Many organisations are experiencing rapid change, as the digital transformation process sweeps through them like wildfire. This seismic shift can integrate or replace existing work processes, and ultimately increase organisational performance. David Connifey looks at the data in our recent Role of Digital report to see where we are now – and where we're heading next.
We've reached the stage where digital skills and training solutions – e-Learning by any other name – are increasingly the go-to answer for organisations when it comes to employee development, contributing the lion's share of a wider blended training strategy.
So, what benefits is digital learning currently bringing to organisations and their employees? At the time of writing, digital is adding most value in many well-trodden, business-focused areas.
Cost and time savings
e-Learning is delivered with speed and ease, meaning that the cost to an organisation is greatly reduced. Rather than paying for trainers, learning materials, and any potential travel and accommodation costs for employees, digital learning is available on demand and at the point of need– meaning in practice that it can be delivered anytime, anywhere, and can be used continuously for learning and reference.
Accessibility adds big value for an organisation and its employees. Being able to revisit learning and have an individual experience, far removed from the expensive and logistically prohibitive nature of the classroom, is a huge positive which beds-in behaviour change and improves everyday practice.
Induction and retention.
A new employee's induction should be informative, inspiring and memorable. They should always feel like they have landed a great job with a great organisation, and that they know what they are working towards – both for the organisation and for themselves. Incorporating digital learning into the induction, whether wholly or partly, can help to add value, ensuring the right messages are communicated accurately and consistently each time.
A company should have a mature understanding that the efforts and energy put into the induction period must be extended throughout the employee's working life, with the ultimate aim of cutting attrition and building out organisational knowledge, skills, and capacity to innovate.
Today's induction-onboarding solutions should not be thought of as static e-Learning courses or resources, but as a networked platform incorporated into existing systems and infrastructure where learning materials and organisational communications can co-exist.
Breaches of compliance today come with reputational costs that often far exceed the financial penalties associated with exposure of malpractice. Compliance, while the bugbear of many an employee who feels they already know it all, is a key area for many high-risk/high-reward organisations, and continues to form an essential part of general risk-management.
E-Learning gives organisations a quick and efficient way to prove they are compliant, while also delivering to their employees effective and engaging training which eliminates risky behaviours. This new way of delivering what is traditionally bland training is helping to support a lasting change in organisational culture.
These are standard benefits of the digital transformation process. However, learning leaders acknowledge that digital can deliver a lot more, and most expect the impact to increase in the next two years.
But how exactly?
The biggest difference, perhaps, will be felt in the customer service space – the shop floor; the call centre; or talking to customers one-to-one. This area presents challenges to digital uptake, but also has the most to gain from the transformation. And, arguably, it's important that it does. Today's customer is very demanding – they are pushing harder and harder for a better experience. They expect to have what they want, when the want it. They want 24/7 access to an organisation.
So, how exactly can organisations add value to the customer's experience using digital learning tech? Customers want an organisation to be omnipresent and on-demand – across all devices, communication channels, and platforms. They want to be able to call an organisation using their landline at midday, then tweet the same company at 7pm that same day, and receive continuity of care. Both forms of communication should yield the same results.
Organisations will need to be able to support this. The first step is to develop a new breed of customer service employee – with the role's emphasis shifting from being process based, to being knowledge and relationship based. Employees will require wider communication skills, with an increase in text-based interactions with customers via webchat and email. Customers are likely to be asking increasingly complex questions, that always in some way relate to their emotional needs and for which a template can't be provided. Resourcefulness, empathy and communication skills are what are needed.
Employees need a deeper understanding of the organisation's products and services. The customer is probably already very knowledgeable, thanks to the widespread availability of information online. Employees need to know more than the customer, effectively becoming a specialist who knows more than can be shared publicly. Where the customer service agent is at a disadvantage in understanding the customer's needs because of the complexity or uniqueness of the complaint, they can effectively compensate by thinking on their feet and using the customer's knowledge to resolve their own challenges.
Employees are guardians of their organisational brand, even more so in the digital age. They need to understand the impact that their words can have on their organisation's reputation, both positive and negative. An ill-advised or ill-timed response to a customer could quickly go viral and damage their organisation's brand image in seconds. Similarly, having the ability to follow trends and attach their name with something positive can greatly increase an organisation's image.
The power of a successful PR machine can't be undersold – just look at Innocent Drinks, for example, or, on the flipside, Pepsi...
Of course, these changes present a new challenge to the organisation. Recruitment, training and retention processes will need to be adapted. But perhaps this is where e-Learning can add the most value, allowing an organisation to completely overhaul itself and deliver a digital experience to its customers. Customers, in turn, will benefit from an omni-channel experience, far more fitting for our increasingly connected world.