How can digital training help HR professionals meet their business’ 2024 CSR targets?

How can digital training help HR professionals meet their business’ 2024 CSR targets?

As businesses look to hit even more challenging environmental targets in 2024 across all functions, Rob Bright, Founder and VP EAME at Cloud Assess, offers his advice on making training and development more sustainable and explores the technology that is making this possible for UK businesses.

Increasing expectations for HR in 2024

It’s no secret that customers, suppliers, and employees are putting increasing pressure on companies to become more sustainable in all aspects of business. For HR, ensuring all processes across the business comply with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and environmental goals will be an ongoing challenge  in 2024.

In 2023, 65% of CEOs had already implemented, or were in the process of implementing, initiatives to reduce their companies’ footprint, according to PWC. HR professionals, therefore, face the continued challenge of supporting these business-wide initiatives that contribute towards sustainability in the immediate short-term, while also helping to embed processes that contribute towards the business’ long-term goals. CSR initiatives often require a lot of investment and take time to effectively embed into a business’ workflow, meaning environmental results can often be slow and hard to measure.

However, that’s not to say more immediate solutions are not available to those looking to develop their CSR strategy. There are quick wins for HR professionals to be had that can help contribute towards an organisation’s CSR targets without the need for huge time or financial investment. A great example of this is training. Impacting all staff across all business functions, training practices have the potential to make a big difference.

Digital training and its environmental benefits

Opting for a digital approach to training offers a range of environmental benefits, many of which are evident instantly.

For example, cutting down reliance on paper. As we all know, paper is naturally a carbon-intensive product. In fact, every 100,000 sheets of paper used by businesses results in 6,000kg of carbon being released into the atmosphere. This is the equivalent of 25,000 pieces of coal burnt, 4.3 homes’ electricity for one year, or charging 2,676,000 smartphones.

Those who work within HR will know that training, particularly in-person training, can be an extremely paper-intensive process, with significant amounts used for learning, assessment, reporting and updating best practise. For those that work within ‘deskless’ industries where there’s a high proportion of vocational, hands-on roles, this is even more apparent. Many of these deskless industries, such as manufacturing and construction, are notoriously high-risk and require intensive compliance training to uphold high levels of safety, further exacerbating the reliance on paper-based processes. HR professionals tasked with managing their company’s training will know that material must be routinely updated, leading to excessive paper waste which not only increases consequent business costs, but also greatly influences the company’s carbon footprint. For businesses working towards increasingly ambitious environmental targets, this is a major issue.

Of course, there are alternative material sources that are growing in popularity across businesses, such as bamboo and recycled paper. However, these all still have an unavoidable impact on the environment during sourcing, transport, and processing, meaning CSR gains will always be limited. Even carbon offsetting projects have been criticised in recent years, with many forestry-related projects accused of ruining natural biodiversity. Therefore, for those businesses looking to significantly improve their company’s CSR, reducing the overall reliance on paper across the board will have the greatest impact, which is where a comprehensive digital approach to training can help.

Unlike traditional training methods, digital training has less reliance on in-person meetings to carry out day-to-day training. Whilst some face-to-face delivery remains essential for effective learning outcomes, utilising technology that minimises unnecessary travel can have a sizeable impact on a company’s environmental targets by reducing the carbon emissions produced by travelling. For companies with sites all across the UK, this is a particular pain point, with company mileage often a significant contributor to overall carbon emissions.

Digital technologies to help HR

Thankfully, due to the emergence of new technologies, there are a range of training solutions that can help HR professionals facilitate training whilst reducing emissions and better helping their company reach their CSR targets.

One technology that is being adopted by a number of businesses are smart glasses, which feature a camera in the frame. When conducting training, this allows assessors to conduct a live evaluation of an employee’s work without the need for transportation. Trainees simply need to submit recordings or live stream their feeds, enabling assessors to monitor and evaluate training much more effectively, allowing training to be carefully analysed and played back if required – all without needing to travel to the site. Not only does this save the assessor time and improve business efficiency, but the technology offers a quick and easy way to improve the business’ net carbon footprint.

Similarly, virtual reality (VR) headsets have been adopted by businesses in recent years with increasing uptake, enabling organisations to train employees in an engaging, realistic, and highly customisable environment. Of course, this comes with the same benefit as smart glasses, reducing the reliance on in-person training which can rack up a considerable amount of miles for larger organisations and impact the company’s carbon footprint. VR, however, comes with the added benefit of allowing training providers to host practical training sessions in virtually constructed environments with considerably less risk than their physical equivalent, a great benefit to those industries where health and safety is critical, such as engineering.

However, whilst these technologies offer a host of new possibilities for HR professionals, it’s worth noting that these emerging trends can be quite costly and difficult to integrate. For those looking for a lower-cost solution that provides immediate results, digital training and assessment platforms can offer significant environmental benefits and are replacing ‘traditional’ training systems at an increasing rate. Offering a seamless transition away from paper-reliant systems, the centralised solution allows businesses to host training, assessment, and reporting online.

HR professionals, particularly those that work within learning and development, will know that digital training platforms should never be a direct replacement for in-person training. Practical hands-on experience will always be essential for long-term learning and development benefits. However, by combining the efficiency and environmental benefits of digital training, assessment, and planning with essential face-to-face sessions, businesses can dramatically reduce the amount of paper and transport needed to conduct effective training, whilst improving training delivery and efficiency. In fact, in 2021 alone, 21,252,189 sheets of paper were saved by forward-thinking Cloud Assess clients.

A promising outlook for 2024 and beyond

As industry net-zero targets continue to shape business strategy for the foreseeable future, it’s imperative that day-to-day business processes support the company’s CSR goals. In today’s challenging climate, demonstrating a real commitment to training staff sustainably will not only help organisations stand out in the fight for talent, but also better appeal to customers and future-proof their business against increasingly stringent environmental requirements in the coming years.

To find out more about how Cloud Assess can help your business work towards its 2024 CSR targets, visit: https://cloudassess.co/uk/blog/csr-for-business/

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