Priorities for Learning, Development and Performance Management in 2021

With the challenges of 2020, only 5% of learning and development professionals think their learning strategy will go back to what it was before the pandemic. 2020 was the year that everything went ‘digital’, for most organisations that meant reacting by replicating what happened offline, online. This is a short-term fix.

In this context, it would be easy to lose sight of the longer-term underlying changes that were already underway and how to respond strategically to them.

There has been an underlying evolution from specific skills for specific roles, to more general agile competencies. Gartner argues in the “Future of Work Trends Post Covid-19” report that the changes in the work environment are driving a decoupling of critical skills from critical roles, in other words, the necessary skills to achieve constantly changing strategic goals no longer equate with roles. 

The solution, according to Gartner, is for employers to focus on developing critical skills that multiply employees’ job options rather than preparing for specific roles. (This allows more flexibility and agility across roles and opportunities and ability to react as well as proactively respond to the changing nature of business needs).

Another underlying trend is the need to address what we call talent experience. This is the employee journey throughout their time at an organisation. We are supporting employees on the journey of joining an organisation to becoming a productive and successful employee. Hiring, retention, onboarding, performance management, learning and development, recognition, engagement and even advocacy are all connected and crucial to the overall employee experience. 

Organisations will need to look closely at their disciplines, siloes, technologies, processes and importantly culture to address these trends. So, where do you start?

Our 2020 research points to four areas employers are already looking at:

Turbocharging skill development in these uncertain times

The rapid shifts in the business landscape is driving employers to focus urgently on their workforce skills and competencies. Many organisations will be racing to fill urgent skills gaps that could impact their ability to compete and survive.

Speedy evaluation of company-wide skills can be supported by technology and give employees access to learning and development at pace and remotely.

Closer alignment between employee development and performance

With the rush to operate remotely, employers have indicated there were difficulties with elements of performance management, notably peer to peer connections. There is a danger that is focusing on the number of remote interactions performance management or access to resources and monitoring learning module completion for learning and development, that companies lose sight of the benefits of technology – namely using employee development to deliver performance outcomes.

The importance of user experience 

Many areas of our research suggested technology was not proving useful, either through delivering access to resources or being able to have the conversations they wanted with line managers. User experience has often been less than satisfactory, but, 40% of respondents said it was the most critical consideration when evaluating technology. However, only 1 in 5 involve employees in decision making. With accelerated digital transformation, organisations need to include employees.

Build better peer to peer interaction

Employees will return to the office in 2021, but working from home will continue for many. With this in mind, employers will need to invest in technology that can support all employees to make meaningful connections with their peers, for productivity, development, engagement and advocacy – it is all about the Talent Experience.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can download our research.


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