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Professional Partner Content

Why Learning Matters Now More Than Ever

Published Fri May 01 2020


Look online today and you’ll see a trend toward upskilling and personal development. With widespread furloughing occurring (and career uncertainty alongside it), upskilling has become an increasing priority for employers and their workers. Upskilling can help workforces become more agile and collaborative, it can retain workers for longer by moving them into new roles as needed, and it can boost productivity, ensuring everyone is fulfilled and working to their potential.

The Value of Upskilling Today

Those three reasons listed above make upskilling vital for the current day. Upskilling can take many forms, providing people with the skills they need to make a career move, for example, or developing existing skills so people can do their jobs better. It’s little surprise, then, that workers are seeing the value (https://www.forbes.com/sites/allisondulinsalisbury/2020/04/16/do-laid-off-workers-want-to-reskill-the-answer-is-yes/) in upskilling now. Especially when their employer works in tandem with them, with a quarter of workers expressing a desire for their employer to be involved in their training solutions. They would also prefer to learn on the job.

Looking Long-Term

Before the current situation, 66 percent of executives) saw upskilling as one of their top 10 priorities. This has likely increased given the widespread digital transformation and remote work shift that’s happened recently. Keeping up and creating opportunities out of the technological pace of change was the main reason behind upskilling pre-COVID-19. Those changes are still incoming. Therefore, learning and talent leaders must continue to upskill their people in digital skills to prepare them for the future. Organizations cannot afford to put upskilling on hold because this will prolong the negative impacts of the shutdown and hinder them for decades.

Ramping Up and Future-Proofing

Learning can also contribute to an organization’s success in the immediate aftermath of the current shutdown. If you spend time reskilling your workers now, they will be prepared to ramp up again once business gets back to (near) normal. A worker can improve their skills to do their job better, for example, or build cross-functional knowledge and skills that enable them to move into new roles. This builds agility into the workforce; for example, if demand increases in one area, there are people who can be mobilized to fulfill it. If someone falls ill, their co-workers can step in to help cover them.

Mitigating Recruitment Freezes

It also helps each worker reach their full potential, which can make all the difference during a time of widespread hiring freezes. Many organizations including Microsoft and JP Morgan are temporarily pausing their recruitment but will still have to find more capacity within their current talent pool. One way to do this is to combine upskilling, which helps people do their jobs better, with internal mobility to move people into the areas and roles that need them most.

Emotional Benefits

There’s an emotional benefit too. The World Economic Forum suggests offering upskilling at this time as a way to build trust between an employer and their workers. It shows your people that you are invested in their long-term careers, beyond the current short-term circumstances. Furthermore, it provides a break in the current norm. People can choose to upskill during their work day or during the time they would’ve commuted. Before current events, 78 percent of workers wanted to learn new skills, but 38 percent of them said they didn’t have enough time.

Prioritizing Your Program

That said, in an era of tightening budgets, you must pay attention to the effectiveness and immediate returns of your upskilling strategy. Prioritize the learning opportunities that directly feed into the business’ bottom-line and short-term survival. Zero in on the skills that are essential to operations now and in the near future, then give people learning opportunities that align with this, their interests, and their aspirations. Find the common ground by combining your business priorities with individual career goals, existing workforce skills, and what’s needed in one,three and five years’ time.

Tailoring Content

It’s also worth noting the popular upskilling topics that people are engaging with during the shutdown. Generally speaking, people are prioritizing transferable and flexible skills like leadership and communication over technical hard skills like Java and Python. Learning must always respond to external factors and individual choices to truly engage each person.

Additionally, every person will learn in a different way, so offering a range of learning options is essential. Especially since the majority of people are working and learning remotely, a top-down approach to upskilling can often lack engagement in a distributed environment. Give people different topic choices and learning styles, from online courses to secondments and on-the-job learning.

Linking Business and Learning

Today’s challenges have reinforced the link that must be made between business outcomes, individual aspirations, and skill-building. Learning is core to business success, and growth is delivered through the individual efforts and skills of your talent. Now is not the time to pause your upskilling efforts but rather to do the opposite. You have an opportunity to focus your people on building the skills they need for now and in the coming years, helping each worker and your organization to navigate uncertain times and develop a competitive advantage in the future.

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