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TecHRseries Interview with Doug Stephen, President, Learning Division at CGS

Doug Stephen, President, Learning Division at CGS dives into the top factors that business leaders should pay attention to in 2021 while also sharing his thoughts on the impact of 5G on supporting remote and field work in today’s new normal in this conversation with TecHRseries:

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Tell us a little about yourself Doug…we’d love to hear about the CGS Learning Division and the platform your team built?

I live in Canada’s oldest city, Saint John, with my wife Donna and sons Nick and Cole. One of my passions is identifying disparate technologies and combining them to create and deliver learning that will surpass my clients’ objectives and key results. The Learning division has been part of CGS since our company’s inception in 1984. Our focus has always been on creating the most engaging custom content for Fortune 500 companies, leading CGS on a path of continuous innovation. We were one of the first SaaS SCORM-based learning management system (LMS) applications. Additionally, we invested heavily in robotic processing automation (RPA) to convert legacy courses into HTML. We have created the first augmented realty (AR) application that combines AR, computer vision and xAPI reporting to deliver world-class training.

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How have you seen learning and development solutions evolve over the years?

YouTube has transformed the way people learn. They want the freedom to quickly find and absorb engaging training. People question why it takes five minutes to log into a LMS and find a course that prevents them from accessing the information they want immediately. They want recommendations and peer reviews. This lifestyle transformation has been adopted by forward-thinking companies to ensure they capture the interest of their clients. Creativity, immediacy, curation and innovation are all the assets that will continue to transform learning.

In light of the current global pandemic what are some in-demand features that businesses need more of from their learning systems?

The pandemic has changed businesses across all industries globally. Our recent survey findings put a spotlight on how businesses are providing ample digital tools to support their workforce during the ongoing health crisis. Yet, organizations are falling flat in a few key areas of learning and development. While one-third of the deskless workforce surveyed said that they received new digital learning and/or collaboration tools, such as augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR), from their employers, only 12 percent received mentorship or wellness sessions and even fewer (10 percent) had access to conflict resolution or management training. Relying on innovation alone to provide a successful learning system is a gamble, and businesses need to round out their learning and development programs with interactive offerings. Given the ongoing COVID-19 social distancing requirements, it is even more crucial that employers develop a plan to support their employees’ emotional needs and personal development.

CGS recently conducted a 2020 Deskless Workforce Learning and Development Satisfaction Survey; can you share some top findings on the biggest areas of satisfaction/dissatisfaction among employees from this study?

Health and safety were identified as leading areas of satisfaction for the deskless workforce with nearly three-quarters of respondents (73 percent) expressing their satisfication with their employers investments in health and safety training. However, the data revealed high rates of dissatisfaction in regard to workloads and staffing. A majority of employees expressed that their job responsibilities and workloads have increased during the pandemic. When further analyzing the findings among industries, it’s clear that retail in particular is struggling. Retail workers are the least confident about committing to their current employers, with only 53 percent stating they would remain in their current roles. Implementing technologies in an effort to safeguard retail employees may be part of the issue; 42 percent of retail employees said they hadn’t received new digital learning or collaboration tools to assist in their training. With mandating masks and social distancing policies and implementing new technology, there is an onslaught of skills with which retailers need to equip employees and the data shows retail leaders may not be delivering.

Businesses are adapting to an extended new normal. With several adopting hybrid work cultures during this time and many others choosing to stay completely remote, what are some of the employee wellness areas and activities that you feel employers need to focus on more during this time? 

Business leaders will need to focus on addressing burnout or risk losing frontline employees as they continue to experience increased workloads and responsibilities in a heightened emotional state. To successfully support their valued employees through 2021 and beyond, employers must update their training offerings to address new job responsibilities and equip employees with resources for crisis resolution as well as their mental well-being, incorporating new processes, technologies and tools to alleviate these pressures.

What are some of the top tech trends and in-demand skills you feel will dominate HR / HR Tech in the near-future?

Some of the top technology trends we expect to dominate in the near future will feature important use cases for 5G emergence. 5G will push advanced technology to extend further and fully support work at home and remote field work learning environments. We should expect to see improved connectivity paving the way for more immersive training methods such as AR and VR to further integrate into programs. Complex advancements such as haptic touch, technology that adds a kinesthetic communication such as vibrations or motions, adds a sense of feel to VR environments that equip trainees or students with a more hands-on experience. This in turn will limit the amount of time required inside classrooms or training facilities.

How are you seeing companies re-develop their learning systems during the pandemic to deliver enriched experiences to employees despite the current challenges? 

As more companies undergo digital transformation efforts, the need for upskilling and reskilling workers becomes more critical, but overused and out-of-date training formats will deter engagement, resulting from employee fatigue. Considering 2020 accelerated the adoption of mobile applications across nearly every aspect of day-to-day life, we anticipate more organizations will opt to implement new and improved training formats to address reskilling and upskilling needs. This will include augmented reality experiences through web-based browsers rather than through traditional mobile applications. Technology will continue to accelerate our training experiences to ensure workforce engagement. 

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Before we part, what are a few of your biggest takeaways and tips on working effectively from anywhere and adjusting to the new normal? 

While many businesses implemented collaboration tools and technology for training throughout the pandemic, this cannot be a standalone remedy for the learning and development of the deskless workforce. To attract and keep top talent, we will witness companies mixing technology tools with critical training programs in conflict resolution, employee wellness and more. In 2021, companies looking to maintain a competitive edge and retain talent will need to provide workers with more than traditional learning programs as their workforce navigates the year ahead.  

For 35 years, CGS has enabled global enterprises, regional companies and government agencies to drive breakthrough performance through business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing services. CGS is wholly focused on creating comprehensive solutions that meet clients’ complex, multi-dimensional needs and support clients’ most fundamental business activities. Headquartered in New York City, CGS has offices across North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Doug Stephen is the president of the Enterprise Learning division at CGS. With more than 20 years of industry experience, he leads the CGS learning team, offering robust, agile, multi-touch, multi-approach programs that integrate across platforms, technologies and learning styles to help drive employee performance and business initiatives.

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