What is corporate learning and why is it important?
January 16, 2024
Organizations that invest in corporate learning can increase productivity and gain a genuine, sustainable competitive advantage. But a business’s success is ultimately built on its people’s success. A recent report reveals more than 80% of organizations surveyed are rethinking their corporate learning to make it more people-centric.
What is corporate learning?
Corporate learning works on an organizational and individual level. It describes both the training of employees to perform their work and the organization’s ability to gather and disseminate information and knowledge.
Traditional corporate learning has been the responsibility of L&D or training departments and HR. The main function of corporate training programs is to support work and fill any skills gaps.
So far, so straightforward. But this view of corporate learning is static and reactive. In a fast-paced, technologically enhanced business environment and in the face of a global skills shortage, corporate learning needs to be so much more.
What are the objectives of corporate learning?
The fundamental objective of corporate learning is to position an organization to meet basic business challenges. It means equipping employees with the knowledge and skill sets to work productively and efficiently. Successful corporate learning helps an organization deliver better performance, enhance its efficiency and competitiveness, and ultimately improve its bottom line.
There are three main types of learning objectives for corporations:
- Knowledge-based: These concentrate on imparting information, facts, and knowledge to deliver a better understanding of the organization’s products and processes.
- Skills-based: The objective here is to provide practical training to complete tasks, whether it’s a hard skill like computer programing or a soft skill like communication.
- Attitude-based: These work to shape employees’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, like encouraging a growth mindset and embracing diversity.
Why is corporate learning important?
Corporate learning covers the complete working cycle and operations. It is designed to be comprehensive. A review of key training areas reveals its scope:
Induction and orientation represent a critical stage for new employees. It’s a formative experience and can make the difference between someone fully developing their talent over years or quitting in the space of a few months. Onboarding training offers the corporation the chance to integrate new hires securely into work while also imbuing them with a strong sense of the organization’s culture and values.
Compliance training ensures employees follow company policies and rules and are aware of the consequences of non-compliance. With compliance the goal is to make it part of normal working practices. This includes health and safety, diversity, and employee wellbeing. Some industries, notable the finance sector and pharmaceuticals, are heavily regulated making corporate compliance training even more critical.
Employees are more likely to stay and invest in an organization that offers opportunities for career development. Corporate learning should provide regular upskilling and reskilling to develop employees and provide the organization with the skills to meet current and future business challenges. The rapid advancement of new technology drives the need to upskill.
As an extension of general employee development, organizations need to identify and support candidates for supervisory, managerial, and top leadership roles. Corporate leadership programs deliver training in key leadership skills and support leadership succession planning.
Organizations must develop corporate training programs for new products and services as they come on stream. The audience is not only the product team but also marketing, sales, and customer service.
Top challenges in corporate learning
The theory and objectives behind corporate learning are clear, but the real world presents it with significant obstacles and challenges:
1. Top-down approach to learning
Corporate training is often directed from above with little thought for or input from its intended audience. The intention is to provide a corporate-wide approach and solution, but the effect is to make areas of training irrelevant to people’s day-to-day work. Corporations adopting a top-down approach run the risk of disengaging their audience and undermining the effectiveness of corporate learning as a whole.
2. One size fits all
What follows from the top-down perspective is that corporate training programs become one size fits all. That lack of flexibility and differentiation reduces relevance and forces employees to endure training they don’t really need. Effectiveness is sacrificed in the misguided pursuit of standardization.
3. Knowledge sharing
Knowledge is a prized commodity in any organization, but it is shared imperfectly and inconsistently. Individual employees tend to hold on to knowledge regarding it as a personal asset. From the organization’s perspective efficient knowledge sharing is a necessity for the creation of an effective learning environment and to optimize performance.
4. Insufficient resources
Underinvestment in time and money undermines learning programs and results in a lack of adequate training materials, dedicated trainers, and learning administrators. Training is frequently regarded as time spent away from work rather than as something that is an essential part of working, embedded in the workflow.
5. Alignment with business goals
Corporate learning should ultimately support an organization’s business. This alignment is put under pressure when business objectives change. Learning programs need to be agile and responsive so that materials and initiatives can be updated as business demands.
6. Skills gaps
Organizations confront a global skills shortage and at the same time need to innovate to stay competitive. If hiring talent is impossible or too costly, pressure mounts on corporate learning agencies to up- and reskill existing employees. A top-down approach to training and lack of budget makes retraining difficult to implement.
7. Remote working
A legacy of the Covid pandemic is the growth of remote working. Even before the crisis organizations and their employees had become more dispersed with sections of the organization located in different areas and time zones. In these circumstances a one-size-fits-all learning solution seems even more like a blanket approach and its inefficiencies become exposed.
How to address corporate learning challenges
The obstacles facing corporate learning can be tackled by making it more agile and responsive. The transformation of corporate learning to make it fit for the 21st century involves smart use of technology and new strategies to make training more relevant and engaging with the learner at the center.
1. Put learners first
The antidote to top-down learning approach is to put the learner at the center. This involves understanding learners’ needs and building training around them. L&D can still manage the delivery and administration of corporate training, but its primary focus needs to be learner performance and development, reversing the top-down view.
Learning is more effective if the learner has a stake in it. Enabling personalization through the provision of individual learning paths means employees learn what is required when they need it. They are able to chart their own learning journey as part of their career development, increasing levels of morale and engagement.
Collaboration between individuals and teams promotes knowledge sharing. Using project management apps and the collaborative spaces in learning platforms means knowledge is being actively used and captured. Ideally this captured knowledge is then used to update or create new learning content, making the generation of information cyclical and sustainable.
4. Digitize content
Making learning materials digital encourages the reuse, updating, and repurposing of content, saving money. Learning platforms not only curate digital content in a wide variety of format from plain text to simulations, but they also accommodate off-the-shelf, industry standard courses avoiding the need to re-invent the wheel.
5. Bring learning into the workflow
Digitized content shared across platforms and devices reduces the need to take cohorts of people out of their working environment for training. Bite-size microlearning encourages learning on the job at the point of need, just in time.
6. Deliver upskilling
The availability and accessibility of digital learning facilitates upskilling. Digital content can be quickly created to train people in a new skill without waiting on a new learning program to be rolled out by L&D. User-generated content with expert tips and advice, can be easily recorded on a digital device, uploaded to a learning platform, and be instantly available across the organization.
7. Go mobile
The rendering of learning content on mobile devices means no learner is left without access to information and training. This applies to those working from home, those on the road, and those in different geographies. Recording training sessions and making them available on the network asynchronously means no learner need worry about being left behind.
Key benefits of corporate learning in the workplace
Effective corporate learning brings significant benefits:
1. Expanding employee knowledge
Corporate learning increases the workforce’s levels of expertise and capability. It helps reduce skill gaps and enhance capabilities.
2. Retaining talent
Investing in corporate training demonstrates an organization’s commitment to employees’ professional development. Research shows that opportunities for growth and internal mobility are key factors in keeping and attracting talented employees and reducing costly turnover.
3. Building a work and learning culture
4. Increasing performance
Using the right learning strategies to train people to be better at their job leads to greater productivity. Better performance and more efficient working deliver a higher ROI from corporate training
5. Minimizing skills gap
Agile, responsive corporate learning identifies skills gaps and provides the upskilling and reskilling to bridge them. Up- and re-skilling promote employee development and the retention and acquisition of talent.
6. Improving employee morale and wellbeing
Creating a workplace committed to learning and development gives an organization a reputation for putting its employees’ welfare first. An active and engaging policy of corporate learning accessible to all helps improve morale and wellbeing.
Future trends in corporate learning
Corporate learning will continue to utilize the products and services created by the digital revolution. The move to digital learning will transform the focus of corporate training which will become increasingly more learner centric.
Here are some trends to look out for:
- Learning platforms will be at the heart of the delivery, management, and curation of corporate learning. The rise of LXPs has enhanced the capacity of organizations to provide personalized learning and track training effectiveness with hard data.
- Corporate learning is turning to gamification to provide cased-based, contextual training. Learners are incentivized to learn by the competitive elements and learn by doing, improving their knowledge retention and performance.
- Deeper personalization of corporate learning increases its effectiveness by making it more relevant to the individual learner. Personalization supports employee development with individualized learning pathways with milestones and rewards.
- Learning analytics tools provide hard data on what’s working in your training programs and identify gaps. Learning analytics allows learning administrators to track learner progress, behavior, and performance.
- AI-based systems facilitate the management of learning with alerts, notifications, and personalized recommendations. They remove some of the admin burden on L&D, freeing up time to prioritize the management of learning.
- Breaking up content into microlearning helps organizations move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to corporate learning. Quick to create, microlearning is a key strategy in upskilling.
- Social learning encourages knowledge sharing. Social learning platforms provide the tools to facilitate collaboration and capture knowledge that feeds back into the formal learning content.
- The move to more remote working necessitates a commitment to remote learning. Digitized content and mobile connectivity ensure no employee is without access to corporate learning from onboarding through compliance to upskilling.
Effective corporate learning builds the resilience needed to adapt to change and be ready for what comes next. Organizations that invest in people-centric learning create a working environment that enables employee development, boosts morale, and incentivizes performance. Learning is what binds the different and diverse strengths of a corporation together to give it a powerful sense of purpose, identity, and culture.
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