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Thought Leadership 22 February 2021

Why making learning inclusive matters more than ever

If you don’t invest in people at all levels of the business then you risk losing them. We make the case for why learning should be for everyone…

According to one expert, leadership learning isn’t just for the c-suite anymore. In short, “Everyone needs to and wants to make a difference. Otherwise, they leave.” It’s an interesting chain of thought. We know that people are more interested in their own development than ever before. According to Gallup, an impressive 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job. 94% of employees would stay longer if companies invested in their development. So why aren’t we investing in all of our people?

Maybe it’s time to think about what message it sends out when we only invest in our top tier of people – especially within the context of the world we’re living in. When we first went into lockdown last March we did initially under the guise of ‘we’re all in it together’. However, it didn’t take long for that to unravel. There were those who were considered key workers and those that weren’t. Those who were able to work from home and those who couldn’t. Those who had access to the furlough scheme and those that didn’t. And that’s just scratching the surface. As we edge towards the other side of the pandemic, we don’t need learning to be another thing to divide us.

The learning participation gap

However, as it currently stands, it is. According to LinkedIn Learning’s 2020 report there’s already a participation gap between employees and managers in learning and development – with managers being much more engaged – and only 27% of CEOs actively inviting their employees to take advantage of learning resources. And that’s not all. According to LinkedIn Learning data, managers spend 30% more time learning soft skills than the average learner. From this perspective, learning and development seems to be very much the realm of managers and leadership teams.

Shouldn’t learning and development be for everyone? And not just for the sake of it, but rather, to ensure that our organisations, and people, are robustly equipped to deal with whatever the next big crisis is? If we take a look at another survey, it reports that 55% of CEOs say that the availability of key skills is a blocker to being able to innovate effectively.

It seems that CEOs are concerned about their workforce having the skills to be able to roll with the punches… yet they don’t actively encourage learning in their people. In a world where we have to be increasingly nimble, where we have to flex, adapt, and anticipate, failing to prioritise learning and development across the whole of an organisation feels like a bit of a misstep. And, to go back to our original point, if you fail to invest in your people, they will largely vote with their feet – and leave.

What inclusive learning looks like

So how does that democratisation of learning look in the real world? First of all, it has to be accessible to your workforce. 80% of the workforce is now composed of deskless workers, but not all content is designed for mobile learning. That seems pretty wild, right? If we want learning to be something that the whole of our organisation participates in, it needs to be accessed by everyone – and slotted easily into their particular work pattern. If we’re talking about frontline workers, for example, face-to-face training or away days are unlikely to work. Therefore, leaning into the trend for bitesize content accessed through a web-based app could be a sound alternative.

Our final point is on the learning content itself. What skills we should we be learning? Hard skills or soft skills? Technical skills or human skills? Well, according to some reports, soft skills have a much longer shelf life than hard skills, which tend to date quickly. At Insights, we believe that investing in people skills is the best way to lead to breakthroughs in your business. If we think about the skills people have to draw on at every stage of their career, it’s those key human skills. Communicating. Listening. Collaborating. Negotiating. Problem solving. These are the interpersonal skills that everyone needs to be good at, and which will bring you the biggest return on your investment.

At the moment there’s a disconnect between what we know we should be doing… and what we’re actually doing. However, all the evidence supports that the best way to create a competitive advantage for your organisation is to enable accessible learning and development opportunities for everyone. As well as being key to future-proofing your business, it’s also critical for attracting, developing and retaining the best people. In a world where people have higher expectations of their employers than ever, if businesses don’t prioritise learning, they’re the ones who lose out.

Our web-based digital tool, Insights Explore, is a learner aid to self-development that can be rolled out at scale in your organisation. Accessible on any device, it’s the perfect way to introduce the language of colour in your business in a sustainable way. You can find out more here.

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