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3 reasons why organisations should take a bottom-up — and not a top-down — approach to learning and development

“Our organisation’s greatest assets are its people”

“Our staff is our competitive advantage”

"We pride ourselves on our people-first approach”

We’ve heard and read these statements one too many times in company events, conferences, press releases and announcements. Are these “philosophies” actually practiced in the office, or are they just fluffy phrases used to position a company as employers who care about their staff?

The statistics suggest that there is still a lot more that can be done to engage employees. A study by Human Resources consulting firm Mercer found that employee engagement in Singapore has been dropping over the last three years, ranking lower than its regional counterparts in Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia.

This alarming trend deserves swift attention and action as many of us are aware of the negative consequences disengaged staff can bring to the different facets of any organisation

Let’s focus on learning and professional development, a crucial component of employee engagement that has been increasingly thrust under the spotlight with at least 54% of employees requiring reskilling and upskilling by 2022. Recent Tigerhall research pointed out that around three out of four professionals based in Singapore felt that they lacked the necessary skills and knowledge needed to do their jobs well. The fact that this sentiment was consistent among professionals of varying experience levels — from entry to mid and director level professionals — serves as a clear sign that the traditional top-down L&D approach commonly used today must be refreshed.

Let us thrust our employees into the driving seat of their own learning and development. We are talking about the people who are on the ground, who deal with clients everyday, who dedicate a majority of their time to helping a company reach its targets. This is the group of people that deserve to have a significant say on what they need to learn and know to excel at their jobs, instead of making do with the content thrown at them from above that are typically untargeted, inaccessible, unengaging and most of all - laden with stuffy corporate agenda.

L&D managers will benefit tremendously from practicing the people-first mantra and pay more attention to their staff’s needs when it comes to helping employees succeed at work.

The below are three reasons why learning requires a people-first, bottom-up approach today more than ever:

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Boost employee engagement and satisfaction

Let’s face it — employees do not care about corporate agenda. They have their own career goals to meet and life aspirations to chase. With an increasing number of millennials joining the workforce, the last thing we should do is to parent our employees and tell them what they should learn.

Instead, get them involved in the planning of learning programmes. Take their thoughts and feedback into consideration. The more engaged they are in the decision-making process, the more empowered they will be to use the learning materials provided and perform their jobs better. Keep in mind that we are dealing with a generation of people that are driven by a sense of independence, instant gratification and the desire to feel special.

The opportunity to detect pain points on the ground and plug skills gaps

Plugging skills gaps and equipping employees with the tools they need to excel at work are the raisons d'être of the L&D function. With this being said, there is no point guessing what our employees need and what we should teach them. Remember that this is the group of people who are on the ground, make up the majority of an organisation and play a key role in driving business success. If there is anybody who knows what learning content should be provided, it is our employees.

Therefore, plenty of value can be derived by listening to employees and understanding their pain points and needs. This can be done in many ways, one of which is to ask the following questions of the data that is available through analytics-driven platforms such as Tigerhall:

  • What type of learning content are employees consuming? The answers to these questions could indicate the problems employees are facing or even topics of their interest.
  • At which phases of the day are employees learning? If employees are learning on the commute to work, we should make content accessible (i.e through mobile apps or other convenient methods).
  • What are the drop-off rates for the content provided? This will help us understand the ideal duration for optimal learning and engagement.

These insights and trends will be crucial in designing successful learning programmes that are tailored, relevant, helpful and accessible to employees.

3 reasons why organisations should take a bottom-up — and not a top-down —  approach to learning

Implementing learning programmes that are actually relevant and useful

Granted, a more individualized and bottom-up approach could take up more time and resources. But if we take into consideration the greater impact our employees can create if they can tap onto learning materials that actually help them, it will be a more profitable model in the long-run. A struggling sales associate should be able to pick up pitching skills when needed. A marketing specialist facing a creative block must have access to insights on how to run a successful online campaign. A mid-level manager being challenged by subordinates should be able to pick up tips instantly on how to lead better.

These are just some of the common scenarios we see in the office today that need tackling. And this is exactly why a bottom-up approach can add value — by understanding the challenges faced by employees and offering the solutions to tackle problems.

Factors such as technological advancements and the advent of innovative learning models indicate that there has never been a better time to implement tailored, accessible and actionable learning content. Tigerhall, for instance, is partnering some of APAC’s most forward-thinking organisations to provide a platform that is curated to each employee’s own goals and aspirations, and where they can access an array of on-demand and actionable content — from leadership to sales and finance to marketing — whenever they have a pain point to fix.

The stage is therefore set for a new dawn in the corporate learning function.

A function where we see a shift in the roles taken by the L&D department — from being a controller and planner, to playing a facilitator and a partner to employees.

A function that actually walks the talk and puts the people first.

Only then can we credibly say that our employees are our greatest assets.

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