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3 ways COVID-19 is transforming learning and development

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L&D is among the areas most heavily impacted by COVID-19, and as a result, organisations must adapt to the changing times. But the question is, to what extent will we see these adaptations become permanent alterations to the complexion of corporate learning and development?

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The world of business as we know it has changed dramatically since the global pandemic began, and many believe that workplace learning has been one of the hardest hit areas.

For instance, in a report published in March earlier this year, management consulting firm Mckinsey found that roughly 50% of learning and development (L&D) plans due to commence between March and June 2020 have been postponed or cancelled in North America.

The report also notes that in parts of Asia and Europe, the figure is closer to 100%.

This in itself presents a fairly dire scenario for modern business. Whilst much of this postponement comes down to both physical and financial capacity, L&D is simply not a disposable aspect of company culture.

“Companies can’t just push the pause button on critical workplace learning,” says the report.

Naturally, organisations will now have to adapt their approach to L&D in order to protect its status as a core aspect of culture. Here are some of the changes we think might occur as a result.

Virtual learning may become the norm

When it comes to the changing business world, one of the most common by-products will undoubtedly be a greater reliance on technology and virtual platforms.

This is commonly held to be the case in areas such as talent acquisition and internal communication, and L&D is unlikely to deviate from this trend.

In fact, there is scope to suggest that L&D may be at the forefront this, with evidence suggesting that countless organisations were planning to invest in learning technologies prior to the onset of the virus.

Research conducted by Training Industry reflects this clearly, showing that 29% of organisations had planned to increase their investment in eLearning during the 2019-20 financial year.

With remote working having become part of the new normal, and many organisations not planning to return to an office space until 2021, this investment in eLearning can only be set to rise across the board.

More upskilling and reskilling

Another process being accelerated by the onset of the pandemic is the need to upskill and reskill workforces.

Firstly, and most importantly, the greater reliance on technologies means that employees must be trained to operate them correctly and work alongside them efficiently.

For instance, one report found that as much as 14% of the global workforce would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence.

Similarly, another showed that 87% of executives said they were either currently experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years.

It stands to reason that, given the already considerable magnitude of these trends, COVID-19 will serve to accentuate the issue and thus organisations will need to become much more vigilant in equipping workforces with the relevant skill-sets.

What’s more, with the size of teams shrinking as a result of financial difficulty for organisations, a culture of project-based, collaborative working has become much more common.

With this being the case, a new culture of continual training and learning has become the norm for many organisations, and it is possible that many employees will maintain a hunger for this post-pandemic.

Social learning

One of the key L&D trends that has emerged as a result of coronavirus is a greater emphasis on social learning methods.

In a nutshell, social learning abandons the traditional framework of learning models, and is founded on new behaviours being acquired by observing or imitating others.

In the context of remote working, this ties in heavily with engagement. Organisations are becoming more conscious of dwindling engagement levels among workforces, and thus, traditional methods of learning are beginning to be viewed as ineffective in the circumstances.

As a result, social learning is becoming a much greater part of the agenda, and is thought to be an effective approach.

For instance, one study found that such approaches have a 75:1 ROI ratio when compared with formal, web-based training.

What’s more, it found that 82% of businesses that use social learning tools want to increase their use of them in the future.

Based on this, we can expect to see many organisations adopting such methods throughout their remote working periods, monitoring effectiveness and progress, and adjusting their approach to L&D as the return to work commences.

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