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New era for e-learning

elearning and the future of work | HR Solutions

Technology has caused the world of e-learning to constantly evolve. However, the spread of coronavirus could trigger a boom in online education that’s never been seen before. The impact of Covid-19 has seen a surge in people adopting digital skills whether it’s to continue working or stay connected with their friends and family.  But for the millions of people that have been furloughed, it’s proven to be an opportunity to pick up transferable skills they can utilise in the future.

Devoting some of the time in quarantine to self-education and personal development makes sense. While it will help to bolster employees’ careers during this period of continued economic uncertainty, learning a new skill can also give people a sense of control to help them manage anxieties brought about by the virus.

The Skills Toolkit

To bolster the UK workforce during isolation, the government has stepped in to offer free cybersecurity and coding courses to people who want to boost their skills during lockdown. The Skills Toolkit is a free online learning platform that provides numerical and digital courses to boost skills and job prospects. People can access basic maths courses, learn how to create online content or develop their digital marketing skills.

Flexible and transferable skills

The coronavirus pandemic has created a very different landscape for business and personal development. Research by Degreed has found that people are moving away from focusing on developing their technical skills to concentrate on more transferable skills. Amidst all the uncertainty brought about by the virus and subsequent lockdown, workers are focusing on skills that will be valuable in a wider variety of roles.

Since workers transitioned from office-to-home based work as the lockdown rules were issued, there has been a significant rise in the use of digital communication tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. There has also been a significant increase in searches for Excel (rise of 4%), leadership (up 5%) and communication (15% increase) and a sharp drop in searches for Java (down 20%) and Machine Learning (down 36%).

Demand for skills with longer shelf life

Workers are now using e-learning to prioritise skills that could prove to have a longer shelf life. They are looking to develop knowledge and skills that they can utilise in several roles and that are highly transferable to help both themselves and their company manage change. These flexible and transferable skills could help to mitigate the risk of job loss and enable an employee to step into a new job role elsewhere or work on a different project. Skills such as leadership, change management and communication can be applied across different industries.

Investment in upskilling

While the strict social distancing and lockdown rules have seen certain sectors feel the pinch such as hospitality and travel, arming the workforce with the right skills could help to differentiate a business from their competitors. Businesses that invest in this period to upskill can expect to experience greater agility and responsiveness to sudden changes in the market. If a company needs to suddenly create a new product, this will require skills in communication, leadership and design thinking. Furthermore, a workplace must suddenly change the way it completes work, as will likely be the case, change management will become essential.

Prioritising transferable skills

The drop in searches for the more highly technical skills such as Java and Machine Learning doesn’t necessarily mean that these skills are now less important. It is clear, however, that during this time of dramatic change and increasing unpredictability, workers are not prioritising innovative technical skills. These skills are valuable in long-term career development and will likely be picked up again in the future once we have passed current challenges and can move forward, post-pandemic. For the time being though, learners are focusing on the skills that will help them to effectively navigate the changing business landscape today.

Future of business and e-learning

Following Covid-19, we can expect to see the recent trends in online learning to become permanent as businesses accelerate a move to more flexible working. The impact of this pandemic highlights the fundamental business value of providing workers with online information, resources and development opportunities as we shift to a permanent new work model. It will be some time before the world can return to normal and even then, the workplace will never the same again. Industries, businesses and workers need to prepare for this.

With change being the only constant, flexible skills will, therefore, become more important now than ever. To effectively prepare your workforce, your learning strategy also needs to be flexible. Providing your workforce with content and guidance around building flexible sills will be an effective future-proofing strategy as businesses recover and move forward.

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