By Megha Bhatia

If you’re a Training or L&D Manager, you know that your decisions and approach to this year will impact several people within your organisation. So even if we don’t know what the year holds, we know one thing for sure, this year, upskilling your workforce has become a matter of survival.

The ways in which we work, learn, and communicate have fundamentally changed. Businesses need new skills urgently, increasing the strategic responsibility of L&D departments in supporting organisational performance.

So, if you haven’t already defined what you want to achieve in your L&D role this year, it’s not too late. Here’s some inspiration to get you started:

1. Stay Agile and Strategically Connected With the Business

Don’t be the one who falls in love with the training plan he makes at the start of the year and sticks to it. The business landscape is evolving rapidly. Make sure your training department develops agile plans that are strategically aligned to the evolving goals and priorities of the business.

2. Identify and Master a Skill You Need

This one’s particularly important. After all, you’re responsible for getting everyone upskilled and reskilled; there’s no doubt you need to assess your own areas of development too. For example, several L&D Managers aren’t sure how to measure the business impact of training. Draw up a plan to attend training courses to learn how to align learning goals with business objectives and gauge training ROI.

3. Actively Seek to Learn About and Address L&D Trends for 2021

  • Everyone needs technology/digital fluency in today’s business landscape
  • The demand for cognitive skills, innovation, entrepreneurship, and crisis leadership is on the rise
  • Unconscious bias is real and is impacting organisational performance

These are just a few trends. It’s your responsibility to explore and address the emerging, non-traditional needs of your workforce. According to the global data report by Degreed, “The State of Skills 2021: ENDANGERED”, over half of workers globally (55%) said that when they don’t feel confident in their skills, their stress levels increase, and mental health suffers.

4. Provide Multiple Learning Modalities for Professional Development Needs

L&D departments in the Middle East are now embracing virtual training after their initial resistance in 2020. GoFluent’s survey showed that before COVID-19, only 59.4% of the participants and their organisations were ready for online training. Currently, 73.2% of them are already equipped and forced to transition to digital learning. The value of knowledge and skills transfer through online training interventions has proven to be successful. Training departments are now combining face-to-face and online learning modalities to address skills requirements.

5. Learn to Communicate Strategically, the Impact of Losing High-Potential Talent

Training budgets are cut; your hands are tied. What do you do? The Degreed report showed that:

  • People in IT, marketing, and finance roles are most likely to leave their employer for a new opportunity if they don’t feel an investment in developing future-ready skills
  • The risks of obsolete skills within the next few years are felt most severely among workers in IT, marketing, HR, and finance roles

If people aren’t being sufficiently developed, you’re going to lose high-performing talent and succession plans – either to your competitors or to obsolescence.

You’re expected to communicate the business impact of this and innovate and present a strategic plan of how you intend to foster a growth culture.

6. Actively Discourage a Box-Ticking Approach to L&D

All too often, line managers nominate members of their team to attend a training course as an obligatory box-ticking exercise – without a proper analysis of their needs. As a well-informed training professional, it’s important for you to ensure a training needs analysis is carried out. If you’re working with a reputable training provider, they should be able to help with this process and recommend the right training for the employee.

Of course, this list is by no means definitive nor exhaustive. I hope it’s given you a little inspiration to list your priorities for the year. I recommend taking the time to read them every day and reassess them often. You are in a powerful position to help your business make smarter decisions on investing in your most valuable assets — your people. If there’s one biggest challenge an L&D leader faces, it’s not having a seat at the table with the business. This year aim to make your contribution more strategic than ever before.

I’d love to learn about your objectives and approach in 2021. What would you advise other training/learning and development professionals to do this year?