learning and development for our teams, what are the top technology priorities when building out systems that will enable global teams to continue their professional and personal development in the remote environment?
CL: I hate to disappoint, but I don’t know that there’s a top 10 list out there that can be universally adopted. The unique nature of the way work gets done in an organization and the varying priorities of every organizations makes it such that we have to focus on core behaviors we want to drive and reinforce and then back into what technology can enable it. To do this, you have to start by deconstructing personal and professional development to its most granular level. When you do that you begin to see that at the core, people need some degree of baseline knowledge they need for that knowledge to continually be reinforced to make it stick, they need resources to help with the stickiness, and they need opportunities to practice, reflect, and get feedback.
Now, at that level, technology can help us do those things much better than we could before. We can use AI to personalize information, automation to open up time and space for development, APIs to bring what people need to where they actually need it. The list goes on, but it’s really about what are the most important problems your organization needs to solve.
HREN: As we know people learn in different ways and with distributed teams you have to embrace online learning methods obviously, but that can mean you don’t get that face time or one on one attention as much, so what are some strategies to ensure people are not only receiving but absorbing the training?
CL: Fundamentally, I don’t know that I’d say people actually learn differently, but there is certainly something to be said about the unique nature of each individual that we have to consider. If we focus on just the face time portion, there’s some pretty simple ways to ensure people still feel connected with their peers and get the right degree of attention. In fact, I’d say technology is actually making it easier to provide a higher degree of support than was ever possible before. We can now have virtual face-to-face connections with people faster and easier through technology, actually democratizing that experience. However, it’s important that we maximize the impact of that live time by focusing on interpersonal connections, collaboration, and problem solving.
If you’re simply hammering through a PowerPoint in a virtual environment, you have missed the mark. As for absorbing and retaining things, again, I’d say with so many activities being digital there’s greater opportunity to peer into the looking glass and see what’s actually happening. Technology can now take a deeper look into what people are doing, how they’re applying, and what gaps still remain. At the end of the day, that’s real workplace performance, which is exactly what we should be looking at when making decision on what worked and what didn’t.
HREN: Change is occurring at a rapid pace and in terms of training, the short view is always easier to see than the long view. What advice do you have for learning and development teams when it comes to looking 5-10 years down the line and figuring out what skillsets they need to be preparing people for and what tools they need to be adopting to do it?
CL: The advice I would give is to step back from the actual activities in your day-to-day operations and look more broadly at workforce trends and what’s happening in the world. I’d also advise people to not get locked into super specific long-term plans. It’s an exercise in futility. You will never be able to predict exactly how you’ll execute your L&D strategy in 5 or 10 years. However, if you look carefully you can probably anticipate what kinds of things people will need. As an example, AI and automation is rapidly shortening the half-life of skills. That’s not going away in 5 or 10 years. If anything, they will only get shorter. So, if you look at that, you know that investing heavily in massive, bulky programs and technology that locks you into a very specific way of doing things are probably not going to be a smart play. Given that, you need to be looking at ways to speed up your processes, adopt technology you can more rapidly pivot with, make skill development faster, and eliminate waste.
HREN: You’re going to be kicking things off as a speaker at our upcoming HR Tech Digital Summit in June. Without giving too much away, can you give us a preview of what you’re going to be talking about and why the audience should tune in?
CL: I’ll leave it at this. We talk a lot about digital transformation in HR and Learning. It’s everywhere. Unfortunately, a lot of what’s said is ethereal and hard to action against. The reality is, where we’re going is messy. It’s hard work, and you’re going to make mistakes. Things are going to fail. However, there are some practical, pragmatic things I hope everyone can walk away with that will not only encourage them on their journey, but help them take digital transformation from a fancy strategy to operational execution.