Shaping the new world of Corporate Learning in 2021
Our series of articles from imc employees all over the world started in Switzerland. In this episode we take you to the other side of the world. Daniel Antman, Director imc Australia, has joined imc in February 2020 and had to face special challenges right from the start. In this guest article he talks about his experiences, lessons learned but also chances and possibilities for the Australian e-learning marketing in 2021.
The digital transformation of learning is having an immediate and notable impact on business performance. Companies will need to redefine their organisation’s learning and development strategy in 2021 to ensure alignment with their revenue and growth objectives.
As we approach the end of what can only be described as a tumultuous 2020 and look forward to 2021, the dominant behaviours that will define success are adaptability, nimbleness and alignment.
Many businesses are going through their 2021 strategic planning right now and some who may have already completed their plans, are going back to revisit them to ensure they are relevant to the probable long-term structural changes we have seen.
From a macro perspective we see a relatively stable outlook for both Australia and New Zealand. We have a well-capitalised banking sector that has proven its resilience in throughout both the global financial crisis and more recently through the pandemic.
At the national levels both economies have relatively low debt levels to GDP (compared to other western economies) ensuring there are tools in the fiscal cabinet for government (Federal and State) to implement stimulus programs to keep the economy moving. We have unprecedented low interest rates that have kept both consumer spending and the housing market at acceptable levels throughout this 2020 Covid impacted year.
We have also not yet seen the expected spike in unemployment. While the expectation is that the peak in unemployment won’t be seen until Q1 2021, there is a quite confidence it may not be as bad as originally predicted. The jobkeeper program (a federal government initiative that has ensured workers impacted by a shut-down in their sectors retain an income) has steadied the economic ship and minimised the impacts of the covid shut-downs.
Perversely we think there may be upside in the dislocation of people from their traditional jobs and professions as they potentially return to the workforce in different industries. The movement of people into new roles and businesses should in theory bring into focus the need for more and effective training.
We have seen a significant uptick in employment with some of our clients in the public sector who have absorbed a number of displaced workers. For example, we have seen a consistent increase in demand for our content services from DHHS (Department of Health & Human Services) who have been actively expanding throughout the covid crisis.
There is also a sense the language of business is changing. A few months ago people in business were still saying “when things go back to normal we’ll do this and that”. Now the rhetoric is changing.
There is greater recognition, at least empirical recognition, that we are probably going to be forever spinning on a new axis. Think back to the 2011 powerful earthquake that moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet and shifted the Earth on its axis. It’s where we are at in terms of the business landscape too – spinning in a different place and probably never going back.
We also rethinking the way businesses are segmented in Australia/New Zealand corporate market. While businesses can be easily bucketed into defined categories, for example financial services or utilities, from a learning perspective we see them grouped differently. Specifically, we see the local corporate landscape being defined as entities that are:
- Membership orientated (e.g professional associations like ACCA and AusIMM)
- Exposed (e.g those heavily impacted by regulation/compliance like financial institutions)
- Complex (e.g dynamic entities who requires a deep and complex solutions that brings their organisation together like a pharma business)
- Challenged (e.g Organisations who have experienced significant and complex growth pains and have been forced to evolve due to late adoption)
- Branded (e.g Organisations who have a brand promise to uphold and deliver like Blackmores)
It is true that an entity may take on more than one of the above characteristics yet they typically have a bias to one. The importance of understanding this in the Australian context is that learning and development will mean different things to entities where there are different bias’s. That requires our communication, business development and marketing to be bespoke and identifiable to them.
Within each of these business personas are the decision makers and, when it comes to aligning the concept of learning with business objectives, they will be motivated by different things. While these are not new concepts (in terms of how decision makers can be categorised), we are seeing the emergence of clearer definitions of who the decision makers are in the types of organisations noted above.
In other words, it’s a bit of a match-and-mix matrix between the type of organisation and the decision makers. As the concept of employee development, training and motivation in a remote working environment continues to unfold, decision makers will need to be swayed by targeted and relevant messaging about the role of learning and how the empowerment of their people is directly connected to business performance.
These decision makers can be broadly classified as one of:
The Charismatic - decision makers with big ideas and proven results that speak to the bottom line and keep my company competitive.
The Thinker - Intelligent, low-risk solutions that save time and money.
The Sceptical - Ground-breaking ideas with people I can trust.
The Follower - The best ideas have been tried and tested by big brands.
The Controlling - Highly structured arguments that fit like a glove.
Adaptability and Speed Are Key
We’ve seen many examples of businesses having to adapt to this new business as ‘unusual’ environment. In a learning context, we’ve seen companies pivoting from delivering in-house training sessions, offsite sales conventions and other forms of in-person professional development to a full digital delivery format.
Those who have adapted quickly may well be best positioned to capitalise on the ongoing benefits of digital learning. It’s one thing to adapt, it’s another thing to do it efficiently and effectively. Again, in a learning context, those businesses who have been fast and adept at embracing new delivery mediums are having more success in maintaining effective connections with staff and key stakeholders.
Aligning Learning Strategy to The Digital Generation
Aligning the delivery of quick, effective and meaningful knowledge-transfer with the commercial/performance imperatives of the business has never been more critical. For many astute business people, the current climate has highlighted the critical importance of knowledge transfer and learning to drive increased engagement with staff and other stakeholders including customers.
Stable, well trained and stimulated employees translate directly to the bottom line. Well-developed and informed customers/stakeholders become advocates for businesses.
A recent LinkedIn research study identified the primary driver that connected Millennials and Gen Zs to the organisations they worked for was development. Not pay or work conditions, but development.
For organisations who see themselves as genuine learning businesses, and who are committed to developing and growing their teams, their time has come. They are embracing the technologies that will enable them to deliver the learning that is valued by those seeking the development, support and care.
Happy, stimulated, developing and supported employees are those more likely to stay and contribute to ongoing success - something every C-Suite and/or senior manager needs to keep in mind.
Virtual Conferencing Tools and Learning
Throughout the crisis of 2020 businesses have turned to and utilised connectivity tools including Zoom, GoToMeeting and Teams to mention a few. In many respects these tools have been a communication lifeline for business. Yet on their own they are not learning, training or development tools.
Genuine learning that is impactful, sustainable and measurable needs to be expertly designed to ensure it delivers the desired outcomes through the chosen delivery platform. Virtual conferencing tools can and often do play an important part in a blended learning environment. However, they are not designed to be alternatives to expertly designed and delivered learning platforms.
Would You Like Cake & Coffee with Your Training?
Are those days gone? No longer can businesses rely on the attraction of food and drink to encourage staff to join the in-house training sessions in the communal meeting rooms. Nor can they rely on trips to the local café which doubled up as the overflow meeting room when the office facilities were booked.
Yet the challenges that 2020 have thrown out open the opportunity for innovation and out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to learning. The sophistication and power of technology driven learning platforms offer businesses with exciting possibilities to deliver knowledge in a way that can be a genuine game-changer.
Learning, training and knowledge-transfer are no longer the sole domain of the HR or Learning Development teams. They should be a focal point for the C-suite and boards when considering how to leverage digital learning platforms to develop, stimulate and ultimately retain the people they rely on to meet their business objectives.
I’ve been a member of the imc crew since February 2019. My multi-faceted tasks always keep me on the go. In addition to my work on corporate brand, marketing and communication strategies and employer branding, I also delve into the operational side.
I have a passion for networks and communities. That is why I represent the brand ambassador programme in the editorial team. I am also actively involved in the SCHULEWIRTSCHAFT (School-Business) network.
Privately, my big passions are travelling, Disney and interior design.