How the cloud transformed employee learning
This article originally appeared in The Times’ Raconteur
Cloud is shaking up traditional employee development, but what impact has this had on the workforce, and ultimately, business performance?
While learning and development (L&D) is at the heart of a company’s digital transformation, gone are the days of providing employee training during induction or group classroom sessions.
The digital revolution has transformed the technology used to train employees, as well as expectations of access to learning materials. The challenge for firms is to ensure L&D evolves alongside employees’ needs, particularly for staff working remotely.
The solution might well be in the cloud. One of the uses of cloud computing can be to support career development in our fast-paced digital age. “Techniques and methods are constantly evolving, so you need to be constantly learning or you will quickly fall behind,” says David White, head of project management at Best Response Media.
Creating a learning environment
One of the major uses of cloud computing can be talent retention. Ian Cook, vice president for people solutions at Visier, references his firm’s recent Gender Equity report, which used cloud data to uncover a “manager divide”, a growing under-representation of women, aged 32 and above, in management positions. “The manager divide is closely tied to the childcare years,” says Mr Cook, “when women experience increased demands from their home life and may even exit the workforce as a result.”
Addressing this issue involves offering employees flexible, location-independent working and training. “We offer our 50-plus employees very flexible working opportunities and career progression,” says Victoria Usher, founder and chief executive at GingerMay, a consultancy that uses cloud-based solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Slack. Ms Usher oversees a senior leadership team made up of 85 per cent working parents and which is 85 per cent female.
Professional development requires feedback
Employee performance becomes an ongoing dialogue, ensuring no employee gets left behind as digital evolves evermore rapidly. One of the uses of cloud computing is to make training part of the everyday interaction between manager and employee.
“Constant contact on feedback, training and performance makes employees feel they are more engaged with the business, compared to six-month or yearly reviews,” says Mr White. This is essential for teams with remote workers. For example, managers can easily check that everyone seconded on to an important project has been through the same L&D modules.
“These technologies have single-handedly had the biggest impact on our workforce and performance”
Making the cloud the baseline technology used in training employees reflects how digital has woven its way into all of our lives, making L&D more user friendly. “We’re all used to consuming infinite apps, content and games, and we’re looking for this same experience at work,” says Mr Cook. “This conversational review cycle can help employees learn and grow more quickly, and keep them motivated.”
Training programmes must be personal
Nevertheless, digitising training can’t make employees learn more quickly or feel completely confident in newly acquired, but untested, skills. “Although our flow of feedback has grown faster, the human ability to grow and master skills hasn’t,” Mr Cook adds.
Without a structured process for managers to listen to feedback, build training plans and conduct performance reviews, implementing the cloud as the main training technology can make employees feel disconnected, as though their work is just disappearing into the ether.
“This responsibility comes down to the manager,” says Mr White. “There is nothing worse than giving feedback that you don’t think is going to be listened to.” Maintaining trust in the colleagues and managers beyond the training technology remains vital.
Transformative uses of cloud computing
Ms Usher has seen the positive impact of utilising the cloud in her business. She says: “Combining multiple cloud-based solutions enables us to be a more attentive employer to our employees. As a result, over two thirds (68 per cent) of staff work part time, flexi-hours or from home.” This clearly cuts down on office space and costs, while leaving employees happier.
Mr White also believes moving training to the cloud has been transformational for Best Response Media. “These technologies have single-handedly had the biggest impact on our workforce and performance,” he says. “We have been able to increase efficiencies and reduce costs at the same time.”
Importantly, the ability to review and analyse the impact of cloud-based training is pivotal to its success, says Mr Cook, who predicts a bright future for the uses of cloud computing. “Just because we have lots of content, doesn’t mean it’s actually working. Training analytics can be used to develop more impactful training programmes,” he says.
In addition, collecting and understanding data can help highlight dissonant trends in promotion rates, performance reviews, resignation rates and so on. As a result, employers will benefit from a much better understanding of their own organisational culture, as well as properly trained staff.