During times of financial uncertainty, many companies look for ways to cut back costs – and learning and development budgets are often the first to go, according to Training Zone. But as blogger Lisa Gillespie writes, “This is a false economy. We must continue to learn or we stagnate.”

Companies should not cut back on L&D – but should double down to help their workforce adapt and pivot as needed to ensure the future success of the business. Companies that are using this current moment to upskill and reskill workers so that they can adapt to the new normal are most likely to be successful once the crisis passes.

“Learning programs can help disseminate new protocols for remote work and fill productivity voids, preparing employees to ramp up at an even higher level once they are physically able to return to work,” Maria Umbsaar writes on the CGS blog.

Unfortunately, the United States already falls behind most other developed nations when it comes to spending on “active labor market policies” that train and place workers, according to the Brookings Institution. This is true despite the fact that one-fourth of the American workforce — about 36 million people — have jobs that are highly exposed to automation and could be displaced by it. But it’s not just about those workers: “Nearly all workers are likely to see some task change in their jobs,” the Brookings analysis notes.

Given the fast pace of change in technology, companies need to not only invest in L&D but also future-proof their strategies to ensure they remain relevant as skills evolve. The good news is that L&D budgets appear to be increasing across companies, according to LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report, particularly when it comes to online learning. Here are some ways that they can sure their investments have a long-lasting effect:

  • Business alignment: It’s essential that L&D strategy be aligned to business goals so that there is a clear business case for why it should exist. It should also be built with employee input so that it meets the worker’s motivations, needs and workflows, and include rewards and recognition that communicate to the wider company what goals are being achieved.
  • Remote learning: Online delivery options make it possible to personalize learning and, given the current lockdown, make it accessible even when teams are unable to meet in person. It also allows employees to fit learning into their schedules.
  • Social learning: Online learning modules can enhance the benefits of learning socially, in groups. Even with remote learning, there are ways to make L&D more interactive by offering a live format with a Q&A session, quizzes, interaction among participants and role playing. This fosters a sense of community. Augmented reality and virtual reality can also be utilized through workers’ mobile devices to increase engagement. When possible, in-person classes can also offer the benefits of social learning.
  • Mentorship: Mentors are an important part of learning, Arun Pradhan adds in eLearning Industry. His personal strategy includes “having go-to people I can draw on for coaching conversations to support me through blocks and challenges” and “external mentors in areas that I’ve consciously developed myself in.”The kind of learning that comes from having access to an expert in one’s field is unparalleled, because it allows employees to discuss real-life scenarios and challenges and learn and grow from them. Internal mentorship programs can cost companies less than external coaches, while providing employees valuable networking and a path towards career progression within the business.
    “Combining training programs with coaching increases the effectiveness of the former,” writes Michelle Gouldsberry on the Randstad RiseSmart blog.
  • Constant updates: Keep the strategy updated based on the skills the business will need in the future. According to one statistic, 85 percent of jobs available in a decade do not exist yet. Consider how your company can set up its workforce so that employees can compete in such a marketplace while also strengthening your company’s position in the face of impending change.

Successful leaders know that their employees are multi-faceted, and they resist the impulse to box them into their existing roles, Gouldsberry adds. By recognizing their skills and interests and cultivating those through L&D, companies can keep workers motivated and engaged, decrease turnover and ensure greater success.

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This post was created in partnership with SmartBrief