Why businesses need to put professional development back on the agenda

professional development

Did your business suspend or postpone its regular staff training and development schedule after the onset of COVID-19 last year? For many Australian enterprises, the answer is “yes”, the pandemic having thrust them into crisis mode. With leaders and line managers racing to shore up supply chains, facilitate work from home arrangements and manage cashflow, arranging professional development activities for individuals and teams not infrequently took a back seat to the more pressing challenge of maintaining business continuity and viability.

Eighteen months on, Australia’s protracted lockdowns mean that many organisations are continuing to operate in “uncertain” mode. But as the country creeps closer to achieving the government’s 70 to 80 per cent vaccination targets, we’ll very soon see the mass relaxation of restrictions and the re-opening of our economy and society.

New normal, new skills

So, what skills and capabilities will your team need to acquire or refine, in order for your business to keep up and compete in the post-Covid business environment?

Digital ones are the answer in many organisations.

The pandemic has been the catalyst for an unprecedented wave of transformation; a decade’s worth of activity in the space of a year, as some ICT commentators have categorised it.

Sixty-seven per cent of businesses globally accelerated their digital transformation strategies, according to KPMG’s 2020 global survey. Sixty-three per cent have put their money where their mouth is, upping their transformation budget as a result of Covid-19.

Spending has been heavily focused around solutions to address immediate concerns, such as supply chain disruption and falling revenue, as well as the long term goals of increased competitiveness and resilience, the survey found.

Future-proofing your team

Investing in training and professional development to upgrade your team’s digital skills may help them to hold their own in the challenging and uncertain business landscape the virus has ushered in – and better prepare your organisation to deal with the next major disruption.

It may also help to improve your staff retention rate. That’s become a priority for many organisations, given the significant skills shortages border restrictions have helped to create. Reducing staff churn can also help to contain recruitment costs and ensure productivity levels remain high.

For the younger generation in particular, providing ample opportunity to expand their knowledge is a must. In their 2019 PwC Australia Digital Pulse article, The impact of Millennials on the workplace, Tan Allaway and Ellie Gurgiel note that this cohort views continuous skills development as the key to a longer working life.

“They’re used to constant, iterative improvement, and want to apply this to their working processes,” Allaway and Gurgiel observed.

Hence, organisations that want to achieve their own potential must commit to helping these up-and-comers achieve theirs too.

“Have strategies in place to ensure your people are provided with constant opportunities for development. Short-term, skills-based e-learning might present a more economical solution and rapid way of acquiring the desired skills,” the pair wrote.

Turning to technology

Advanced video collaboration technology can enable organisations to deliver relevant learning opportunities to their employees quickly and economically, irrespective of whether they’re working in the office or at home.

Today’s solutions are a far cry from the clunky, less-than-reliable platforms that preceded them. It’s now possible to create an immersive, on-demand training environment; one which provides every participant with a front row seat and the ability to consume content, whenever and wherever suits them best.

For human resources departments looking to equip workforces with the smarts and skills businesses need to succeed in 2022 and beyond, it’s an investment in the future that’s likely to pay for itself many times over.