Thriving in a Post-COVID Work World with Workforce Enablement

May 12, 2021 Debbie Gower

In 2021, organizations are pivoting toward a more efficient, effective, and engaging way to deliver the skills, knowledge and support people need to perform their jobs successfully — while also focusing on operational stability and desired business impact during times of economic instability.

COVID-19 has put a spotlight on operating model and workflow gaps that inhibit the ability of organizations to function at their best. It has also underscored the importance of workforce enablement as a major factor in how well businesses are able to perform.

What is workforce enablement?

Workforce enablement is the sum of interactions and communications in an organization that helps workers do their job better. It includes learning and development (L&D), knowledge management, policies and governance, employee communications, and internal marketing. It encompasses not only employees, but the increasing number of contingent workers and partners in today’s virtual gig economy.

In short, workforce enablement includes almost any content or communication aimed at helping workers succeed on the job.

Driving success and shared achievement

Early adopters of unified workforce enablement strategies have become high performance organizations. As such, they have seen a consistent improvement in content, curation and communications management. This has led to intentional integration of relevant, contextual content into the workflow supporting the learning and performance needs of employees and other workforce members across their enterprise.

In our 2020 study conducted with Training Industry, Inc., we found that companies with a unified workforce enablement strategy were more than twice as likely to report positive revenue growth, market share and profitability overall. In other words, when organizations help workers interact, perform, and adapt to work requirements in the flow of work, overall revenue growth for the organization increases dramatically.

In the midst of the myriad of challenges over the past year, new opportunities have emerged to evolve workforce enablement strategies that may have previously stalled in the planning stages. Now is the time to adopt a mindset change and seize on those opportunities.

Getting to the next level with a three-pronged approach

The most effective workforce enablement strategy is one that integrates enablement throughout the course of workers’ days — delivering support when, where and how they need it across 5 Moments of Need™ (pioneered by Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher, APPLY Synergies, LLC). Formal training is key when learning needs are focused on knowledge that is New or when workers need More contextual understanding.

Digital performance support best focuses on the moments of Apply, Solve and Change to address transferring and sustaining the knowledge or skills necessary to execute expected job responsibilities.  Frequently, the content already exists in one of the five key sources and simply needs to be curated and organized in such a way to support the learning need.

Formal and informal learning combined with performance support are keystones of the three-pronged approach that can kick workforce enablement into high gear across an enterprise:   

  1. Performing refers to supporting and improving worker performance.
  2. Adapting refers to the internal work involved in organizational change and other internal initiatives.
  3. Interacting refers to the important collaboration and social relationships that occur spontaneously and deliberately within an organization.

Making it seamless

A critical attribute of an effective workforce enablement strategy is workers seeing it as unified and seamless, versus disjointed or siloed. Achieving this requires a cohesive approach with coordination across multiple teams — but it pays off in improved employee satisfaction, motivation and retention, company culture and a systemic ability to adapt to change.

To create a seamless foundation for your workforce enablement strategy:

  • Offer multi-modal training

Different training methods offer different benefits and combining them maximizes the return on your investment. Incorporate a variety of learning methods, meeting the learning preferences of a broad range of workers and creating engaging training across the board.

  • Use a combination of communication channels

Leveraging all communication channels versus just a few, you can ensure your message reaches all your workers, regardless of where they work or what they do. That spectrum should include employee portals; mobile communications; emails, company website; company events and launches; chat tools, notice boards, etc.

  • Deliver a comprehensive enablement experience

Similarly, by using all forms of enablement content — L&D, knowledge management tools, policies and governance, employee communications and internal marketing — you can reach all workers with the relevant information they need and support them as they do their work.

The pandemic has spurred organizations to realize how quickly workforce enablement initiatives can start saving them time and money while empowering employees and boosting their job satisfaction. 

Change has been ever present for over two decades, especially the impact of its increasing breadth and pace, and workforce enablement is becoming more important than ever.

For a deeper dive, download our eBook, Workforce Enablement: Best Practices of High-Performing Companies.

About the Author

Debbie Gower

Debbie Gower manages service delivery and special projects at Conduent Learning. She has over 25 years of experience addressing clients’ human capital needs, most recently focused on learning and employee experience. She is a subject matter expert in stakeholder collaboration, leading through change, managing large multidisciplinary programs and driving account success. Prior to joining Conduent, Debbie was a senior manager in EY’s human capital practice.

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