5 key insights on corporate learning with Josh Bersin

Global industry analyst

Josh Bersin

Corporate learning needs a reinvention. Never before has the Learning & Development function been a more strategic asset than right now, as automation and technology are impacting careers and people in new ways.

Global Industry Analyst


The #1 human capital trend is learning

According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, “The number- one trend is the need for organizations to change the way people learn.” It’s important to note that they are not talking about educational institutions, but rather corporations. Jobs are changing rapidly, yet somehow, the way we train employees has stayed rather fixed. Companies are starting to realize that the “old way” of training employees is broken.

To keep up, many organizations invested heavily in headcount for the Learning & Development function within HR. However, more people, tools and content doesn’t solve the problem either. It is all about changing learning at the learner level. How can you create learning that fits into the flow of work?

A key element of this global trend is influenced by the workforce, as well. Employees today want more and better learning offerings. What better way to get your employees to engage with your company than to give them a state-of-the-art learning experience — one they will enjoy and remember, and one that will truly give them new skills.


Make learning memorable

There are many ways to make learning memorable. Things like repetition, spaced learning, and feedback have been used for years. But realistic training can be more difficult. It requires learning environments that look, sound, and feel like the ones that people will experience in the real world. However, the most authentic training experiences often lead to the best retention.

While I’ve always been skeptical of new technologies, there are a few that have blown me away with regards to authentic and memorable learning experiences, including Virtual Reality. It represents a real opportunity for business leaders to better engage employees because it is experiential and immersive.

This kind of learning is invaluable because it creates the true “muscle memory” in the mind that no classroom, eLearning or instructor-led training could ever create.


Learning starts on the front lines

For many large organizations, employee turnover is an ongoing problem, especially at the front-line level. Every HR professional thinks about, “How do I keep people engaged in the company so they don’t churn?” One effective way to do this is through high-impact learning that can scale to everyone on the front lines.

While leadership training has its place, associates are the ones interacting with customers and performing the everyday tasks that make the company go. Make an investment in memorable learning for that group and you’ll see the far-reaching returns through better output, higher engagement and less churn.

With that in mind, L&D professionals must think strategically for the business: what will scale across the workforce and be effective enough to engage them?


Soft skills are imperative

When I think about all the things I’ve done, the most important learnings I’ve had are how to work with people, how to work in teams, how to deal with problems and how to listen. If you actually look at the economics, we don’t have enough people for the jobs that are being created, and the skills that are mostly in demand are more sophisticated complex- thinking skills, service skills and interpretation skills.

Working well with people requires guidance and practice like any other skill.

As more roles become driven by interpersonal communication, it’s important that L&D leaders are thinking about how to give their employees practice to hone soft skills.

Throwing them into the deep end, especially with customers, is simply not an option. But identifying tools that allow people to practice and hone those soft skills in a safe space will be critical to a successful workforce and business.


Human performance is a business differentiator

Like many business units, L&D is quickly being disrupted by technology innovations. Leaders are under pressure to keep up, even as more and more technologies become available. In the long term, L&D’s ability to tap into the modern workforce and offer a differentiated employee experience is key to activating talent.

You don’t need to hire more people than your competitors; there aren’t enough people. You can’t build software faster than your competitors; they can hire the same software engineers you can. They can hire the same sales people. We’re in a stage of the economy right now where the only thing that will differentiate a company is the human performance equation.

In other words, for the best performance, you must be able to tap into best practices, techniques, and tools for employee learning, especially for the “magic” that differentiates your business.

My research shows that the highest performing companies allocate up to 40% of their training spending for programs that drive competitive advantage for the company or may prevent a loss that dramatically impacts business performance.

So the question becomes: how can you offer learning programs that will be more effective in engaging the workforce for better retention and on-the-job performance?

About Josh Bersin

Josh in an industry analyst with deep expertise in the areas of corporate HR, talent management, leadership, and technology. Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, Josh continues to serve as a senior advisor to Deloitte and sits on the board of the UC Berkeley Haas Business School Executive Education. He is passionate about leadership development and is frequently featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review and Fast Company.