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The five workplace disruptors: Turning the ship in times of rapid change

Gone are the days of reliably planning far ahead in business. In the last few years, constant uncertainty has led to the shortening of business planning cycles from five years, to three, to one and now even three-month plans. In a world where we can barely predict what will happen from week to week, we must focus more on adaptability and develop the skills to react to new challenges at a moment’s notice. On top of this, our workers are looking to us to provide some order in the chaos.

To make this happen in our own organizations, we must ensure that HR is involved as early as possible to help the company embrace chaos. The bigger the organization, the more likely it is you need to change the culture from the top down and literally train people to adapt more quickly. 

These large-scale culture change initiatives don’t happen overnight, meaning it’s important to get on top of the necessary changes as soon as possible.

The rapid change disruptor

During times of rapid change even the best-laid plans can often go awry. When you don’t know what is around the corner economically, socially or otherwise, those who thrive are those who have responded quickly and adapted to change. 

For instance, restaurants who have switched to a delivery service, live music events which have moved online and drive-in movie theaters represent rapid adaptation to today’s changing world. In contrast, the organizations which have faltered are those which have failed to adapt, such as bricks-and-mortar retail stores with no online presence.

One person alone cannot drive this culture shift. HR and senior management must be fully aligned to create a whole new culture of adaptability and flexibility. 

If a swimmer gets caught in a rip tide, they must swim parallel to the shore to escape. If they swim against the current, they will quickly become exhausted. The ability to move with change rather than swimming against the tide is essential for today’s organizations, who will find that being equipped with the knowledge and skills to embrace change will help them weather the unpredictable storms ahead and thrive long into the future.

“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.”
-Chinese proverb

Wondering how you can embrace change?

Join Chief Learning Officer Lars Hyland’s webinar on December 3rd to delve deeper into the skills you need to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

Solution #1: Plan little and often

It’s no longer feasible to spend a lot of time planning for an entire year. Adjust your expectations, plan in short bursts and adjust longer-term expectations with contingency plans.  Avoid wasting time by having agile planning processes and “living documents.” Much of the value of plans is not the plan itself, but the thinking that goes into it. 

“Planning smaller” should also trickle down to your learning program. Instead of a giant, rigid program where every single activity is planned out, instead ensure that your learning supports a nimble approach by breaking your program down into smaller, manageable selections of activities. This could be creating a “pick’n’mix” approach to learning, where people mix and match their own flexible learning programs, a shift to microlearning or supporting workers with just-in-time performance support to maximize efficiency.

For instance, instead of insisting on specific in-person training on a set day every six months, why not invest the time in turning the content into shorter e-learning modules which can be taken at a time that suits your workers? Smaller learning campaigns can then be swapped in and out, mixed and matched and updated separately to solve current problems as and when they arise, rather than needing to overhaul a meticulously planned training schedule.

Solution #2: Cut your red tape

Virtually every organization will understand the pain of navigating a web of red tape. Help your workers out by figuring out which unnecessary hoops they have to jump through to complete their training. 

For instance, do learners need approval to participate in training? If so, switching to a self-enrolment process helps cement a more self-directed learning process, so your people can manage their own time and take ownership of their own learning and development.

Embracing informal learning is another very successful way to reduce bureaucracy around training. Your people can simply open up your learning experience platform to canvas responses and views from the community, identify experts, refer to previous discussions and find answers quickly. 

It may take some creativity, but there are almost certainly plenty of ways you can “cut out the middleman” and more easily connect employees to the information they need. This will free managers up to focus on more important tasks, and gives employees the autonomy they need to develop their skills whenever it suits them.

Solution #3: Procure technology wisely

A common pitfall of technology procurement is getting locked into an expensive, long-term contract. Maybe you were offered an attractive discount for the first year, before costs skyrocketed for the remainder of the term, or you were promised a leading-edge learning management system only to find that you needed to re-engineer all the company’s workflows to fit the software because that’s how Vendor X prescribes you to do things.  

To make a savvy choice, know what questions to ask when you’re creating your request for proposals (RFP). Prioritizing flexibility is key to ensuring your technology will still be fit for purpose well into the future. 

Here are five tips to help you make the right choice the next time it comes to procuring a new LMS, LXP, or performance management technology for your organization:

  1. Avoid entering into a “feature shoot-out” between vendors. It’s highly unlikely that the features you need today will be the same as the features you need next year, so instead ensure the technology you choose is flexible enough to adapt to your changing needs and the vendor is a partner you can trust.
  2. Build a support package that works for you. Do you need round-the-clock assistance, a local provider, hosting support or help with technical issues? The Totara Partner ecosystem, for instance, offers the freedom of choice of a wide range and type of service provider to ensure you always have the right level of support, and if you want change – you can – without being forced to change your technology. 
  3. Take a deep dive into your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This comprises all the direct and indirect costs of procuring a new system, including software licences, hosting, data migration, training, maintenance, support and change management. The figure on the contract rarely reflects everything else that goes into making your solution work for you, so ensure you fully understand what your new technology will cost – including the exit costs. Don’t get trapped. 
  4. Consider running a paid-for discovery phase. Instead of inviting dozens of vendors to submit proposals, consider conducting your initial research and then selecting up to three vendors to undertake a paid assignment to develop a full, shared understanding of how they intend to meet your needs. While this is an upfront investment, it saves money on the cost of a long, drawn-out RFP process and it will help you identify the standout vendor and hone in on exactly what you’re looking for.
  5. Learn from others. Procuring the right technology is difficult, and it’s very easy to end up with buyer’s remorse. That’s why you can benefit hugely from speaking to others in your position. The Totara Community is home to thousands of HR and learning professionals around the world, so join today and share your challenges with your industry peers.







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