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The most successful, fastest-growing companies are differentiated by one thing: they’ve transformed how their people learn and lead. This high-performing, maturing organizations encourage experimentation, iteration, and transparency to ensure new ideas are tested and outcomes are shared. According to a LinkedIn 2018 survey, employees are hungry for personal development opportunities at work: 94 percent of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career but the number one reason employees feel they aren’t learning and upskilling is because they don’t have the time. 

Employers need to offer learning opportunities that meet their employees’ styles – when they need them and how they need them. Offering offsite, instructor-led classes or compliance-only courses is no longer a sufficient effort in creating a high-impact, digital-first learning environment. Instead, digitally mature organizations offer an end-to-end workforce development experience for their employees. They invest in project-and skills-based educational credential programs that are designed to help employees either become more efficient in their current roles or ready to grow into critical roles within the company. 

Organizations need to create environments that foster continuous learning

It is not just individual employees who need continuous learning in a digital business environment. In an increasingly digital world, organizations must learn and adapt more quickly. This requires a greater focus on experimentation and innovation.

Enabling an organization to be more experimental is difficult. Getting people to take risks and act in a more agile way can be the biggest challenge limiting a company’s ability to compete in a digital environment. We’ve discovered that getting people to take on more risk can best be achieved by creating an environment that supports experimentation and learning. Digitally maturing companies create that environment by:

  • Encouraging new ideas to be shared and tested at all levels of the organization;
  • Promoting feedback and iteration to develop new ways of working; and
  • Sharing feedback of experiments—both successes and failures—to increase organizational learning.

Digital transformation is a significant challenge and opportunity for all companies. A growing number of companies are coming to terms with the new digital reality and are starting to climb the digital maturity curve. However, in most cases, success will require deep-rooted changes to the organization and culture—starting with new approaches to employee learning and leadership development. To get there, HR executives will need to play an active role in making digital transformation happen.

The following are just some of the ways they can help your company drive the necessary change:

  • Shift your perspective on developing employees. Explore the possible reasons why your employees may be resisting change.  Consider talent development opportunities as an important way to not only support your employees but create a culture that promotes experimentation and learning.
  • Place less emphasis on classroom training and more on the project and skills-based learning. When it comes to determining how to develop your employees, research shows that traditional, one-size-fits-all classroom training programs are obsolete. Employees learn best in the project- and skills-based programs designed to either help them become more efficient in their current roles or enable them to grow into critical roles within the company.
  • Develop digital leadership skills throughout the organization. Assess existing leadership development programs and identify new ways to help leaders in your organization develop the specific capabilities necessary to succeed in a digital business environment.
  • Establish new performance measures. For HR leaders working in older legacy companies that are resistant to change and limited by past successes, it may be necessary to fundamentally rethink the organization’s performance management systems – aligning those systems with the organization’s overall need to be more collaborative, risk-tolerant and experimental.

Given the accelerating pace of workplace transformation across every industry, the need for continual upskilling of employees grows every day. The pool of existing talent in the job force is too shallow to meet the changing needs of companies. And the competition for new graduates entering the workforce with relevant skills has become fierce. To keep pace, HR leaders must change their thinking and make learning a priority by institutionalizing a culture of intentional, continuous training with an emphasis on developing practitioner-level capabilities.

Transform your workforce for the digital age.

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Lalit Singh
Lalit Singh
Lalit Singh is the Chief Operating Officer at Udacity. Prior to joining Udacity, Lalit led the digital transformation of HPE’s software business from on-premise and disjointed systems to the seamless and scalable cloud and SaaS-based architecture. Lalit began his career at GE across leadership roles in Customer Service, Engineering and Lean Six Sigma. He holds a B.S. in Electronics Engineering from Lucknow University and MBA in Finance and Marketing from Indian School of Business, India.