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October 2020
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TD Magazine

De-Stress and Enrich Employees With New Skills

Make time for L&D during uncertain, changing times.

This year has thrown companies and their employees into crisis mode. Business models have had to change, the location where many individuals work has shifted, and the way people communicate and learn has been altered.

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Patrick Donovan, senior vice president at Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions, notes that "both employees and employers are looking to respond to what's really a rapidly changing environment." He says they are using "education and training that can be delivered in small chunks more quickly," such as certificates and certification. Within that realm, technical skills—including digital, machine learning, and data sciences—are the fastest growing areas. But with people working at home, there's also a strong interest in soft skills, such as communication, collaboration, and innovation.

Donovan emphasizes that employers should carefully consider their goals for their workforce development program, choose the correct partners, and establish policies and pathways to meet those goals. Removing as many financial roadblocks to learning as possible can be extremely beneficial, particularly now. Arranging direct billing with schools to remove the financial burden for employees can increase engagement. Advisors can help point employees to internal opportunities and show the financial value workers can expect to see by completing the coursework and getting a job based on the new skills.

Another potential roadblock to learning is time. David Ackley, executive vice president and head of digital at BTS, a global professional services firm, points out, "It's important for companies to focus on the what, when, and how. When you're looking at the what, if you're providing content that is relevant, people are going to make time for it." For a leader, that may mean featuring content on building a resilient organization or leading through challenging times. Creating Spotify-like playlists with bite-size learning can make it more accessible.

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Ackley says his company hosts one-hour weekly webinars around digital skills that are scheduled during lunch hours or at the end of the day so they don't interfere with client work (the when). In terms of the how, companies can incorporate learning into the flow of work, such as by adding a learning component to regularly scheduled meetings.

Companies and employees are dealing with an environment that is disruptive, changing, and uncertain, so individuals need new skills, concludes Ackley. Plus, learning is enriching and de-stressing.

About the Author

Patty Gaul is a senior writer/editor for the Association for Talent Development (ATD).

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