Should you use e-learning to upskill employees?

May 13, 2021 | News

The post-lockdown period is likely to be tough for organisations and their employees, but there is one way to make it easier for everyone.

Continual learning is a blessing for both businesses and staff. In fact, experts say that AI, automation and new working models are making lifelong learning an economic imperative. Eighty percent of CEOs believed the need for new skills was their biggest business challenge before the pandemic. Covid has only accelerated the adoption of new technology and, with it, the need to quickly upskill employees.

Staff will thank you for offering new learning opportunities. According to Gallup, almost nine out of 10 millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as important to them in a job.

Meanwhile, pre-pandemic research by City & Guilds Group found that a lack of in-work learning meant two thirds of respondents felt negatively about their career prospects. Opportunities for development have become one of the most important factors in workplace happiness.

In other words, organisations that offer lifelong learning opportunities stand to gain in a number of ways. They’ll acquire the skills they need to fully exploit a new wave of technology and fill a new generation of job roles, and they’ll create a better workplace culture that makes recruitment and retention easier.

Thinking beyond technical skills

If lifelong learning is win-win for business, what should it entail?

The obvious answer is key technical skills. Even before Covid, the shelf life of a job skill had been calculated at just five years. Keeping employee skill sets continually refreshed will be essential for business success in almost every sector.

That means updating the skills staff need now, and making sure they’re prepared for the skills they might need in future. But many experts argue that the key skills employees will need five years from now are hard to predict. Technology and the nature of work are moving at breakneck speed.

In which case, the best way to make sure your business always has the skills it needs is to foster a culture of curiosity. The skills of tomorrow might be difficult to predict, but businesses that are collectively curious and keen to learn new things will always be one step ahead of the competition.

According to Peter Carlin, managing director of digital learning provider Logicearth, “many companies may not know what roles will be needed in terms of skills and knowledge, so people’s capabilities need to be built to help them prosper in any role. Things like critical thinking, collaboration, communication, adaptability and resilience.”

How do you foster a culture of curiosity, or for that matter a resilient workforce? The answer, experts say, is to make learning part and parcel of every employee’s working life, even if not all the subjects they study have immediate relevance for their day to day roles.

For example, some companies are now letting staff take courses in subjects as diverse as crochet, beer brewing and filmmaking, as well as in more obviously useful subjects like Salesforce and Slack.

E-learning has the answers

Why crochet and beer brewing? Partly because learning fun things is an employee perk, and spreads a sense of goodwill. And partly because once they get the learning habit, employees will find it hard to break. You probably don’t need an in-house beer brewer, but employees who continually learn new skills will perfect their learning style, accept upskilling as a natural part of work, and take new concepts on board more easily.

What makes this pick ‘n’ mix attitude to on-the-job education possible is the rise of e-learning. Taking courses online is cost-effective for businesses, and lets staff work at their own pace and in their own way.

Good online courses now mix interactive elements and video lessons with practical tasks and even virtual tutor-led sessions to ensure learning is fun and effective. The days when e-learning largely consisted of reading dry text and answering multiple choice questions is long gone. It’s now a sophisticated and omnichannel experience, utilising the best communication methods in any situation.

Is e-learning enough on its own? The global education experiment of Covid suggests it’s great for some students, while for others it’s best as part of a wider mix which includes face-to-face sessions.

That’s true of school and college students, and probably true of your workforce too. Some will be happy with e-learning alone. Others will procrastinate and become frustrated if help is not readily available. Older generations especially may prefer more traditional approaches. When important new work skills are involved, mix e-learning modules with some on-site teaching.

The foundations of learning

But the e-learning revolution is clearly here to stay. Businesses can use it to help impart new skills, and also offer it as a work perk and a way to instill a culture of lifelong learning. That culture will, in turn, facilitate the speedier uptake of new technology and novel ways of working.

Choose an e-learning provider based on the courses it offers and their relevance to your staff, as well the learning style of your workforce. But think beyond hard skills to courses that foster collaboration, communication and creative problem solving, as well as being fun. If possible, choose some courses that teams can take together.

After that, the only thing you really need to start adopting e-learning is the infrastructure to support it. More than anything, that means adequate internet bandwidth and the kind of cloud-based unified communications that offer anywhere access to talk, chat and video tools. In both cases, Vaioni is happy to help.

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