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 V3Media:


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

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

Tell us about how have the learning and development solutions evolved over these years?

YouTube has completely changed 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. Now they want recommendations and peer reviews to have a safe view of where they are headed. This lifestyle transformation has been adopted by forward-thinking companies to make sure that the interest of their clients is being captured. Creativity, immediacy, curation and innovation are all the key factors that will continue to transform and evolve learning.

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

The pandemic has made a huge difference and caused heavy impact on businesses across all industries globally. One of our recent survey findings bring notice to 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. Trusting on innovation alone to provide a successful learning system is pure gambling, and businesses need to round out their learning and development programs with interactive offerings. With the ongoing COVID-19 social distancing requirements, it is even more important that employers come up with a plan to support their employees’ emotional needs and personal development.

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

Health and safety were found to be the leading areas of satisfaction for the deskless workforce with nearly three-quarters of respondents (73 percent) expressing their satisfaction with their employers’ investments in health and safety training. However, the data also revealed high rates of dissatisfaction in regards to heavy workloads and staffing. A majority of employees were dissatisfied with the increasing amount of work pressure during the pandemic. When further analysing the findings among industries, it became pretty 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 compulsory 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 have adapted quite well to an extended new normal. With several adopting hybrid work cultures during this time and many others choosing to stay completely remote, what do you think are some of the employee wellness areas and activities that employers need to focus on more during this time?

Business leaders are required to focus on addressing burnout or risk of losing frontline employees as they continue to experience increased workloads and responsibilities in a heightened emotional state. To efficiently back their prized employees through 2021 and beyond, employers need to upgrade their training offerings to support 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 do you think are some of the top tech trends and in-demand skills you think can dominate HR / HR Tech in the upcoming future?

Some of the top technology trends we are expecting to dominate in the near future will feature important use cases for 5G emergence. 5G can push advanced technology to extend further and hence can fully support the ‘work at home’ and remote field work learning environments. We can also expect to see improved and better connectivity creating a path 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 personal, hands-on experience. This, as a result will help decrease the amount of time required inside classrooms or training facilities.

How do you see companies re-developing their learning systems during the pandemic to provide a better and enhanced experience to employees despite the current challenges?

More and more companies are undergoing digital transformation efforts, hence, the need for upskilling and reskilling workers has become even more critical, but overused and out-of-date training formats will deter engagement, resulting from employee fatigue. Since 2020 enormously escalated the adoption of mobile applications across nearly every aspect of day-to-day life, we anticipate more organizations are going to implement new and improved training methods to meet the reskilling and upskilling needs. This will include augmented reality (AR) experiences through web-based browsers rather than through traditional mobile applications. To ensure the workforce engagement, technology will continue to improve and increase our training experiences.

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

Many businesses have installed collaboration tools and technology for training throughout the pandemic, but this cannot be the only solution to the learning and development of the deskless workforce. To find and keep top talent, companies are going to mix technology tools with critical training programs in conflict resolution, employee wellness and more. In 2021, companies are going to try and maintain a competitive edge and retain talent. They will need to provide workers with more than traditional learning programs as their workforce drives through the year ahead.  

Thanks a lot Doug…We had a fun talk, hope to see you back at V3Media soon.

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