Can e-learning provide the bricks to build the bridge across the UK’s productivity gap?

Productivity in the UK is a notoriously slow moving beast, particularly in recent years. According to the Office for National Statistics, productivity growth has remained at a standstill for seven years since the financial crisis. A report by The Independent from July 2015 also highlighted that productivity in Britain is second weakest of the G7 nations.

There can be fewer things more crucial to a business than the productivity of its workforce. Productivity produces profitability, we know. It would be reasonable to assume that low productivity is linked to low employee engagement. However, it doesn’t automatically follow that low enthusiasm levels are entirely the fault of the workforce. The gap in productivity, that low workforce enthusiasm could just as easily be a result of ineffective or ill-focussed support in Learning and Development. Productivity is also often seen as the return on an organisation’s investment in its people, so it is imperative that every effort is made to bridge that gap. In an ever changing world, companies and organisations need to look at new frameworks for the provision of training.

Investing in people, and strengthening their engagement, not only through providing them with skills, but more importantly, the right skills, will bring about greater productivity, building that bridge. Keeping that process ongoing and current is essential. The right people, with the right skills and with the knowledge to put those skills to effective use is key here. HR departments will provide the right people, and the investment in Learning and Development will broaden the skills base, bringing improved productivity as a result. Another key factor is that motivation grows as employees gain knowledge, as they will feel more able and better equipped to carry out their responsibilities. Equally, skills of leaders require constant development, in order for them to manage effectively. Again, employees who feel valued and supported by senior staff will be better motivated and energised, increasing their productivity. 

The digital revolution continues to gather momentum, and is changing the way we think and work, the way we communicate and interact, and increasingly, how we learn. The physical boundaries between work and home are blurring, and the difference between how we perceive ourselves, both personally and professionally becomes less rigid and pre-determined. Learning and Development organisations need to utilise new technologies. The days of flip charts, bad coffee, and bored, dis-engaged learners are gone. Moving forward, in order to address the productivity gap with any degree of success, we need to embrace the potential of e-learning.

Organisation-specific applications and video conferencing are just two digital tools whose use we should aim to make more commonplace in the workplace. By enthusing and energising learners with platforms they understand, and methods they enjoy, ie gamified learning, we can more effectively engage the workforce, providing greater productivity. It could even be argued that failure to embrace these new technologies may even widen the productivity gap of UKplc.

It is important that Learning and Development doesn’t just stop with the Learning part, however. Whilst learners will enjoy the benefits of acquiring knowledge, it is through development that these skills are able to be fostered, allowing personal growth, and behavioural change to take place. Development needs to be ongoing and fluid, and focussed on the organisations long term objective of increased productivity and profitability.

Again, distance learning, or e-learning holds many of the answers, providing a flexible and adaptable platform for continuous monitoring using data for analysis, the evaluation and tracking of progress, and the framework to keep learning current, vital, and relevant. Another benefit of e-learning is self-service. Mobile apps, such as Wranx, could be the answer that organisations require.

In the 24/7 world, where the workforce is more dispersed, and often based across differing time zones, learners expect to be able to pick and choose when and how they learn, wanting the ability to access information on the move and wherever and whenever they see fit. They want the flexibility required of them by organisations to be mirrored by the way they can engage in their own development. Giving them a sense of autonomy strengthens their engagement, and by extension, their productivity.

Combining the workplace and classroom into one, with a continual culture of learning can lead to better productivity. We know that it is far more cost effective and timely to upskill the workforce from within, rather than seek to employ it externally, and internal promotion of employees makes them more engaged and more loyal. An engaged and loyal workforce is highly likely to be more productive.

So. A bridge. We need to build a bridge across the productivity gap. And as any structural engineer will tell you, its all about the foundations. Strong foundations, put in the right place and able, together, to provide the strength to support the bridge.

The workforce are the foundations, and learning, or more specifically in this age, e-learning, is what gives the foundations strength, the bricks to build that bridge. 

Written by: Persia Shahkarami

Published: 7 Jun, 2016