This blog has been co-authored by Dr. Kerstin Schäfer, EMEA Practice Lead Digital Performance Strategy/ Business Consulting, and Sarah Paton, Learning Architect, Adobe.
With so much discussion and discourse around the financial stability of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the professional development of employees has taken a backseat.
Brands are, quite rightly, focusing on the mental wellbeing of people during these anomalous times, but it’s perhaps more important than ever that they also continue to develop, challenge, and motivate their people, rather than focusing purely on keeping the engines turning and ship floating.
Any employee investment made now will invariably yield long-term rewards, particularly regarding staff engagement and retention. People are, understandably, holding their employers accountable during this period – if brands don’t rise to the challenge, they will suffer the consequences when we emerge on the other side.
Equipping employees with the right technology
The COVID-19 pandemic has, undoubtedly, highlighted the crucial role that technology plays in enabling us to adapt quickly and effectively, and continue delivering the experiences our customers expect of us.
And, while it’s no secret that the customer experience has changed dramatically during the past few months, expecting employees to possess the ability to proactively react and adapt to these changes is a risky assumption for brands to make.
What’s important to remember is that brands not only have an obligation to adapt their customer experience to current climate, but also to adapt how they equip their employees with the ability to actually deliver those experiences. Yes, the customer experience has changed, but so has the employee experience. And one can’t exist and be successful without the other.
Upskilling for long-term gain
With so much uncertainty and a significant reduction in customer-facing activity, many forward-thinking brands are using this isolated period to redefine how they keep their teams engaged, with the most visionary organisations focusing on using technology and partners to deliver robust upskilling programmes.
Adobe Consulting Services (ACS) is collaborating with several brands to create optimised learner pathways that are specifically designed to suit the current remote nature of many working lives, so employees can proactively access learning tools from wherever they are in the world.
For example, ACS is working alongside one insurance company to design bespoke learning content for its enterprise employees, tailored to the individual’s maturity and position within the organisation. The content is crafted through a nifty blend of Adobe’s Consulting Services, Digital Learning Services and its Experience League platform, meaning leaders are empowered to better communicate and manage Adobe solutions within the organisation.
This means the potential of technology (in this example, Adobe solutions) is not limited to specific technical users. Expertise is spread across the company, and more people can take advantage of the benefits of technology to create a better customer experience.
To ensure that employees are engaging with the most relevant learning content, ACS also creates curated learning pathways that guide people along a sequential journey, ensuring they’re making the most of the vast content library and learning materials available to them.
It’s also important brands continue to engage with furloughed staff, who are likely feeling disconnected and isolated from their employer. For example, ACS is currently working with a publishing company, using bespoke learning content and experiences as a positive exercise to keep furloughed staff engaged, so they can return to work stimulated and refreshed.
Reskilling to create a flexible workforce
This is a time that has required high levels of adaptability and an agile mindset. For some brands, now is the time to focus on shifting employee skills so they can lend support to other parts of the business in need of assistance.
For example, ACS has teamed up with a retail brand to standardise dozens of different roles across the organisation into eight distinct categories, re-skilling them accordingly and distributing their expertise around the business to teams and categories where their assistance and new skills are needed most.
Much like a footballer asked to play out of position while a teammate is injured, this re-skilling of employees enables brands to provide immediate relief to under-pressure teams. But unlike in football, where a footballer would return to their original position, this re-skilling helps to permanently address any skills gaps within an organisation, making teams more cohesive and efficient.
These long-term benefits will be keenly felt in the years to come. With employees able to react more flexibly to future market changes and potential increases in demand, by spreading and re-distributing their skillset across a brand’s entire customer experience, as and when it’s needed.
Align learning to business objectives
It’s also important that brands don’t lose sight of their long-term goals and strategic objectives during this time. Any learning experiences or content should always be aligned to tangible business objectives.
To achieve this, brands should recognise that different people learn in different ways. Some react better to audio-learning, while others benefit from a more visual style. The key is to adapt learning to the individual, looking at the structure of a team, their roles and responsibilities, and how their position contributes to business objectives.
The importance of these initiatives cannot be stressed enough – by keeping employees engaged and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, brands are ensuring they can hit the ground running, and can continue being there for their customers once restrictions are lifted in their respective markets and we regain a sense of normalcy following these turbulent times.