5 key business challenges for L&D in 2019

Posted on Dec 04, 2018

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What can L&D achieve for their organisations in 2019? 

It’s a central question facing Learning and Development teams in the New Year, as they continue the shift from being course deliverers to strategic business partners. Evolving learning strategy to align with business priorities must start with a deep understanding of what really matters to your organisation. What are the key challenges, where does learning fit in and how can L&D deliver the biggest impact? 

We’ve picked out five of the biggest business challenges, as highlighted by various analysts and research organisations, to identify where L&D can add the most value in addressing key business priorities over the next 12 months.

1 – Cyber security and data protection

The influential research company, Forrester has warned that 2019 will be a year of “unprecedented cyberthreats” to companies. The response, they say, is that more organisations will adopt ‘Zero Trust’ – a policy that assumes that no user or device is safe.

But the trust issue goes much further. May 2019 sees the first anniversary of GDPR. Its introduction has placed data protection firmly in the public domain. People are now more aware of their rights, but they’re wary.  With research showing that two-thirds of people still don’t trust organisations with their personal data, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has told organisations they must continue to improve. A year on, there can be no excuses for non-compliance.

For L&D, the job is to maximise the organisation’s in-built firewall – the workforce. Reinforcing and refreshing employee knowledge around data protection and cyber security is therefore a top priority. Offering learning that’s engaging – such as a learning game – is the key to success for this this crucial compliant topic.

2 – Employee experience (EX)

If 2018 was dominated by customer experience, then in 2019, the L&D focus is on employee experience. Skills shortages, low unemployment rates and high staff turnover have combined to make talent recruitment and retention more important than ever. Companies will need to implement employee experience initiatives that will improve job satisfaction, allow employee development and aid productivity.

A creative onboarding experience gives your company the edge over competitors; continuous onboarding drives performance and growth for the long-term. Virtual reality (VR), games and gamification, microlearning, digital storytelling and pre-boarding are some of the learning tools that inspire and engage.

3 – Brexit

Uncertainty is the No. 1 enemy for business. How do you plan ahead, when you’re not sure what the future holds? Businesses across the UK and EU continue to be preoccupied with Brexit and the uncertainties. According to the CBI, the UK’s respected business organisation,  94% of companies surveyed said that planning for Brexit was proving a major difficulty.

The challenge for L&D is to equip the workforce with resilience and agility, so that their organisation is well placed to respond to the changing landscape (whatever happens). The answer is flexible learning that allows for swift updating and adapting, keeping workforce training programmes relevant and continuous and connected with learning that’s easy and convenient to access.  L&D will need to work faster and choose partners that can support their need for this agility.

4 – AI and automation

Forrester predict that in 2019, a quarter of talent leaders will use automation to address the talent shortage. Using automation to do mundane tasks will free up time and money for organisations to develop expertise, rather than wait for the talent squeeze to come to an end. In addition, artificial intelligence (AI) is about to fulfil its extraordinary promise in 2019, helping organisations to “turn the corner on data governance”.

However, making the most of what AI tech has to offer requires L&D upskilling themselves. Understanding and applying AI, automation and the data analytics that drives both to meet business challenges, will become core preoccupation for L&D.

5 – Customer experience (CX)

In our business briefing for 2018, we highlighted the increasing importance of customer experience as a key differentiator for companies, and fears that CX transformation is not keeping pace with consumer expectations. In 2019, Forrester predicts a further decline in CX progress with the mismatch widening between what businesses need to achieve with customer experience and engagement and what they end up delivering.

With people skills, knowledge and engagement being central to the experience of customers and their decisions about brand and loyalty, L&D is well placed to step up and help businesses bridge the CX gap. We’ve seen this close up with our work with insurance company, AXA in a blended learning campaign to improve customer experience at its business insurance contact centre. AXA saw customer positive feedback soar by over 100% following the campaign, proving what L&D can achieve when focused on a strategically important business goal.

Of course, each business will have unique circumstances and goals, but there are some challenges that cut across many industries. In 2019, these handful of issues are likely to preoccupy the C-suite, regardless of sector. By adding value in these key areas, L&D has an opportunity to engage with senior stakeholders and further prove the worth of effective workplace learning.

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