Business leadership is facing unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus. One of the most urgent challenges impacts every level of business and all workers: the need for continual learning. Manufacturing processes, service delivery, and communication have changed. Remote work, advanced technology and automation have changed where and how people work. All of this means that the need for continual learning is a primary concern for business leadership.
The need for continual or lifelong learning is not new. For many years, workers have had to learn to use new technology and work with automation. But changes are coming faster than ever, now. A McKinsey report that addresses how organizations will adapt after the coronavirus says that forward-thinking companies are preparing for the future by doing three things: developing leadership and critical thinking throughout their companies, increasing their employees’ abilities to use technology and analytics and building functional skills. “These companies recognize that the pace and scale of learning must keep up with that of innovation and changes in technology. Skills can and do expire. Organizations need people who can continually learn and adapt. In many cases, companies will need to reskill large portions of the workforce.”
In the midst of this pandemic, business leadership has the opportunity and ability to make changes that will bring progress and long-lasting results. Employer tuition assistance programs will create a strong workforce that can respond to new demands and make businesses thrive. There are several steps business leadership can take to ensure that employees benefit from these programs.
Create a learning culture
Creating a learning culture helps both businesses and employees. One way to do this is to “establish peer coaching groups, learning communities, or accountability partners who can support each other in learning endeavors,” says Deanna Foster, at Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning. Business leadership that understands the value of a learning community or a cohort group will strengthen their workforce as groups of employees develop skills and support each other in the process. Not only will this reinforce employees’ new skills and knowledge, but it will also develop a cohesive workforce and combat the isolation that remote work can create. Employees who don’t see each other at work can share their education journey and connect through both work and education.
Provide education advising and develop career paths
Providing advising for employees and creating career paths are other actions that business leadership can take to support their employees and reap the highest return on their tuition assistance investment. As business leadership deals with an uncertain future, advising employees about career opportunities is more important than ever. Employees will feel more connected to their job if they can see what possibilities are ahead. They will learn more and acquire stronger skills if they can see a connection between their work and education.
Develop leaders from within
Business leadership can further strengthen companies during the coronavirus by developing leaders in all levels of the organization. Because work conditions and operations are so different during the pandemic, “frontline employees need to take on more responsibility for execution, action, and collaboration,” states the McKinsey report. Tuition assistance programs are vital to ensuring that employees can develop the right skills to be problem solvers, analyze data, and innovate. Successful business leadership will develop employees that have autonomy, accept responsibility and make sound decisions. Business will thrive with employees that take planned action, rather than wait to be told what to do.
Business leadership that values employees and supports them with education and career opportunities is creating a strong post-pandemic workforce. Employers that foster a learning culture will build a workforce that learns together, communicates and works productively together. Employees that are empowered by education will become business leadership that has learned how to adapt quickly and implement new ideas.
By Kathleen Eischeid, Edcor Business Development Coordinator
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