The changing landscape of learning: how to rethink, retrain, reskill efficiently

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The pandemic has significantly changed the landscape of learning. Over a series of lockdowns, workforces were dispersed and business training plans severely interrupted. But not all training stopped. As uncertainty regarding restrictions on social gathering continue, many businesses are realising that training programmes must be designed to be resilient to changes in working practices.

Early in the pandemic, some employers and training providers rapidly adopted smart strategies to meet fast changing training needs. PwC’s Academy in Singapore tweaked its upskilling content and learning materials for the pandemic. They recognised that the case for upskilling was clear and acknowledged the value of remote skills learning.

The onus is on employers to anticipate the skills they’ll need, improve training, and to fully embrace a culture of learning.
How training changed

During the initial lockdown many organisations expected their employees to work from home, whilst some businesses stopped operating altogether which presented many learning and development challenges. The Training Industry noted that classroom training morphed into extended all day webinars which lacked social interaction and human connection. Despite there being a rise in digital alternatives some employers stopped training.

The paradigm shift of remote working and learning has been a notable feature of the pandemic response. However, research by PwC and UNICEF-Generation Unlimited found that about one-third of all students around the world were unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 shut down in-person schooling and less developed countries were hardest hit. Remote working was with us pre-pandemic but today we are much more comfortable with it.

Lessons learned

When travel stopped technology may have been considered the obvious training alternative. But there were unanticipated hurdles such as not being able to reach disparate audiences in diverse locations and the lack of experienced presenters to deploy training remotely.

Conversely, those who could deploy training plans struggled to keep participants engaged and motivated at one time in the same place. There was an inconsistency in the delivery of effective and efficient training. Many employers lost the benefit of face-to-face training in dedicated spaces that fosters teamwork and stimulates diverse thinking.

Skills gap shortage

Not retraining or reskilling is bad for business. Even before the crisis, in 2017 McKinsey Global estimated that 375 million workers (14% of the global workforce) would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 due to automation and artificial intelligence. A further McKinsey survey in 2020 reported that 87% of executives were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. Yet less than half of respondents had a clear sense of how to address the problem.

A World Economic Forum, PwC analysis reported that to close the skills gap by 2030 could create 5.3 million new jobs globally and 40% workers will require up to six months reskilling by 2025. So, although today mid pandemic training budgets remain stretched, there must be a commitment to reskilling.

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Open office doors

As more offices are opening their doors an interesting survey conducted by Clockwise revealed that 30% of Generation Z had missed the social element of work. Almost three-quarters stated that a sense of community within the workplace leads to a more productive and enjoyable working environment. As many companies have committed to long-term remote working like Amazon and Siemens, we question where does in-person training stand?

Shifting In-person training

Distance learning has long been a cost-effective way for businesses to upskill their workers. At Cognitas Global we’ve found that employers want the choice of in-person classroom training. Learning new skills at home alone with a two-dimensional screen can be demanding and unproductive, generating low employee engagement.

We believe that there is an appetite for employees to interact face-to-face on a professional and personal level. For example, personalised learning gives structure and space to capture meaningful feedback. Starting informal conversations about anecdotal experiences or sharing random personal recommendations can be less effective even lost over Zoom.

Ready to be agile

We recognise that retraining should be part of your organisation’s recovery plan. There is a sharp need for the flexible use of new and innovative training models to achieve optimal training outcomes. Through consultation we can identify and build employee skills learning programmes at speed to blend into employer business recovery models for the future.

Throughout the crisis we were fortunate to remain open to support our clients’ continuing deployment of our critical crisis management and incident training programmes. Their training plans were not disrupted. We consistently launched tailored learning journeys and unique scenarios to teach employees the exact skills to accomplish tasks, all built around creating a positive user experience.

Retrain and reskill

As restrictions ease Cognitas Global is helping organisations to act collaboratively. The 2021 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report found that 59% of learning and development professionals consider upskilling and reskilling as a top priority.

Predicting the path ahead

In summary, the learning landscape has changed. The onus is on employers to anticipate the skills they’ll need, improve training, and to fully embrace a culture of learning. The IBM Institute for Business Value recognise the need for organisations to foster a culture of lifelong learning. To reduce the skills gap, IBM argues, companies must adopt innovative strategies and work with internal and external partners to build workplace resistance.

Businesses will need to start engaging in a serious effort to reskill and retrain. It will be an enormous challenge particularly as soft skills will become more valuable in the workplace because they cannot be replicated by automated technology. Employers won’t be able to close the gap by themselves.

They will need to work with learning and development companies to identify the right tools that can flexibly bring learning to people wherever they are and implement a hybrid approach that embraces both virtual and in-person training. By following agile training principles, your organisation can address this ever-widening skills gap to make an impact in a post-pandemic workplace.