Pandemic aside, there was already a growth in demand for digital learning from leaders, managers and employees to help develop the skills required by businesses to meet new commercial challenges. 

We carried out research in the summer of 2020 looking at areas within learning, and performance management which employers are prioritising and whether technologies they are using are fit for purpose. You can read the in-depth findings and conclusions here, but there are some insights that I’d like to touch upon briefly.

Digital learning is still a cultural challenge

Development of talent through digital learning is critical for organisations, and our survey suggests the highest demand is coming from employees themselves, with three quarters looking for an increase in digital learning opportunities. Most companies we surveyed felt their digital learning resources had adequately supported their workforce, although only 28% felt that resources had been highly effective. 

Unfortunately, approximately a third admitted employees found it difficult to get the information they needed, and this had impeded work effectiveness. 

Using digital learning technologies is only part of the solution; digital learning needs to be part of an entire cultural shift to digital in all areas of an organisation. Suppose the digital learning experience is not integrated with other digital resources and processes such as performance management and engagement. In that case, it could be viewed as an outlier – digital is a state of mind, not a technology module.

The un-integration of technologies

It may come as no surprise, but one of the most common challenges of the digital learning experience is the lack of integration with other HR systems, we often see this reflected in organisation structure too. We think it’s imperative that learning and development is embedded within the overall talent management and employee engagement experience because learning drives performance and affects employee engagement. Disconnected approaches negatively impact user experience of the technology, but more extensively of the employee or ‘talent’ experience in total.

Informal interactions still sidestep technology

Respondents to our research said that technology is effective in supporting formal goal-based targets for performance management, with 62% saying they are either satisfied or very satisfied with its effectiveness. There are challenges, however, with technology supporting remote performance management. Facilitation of ad hoc catch-ups with employees and capturing feedback could be better. Whilst video technology has helped keep employees somewhat connected, it’s not the solution for remote performance management, especially in the area of difficult conversations when it’s critical to gauge reactions and give appropriate support.

In summary, technology can’t solve every problem, as organisations embrace this period of change as a catalyst to create digital learning and performance management strategies, we encourage teams to think holistically about talent, and to include cultural change as part of their 2021 strategy.