The nature of business operations is rapidly changing, mostly thanks to a technology boom that experts are terming the fourth industrial revolution. Granted, business is far from removing the human element, which has been a prominent fear since the first industrial revolution. As technology becomes more advanced, the need for employees improve upon their operational skills increases. With this technology boom comes a greater need for employee performance improvement and the ability to implement those operational changes as they come.
A Changing Business Environment
Business Operations – One of the most influential changes in business operations is due to the increasing reliability of automation. For instance, email marketing changed drastically with the introduction of platforms like Hubspot that allowed enabled sales and marketing teams to scale up customer communications. Rather than writing innumerable personalized emails, these kinds of sales technologies can help segment audiences and create messaging based on properties like the webpages an individual visited. Essentially, a marketer can build a communications campaign, press start, and sit back while the platform nurtures business. However, building those campaigns takes a particular knowledge and skill set.
Talent Shortage – Because of how rapidly business technology is changing, companies are struggling to fill positions with employees who have adequate skills. A study by McKinsey Global found that 87% of executives were either experiencing or expecting skill gaps in their workforce. Artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics have drastically changed the business world, but there are not many people with the proper skill sets to work with those platforms.
Where and How We Work– New technology has also offered more flexibility in how we work and where we work. Having a dedicated office or place of business is no longer as necessary because of project management and communications platforms that enable more effective work from home. In fact, potential employees have become more and more interested in the flexibility of remote work to where it is becoming a necessary perk to offer if you want to attract the best talent.
There are two strategies for incorporating these new technologies and processes into your business, but they all center around people: upskilling current employees or hiring new employees. Either way there will be an associated time and cost. Research by Bersin suggests that it can cost as much as six times more to conduct new hire training than to build skills among internal employees. So, motivations for reskilling are obvious, but that falls upon employee learning and development teams to build training content that builds the right skill sets.
The Role of L&D in Navigating Change
Assuming we’re going the reskilling route, employee learning and development teams will have a critical role in equipping employees with the skills to support organizational changes. In fact, L&D should be leading the transformation, by working with business units and executives to determine the best change management strategy. That being said, you may need to make the case for L&D leading the charge. Be prepared to educate leaders with research around the need for a training strategy in change management initiatives, data around performance improvements in previous corporate training and development programs, and connect learning to business outcomes. Beyond being both leaders and educators, L&D will have to take on the role of a project manager as well. Large reskilling initiatives are much more complicated than making a few eLearning activities. They may also involve departments restructuring, and they generally result in a change of roles or responsibilities. So, the employee training plan must be aligned with the organization’s structural changes and timelines for technology deployments.
A strong learning culture is the key to getting ahead of industry trends. But, planning an organizational transformation like reskilling or upskilling your workforce can be challenging. Moreover, the business transformation may be driven by a sudden change in industry, economy, or technology; events which can be difficult to predict. Significant changes in employee behavior and org structure typically occur over months or years, and after months of planning. So, plan for change. Build a learning culture that expects continuous learning and performance improvement and anticipates the need for new skills.