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Reskill and Upskill Your Workforce With Collaborative Learning


Tue Sep 22 2020

Reskill and Upskill Your Workforce With Collaborative Learning

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Regardless of what business sector you operate in, the COVID-19 pandemic has likely altered demand for your products and services, affected your supply chain, or forced operational changes. Your current workforce, which is trained to operate in a pre-pandemic environment, will need to develop new capabilities for your company to thrive in our changed world.

Reskilling and Upskilling in the Context of the Pandemic

Reskilling generally refers to learning new skills for a changed job function, while upskilling is learning new skills within the same job function. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, reskilling occurred most often in response to automation displacing a worker’s role. Since the pandemic began, though, reskilling and upskilling have increased due to changed economic conditions.


The line between reskilling and upskilling has become blurry in the era of remote work. When a professional’s tools and tactics change, is their job function really the same? As Randstad observed, when you virtualize your workforce, their job functions change. Workers must master digital programs and virtual management processes. Such dramatic changes could qualify as reskilling even when employees retain their titles.

Training to Respond to New Business Conditions

Regardless of the labels we use, the pandemic is accelerating the digital transformation of companies. McKinsey research confirms that broad-based digital training for employees is a major focus at many companies as they respond to the pandemic. But there’s more to digital transformation than just adopting digital technology; there’s also the transformation piece.

Organizations need to retrain their workforces in technical skills and in how to think, behave, and decide. The pandemic is causing companies to train their workforces in new mindsets and behaviors. Achieving this kind of cultural shift requires a specific, strategic approach.

Creating a Targeted Strategy

It’s one thing to teach your workforce the basics on the functionality of Microsoft Teams, for example. Simple e-learning approaches may work just fine for that. However, training workers about how to think differently and collaborate requires a more sophisticated approach than what you can achieve with standard approaches.

To train your workforce in new technology and new ways of thinking, you have to consider how your culture must change as well as your learners’ needs. For example, you could ask your employees these questions about the company:

  • In light of the changed circumstances, what is the company’s vision for the future?

  • What changes are needed in the organizational culture as the company responds to the pandemic and beyond?

  • What kind of experience does the company want to provide its customers going forward?

You could also ask them these questions about your learners:

  • What skills do learners need to realize the company’s revised vision of the future?

  • How can learners understand and practice updated cultural values?

  • What capabilities will learners need to realize the desired customer experience?

The answers to these questions, of course, will vary for each organization. However, to develop the skills needed to cultivate a new culture and way of operating, learners must interact socially and practice new behaviors and mindsets in context. But how is such retraining possible when people can’t meet face-to-face and when the thought of another Zoom call causes shudders?

Learning That Is Online, Collaborative, and Stretched Over Time

In contrast to video conferences and standard e-learning courses, you can design online learning experiences that are asynchronous and self-pace yet social and collaborative.

Research shows that collaborative learning experiences lead to deeper learning; develop higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills; promote the sharing of diverse perspectives; and prepare learners for the situations they face in the real world.

In addition to developing critical skills needed to address business challenges, these collaborative learning experiences can re-establish your organization’s sense of community. By learning together online in psychologically safe environments, learners can connect, collaborate, and contribute to the organizational capabilities needed to thrive in the future.


Download NovoEd’s 5 Steps to Learning Experience Design e-book to learn more about how to create collaborative learning experiences that empower learners and drive business outcomes.

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