By Peter Hofmann

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred changes in the strategies of organisations across the globe. Economic and social impacts demanded the review of products and services and how organisations deliver these to their customer base. Changes in the way people work brought about by the move toward remote working along with a strong increase in the uptake of technology due to changes in consumer and customer trends, have now materially influenced the roles of human resource practitioners.

The prioritisation of business requirements and allocation and alignment of limited resources to deliver human resource services that contribute to the organisational strategy is based on the people strategy. This provides the basis for determining how an organisation should manage and motivate a workforce that can execute the organisational strategy. HR service delivery, together with internal infrastructural capability and HR governance, is structured within an HR operating model that is supported by appropriate performance monitoring. Learning and development structures and processes form an integral part of this operating model.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a more simplistic approach to the structuring of organisational L&D plans has been followed. In many organisations the distribution of L&D funding on a per-head basis remains evident. Also, human capital metrics used in L&D remain operationally focused. Activity measures (such as annual training hours per employee), efficiency and effectiveness measures (such as post-training supervisory evaluations) and organisational performance measures (such as ROI) do not provide meaningful insight into the contribution of L&D in driving strategic value. The organisational changes spurred by the social impacts of the pandemic have provided a basis for the review of many human resource practices, including L&D, to build organisational resilience and drive medium and longer-term value creation.

In the short-term, value creation through L&D activities can be improved through enhanced integration with the organisational budgeting process. Based on operational requirements, resource planning provides an understanding of the short-term manpower requirement. Linking processes such as the skills inventory (incorporating the identification of the uniqueness and value of skills associated with the required positions in the resource plan) and the analysis of the potential and performance of employees provides a basis for understanding where greater emphasis is required for L&D in the shorter term. This in turn allows for a more focussed L&D budget and plan for operational requirements. Once established, L&D performance indicators can be introduced that are proactively monitored through data analysis and organisational reporting structures to continuously adapt to changes in the environment.

An analysis of the longer-term internal and external drivers provides a meaningful basis for establishing a strategically focused manpower planning process to forecast supply and demand for skills and competencies in an organisation.  This process, in conjunction with the shorter-term processes outlined above, provide the basis for a strategically focused allocation of L&D resources. This is undertaken in an integrated way with other areas of HR service delivery such as recruitment, performance management and employee engagement.

The COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly elevated the role of HR in driving organisational resilience and performance. The agenda for post-pandemic learning and development will be focused on a deeper understanding of the matching of skills with required jobs and cost-effective training solutions to position organisations for strategic success.

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