Every year, we celebrate Learning at Work Week as a fantastic opportunity to create and spread enthusiasm about learning across organisations.
This year, the event took place at the same time as Mental Health Awareness Week, throwing the spotlight firmly onto workplace well-being.
If the inspiring stories that have been filling my LinkedIn and Twitter feeds over this past week are anything to go by, organisations are becoming more aware than ever about the need to nurture and protect the well-being of their people.
But what I think is most encouraging from this past week is the greater awareness it has brought to the influence of learning on mental health – underlining the crucial role of L&D teams.
How learning can help
Both within and outside of work, learning new skills can invigorate our well-being. Increased self-confidence, a greater sense of purpose, and more meaningful relationships with others are just a few of the benefits learning can bring to our lives.
Learning something new means stretching ourselves by identifying a knowledge or skills gap, and mapping out a path to address that gap. It is by nature challenging.
Take, for example, learning a new language online. It requires a positive mindset; the self-belief that you can pass the course. It requires dedication, to sacrifice a large chunk of your free time to complete the sessions. And it requires discipline, to test yourself and keep persevering until the knowledge sticks.
Having the commitment and drive to see it through to the end can be incredibly rewarding and self-empowering.
So you can see how the process of learning is in itself good for our well-being.
For L&D teams, this means offering plenty of opportunities to learn, and selling this to learners in creative, compelling ways. Repeated studies show how keen today’s learners are to embrace learning by doing it in their own spare time, so it is essential that learning can be accessed on the go where possible.
But there is another, often overlooked way that L&D leaders can influence workplace well-being, and sustain it over the longer term: developing resilience.
Defined as the ability to recover from setbacks, resilience is the key to being successful in a pressured, fast-paced and continuously changing environment.
As positive as workplace well-being initiatives are, one criticism is that they are reactive: the emphasis is very much on responding to issues instead of preventing them.
Critically, cultivating resilience can act as a preventative measure by helping employees handle pressure better and become open to change.
Why this matters now
In the digital age, characterised by rapid change and uncertainty, resilience is becoming more important than ever.
The World Economic Forum predicts that, by 2022, 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling, as the skills needed to perform most jobs will have shifted due to rapid, unexpected change brought about by digital transformation.
The result of these demands in today’s uncertain environment is creating unprecedented levels of stress and pressure for leaders and their teams alike.
For leaders, there is an urgent need to identify skills gaps and harness technology to meet the demands of an evolving, agile workforce. For the rest, it is about being adaptable and ready to cope with whatever changes come their way.
L&D teams therefore have a significant role to play in developing collective and individual resilience during unpredictable times.
Shaping the Future
The theme of this year’s Learning at Work Week, Shaping the Future, could not be more relevant. By encouraging people to become more open and resilient to change, we are helping them to navigate the ambiguity of this digital age more confidently – and better equipping them to actively shape our individual, collective and organisational futures.
If we can build resilience among our workforce, we will better prepare them to cope with pressure and embrace unexpected situations with positivity. The knock-on effect will be reduced stress levels and greater agility, which over the longer-term will help the business to anticipate and respond to future challenges more effectively.
What could be more important in the digital era?
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
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