The health crisis has created countless upheavals. But it has also been an accelerator of transformation. Corporate training has the opportunity to reposition itself - not only by adapting to a new context, but by using it as a lever to better serve the development of employees and the performance of companies. Communicating theoretical guidelines is no longer enough: to adapt to the new operational reality of employees, training must become more personalised and more actionable.
The year 2020 has been marked by an intertwining of personal and professional lives. Although this phenomenon did not wait for the global health crisis to manifest itself in our society, it has been radically precipitated by the telework imposed in many sectors. Maintaining work-life balance was already a widely identified problem, with the massification of smartphones and the constant hyper-connection to many communication channels. With the health crisis and the closure of offices, work has invaded our personal lives, often with negative impacts on an already fragile balance. Commutes have been replaced by longer working hours, interruptions have become more intrusive, and disconnection more difficult.
But when the line between professional and personal spheres is blurred, transfers from one to the other take place. For example, our personal lives have also influenced the way we work. A year ago, our physical working environment was the office: an impersonal space, common to all employees of the company, and dedicated to a professional context. Today, this environment is personal because we are at home. We no longer work in an office belonging to our employer, but in our own living room, our kitchen, on a table and chair that belong to us. To some extent, our personal schedules and organisation have been able to change to suit us rather than our company's codes. By refocusing on the individual employee, and thus moving away from the epicentre of the office, work has become more deeply personal. For the same job, individual differences have increased - especially with the decline in peer-to-peer interaction, which has led to a standardisation of working methods.
This shift in the centre of gravity has had an impact, among other things, on training needs. Indeed, while it is up to the company to determine the objective of a training course, i.e. the skill or posture to be embodied, it is up to each employee to determine the starting point of the training course, according to their own maturity and experience. It is no longer possible to envisage a standard training offer, or even an offer broken down by large populations, for example according to the position or seniority level of the employees. In order to be as appropriate, and therefore effective, as possible, the training offered by companies must be positioned at the most micro level possible: that of the individual. The only way to do this is to let the learners position their own level, and therefore their needs in terms of skills development, and then to adapt the training offered to them.
Confinement means isolation. Indeed, the refocusing of work on the individual has also meant a deterioration in the link with their company. Through this unprecedented crisis, leading to the massive use of teleworking, the main challenge for companies was to know how to detect and support employees suffering from this isolation and the loss of regular social links. It should be noted that this isolation does not only refer to relationships between employees, but also to a fundamental psychological need: the need to belong. Indeed, the fact of being part of a team makes it possible to meet the need to feel integrated into the professional group. This goes hand in hand with the perceived impact of individual work. And, generally, when one goes wrong, the other follows...
More than ever in the wake of this pandemic, employees of large companies are looking for meaning - not the meaning of the company's activity, but the meaning of their own daily tasks in relation to this activity. The strategic, and therefore theoretical, vision held by company management has gradually become disconnected from the day-to-day life of employees, which is deeply operational because it is focused on their own tasks. The collective dynamic carried by all the employees becomes difficult to materialise when the collective is fragmented. The risk, in the long term, would be to achieve a total disengagement of employees, which would have an impact both on their well-being and on the company's performance.
Thus, companies can no longer be satisfied with spelling out a vision that is too abstract, whether it is a question of corporate values, raison d'être, or economic objectives. However necessary it may be to define each of these elements, they remain theoretical - and the theoretical was not enough to unite during the health crisis. The companies that succeeded in making their values a rallying point, for example, are those that were able to translate these values into concrete behaviours, integrated into the daily life of each employee. In other words, they are those that have made the effort to move from theory to practice within their training offer, by proposing learning paths anchored in practice, inviting and helping employees to act.
With a view to personalising training, the explosion of "micro" formats has given rise to a positive movement, consisting of transforming long and complex training courses into small bricks, which are both easier to digest for the learner and more conducive to the creation of a tailor-made course. The same should apply to this new form of training built entirely on practice: the stages of the learner's journey would not be videos or quizzes, but concrete actions to be carried out on a daily basis. Learners would thus move from passive learning to an active posture - in the true sense of the word, since learning is done through action. They would also be able to manage their training, and make it fit in perfectly with their existing habits, by carrying out the actions they consider most relevant to their own context.
Furthermore, training can no longer be seen as a series of one-off events, but as continuous support throughout our professional career. Ideally, each employee would have his or her own coach to accompany him or her as they develop their skills. For obvious reasons of cost and bandwidth, human support is not feasible, even with the additional support of coach managers. Unfortunately, there is not yet a digital solution that can fully replace human support, at least not to the level of detail that personalisation at the individual level requires. Nevertheless, progress in the understanding of our cognitive mechanisms has enabled the very recent appearance of solutions based on effective and proven strategies that encourage the transition to action. In this way, the employee is not left to his or her own devices in the difficult task of setting up his or her own personal development, but can benefit from assistance, from correctly positioned nudges, enabling him or her to take action. And, in this way, to increase their competence, in a direction that corresponds to them and that is aligned with the challenges of their company.