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Online learning in lockdown for businesses

Online learning in lockdown for businesses
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Workers often admit to being most productive while working from home, free from the distractions of the office. So much so that remote workers can work up to 17 days more per year than their office-based counterparts. Yet for many, flexible working has been a one-day-per-week option. But now, with all but essential workers advised to work from home, businesses and their teams have been forced to adapt fast.

About the author

Sean Farrington, SVP EMEIA, Pluralsight.

What’s more, with nationwide lockdowns and restrictions, there’s new responsibilities and challenges to navigate. Workers have to take on duties from furloughed colleagues, negotiate new business processes, and in some cases, address child care and homeschooling, all within limited space and privacy.

In these times, it can be difficult to keep motivation and engagement levels high. But it’s important they do not drop, for the sake of business performance and employee morale. One approach businesses can take is offering more opportunities to learn and upskill while working from home. In times of change, skill development can be a valuable tool for fostering team spirit, community, knowledge-sharing, and ultimately, boosting performance. 

Searches for online learning and online courses have spiked by 45% over the last three weeks, so encouraging this desire and giving staff the tools to upskill should be prioritized to maintain performance and engagement in the now and future.

The foundations for a future-proof strategy

Learning and development have quietly risen to become one of the most sought after workplace benefits, rivaling flexible working, with two-thirds of employees ready to quit their jobs if they are not offered the appropriate training. While it might not be immediately apparent, this is partly because learning is ubiquitous in the office environment, whether it’s ‘lunch and learns’, team catch-ups or online reading resources. 

Employees feel motivated and engaged when they are developing new skills, learning from each other and know they are working towards better career prospects. For employers, this leads to greater business performance and a more satisfied team.

The difficult times in which we find ourselves today shouldn’t mean this momentum is lost. In fact, it’s critical that it’s maintained so businesses can hit the ground running once operations return to normal. Leaders may be surprised to learn of just how quickly skills can become outdated, unpolished, or irrelevant. This is particularly true of the tech industry, for example, considering that there were only two software languages a couple of decades ago but today we have over 250 different frameworks that can be updated as much as eight times per year, such as Python, JavaScript, SQL, and many more.

Tech skill development is an ongoing process and leaders must be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s just a symptom of current times. Upskilling is a strategy designed for both in-office and remote working, as it requires constant attention to keep businesses ahead of the innovation curve - and most importantly in front of competitors.

Given the benefits to morale, closing skills gaps and boosting productivity, providing remote teams with opportunities to learn and develop appears to be a no brainer. What’s more, to easily bridge the gap, leaders must place their trust in their teams and in technology.

Learning never stops

Technology has already transformed how we collaborate with one another remotely through platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. Now, knowing the efficiency benefits technology can bring, leaders should look towards solutions to support tech skill development to maintain business performance and plug into appetite from team members to improve their knowledge whilst adapting to remote working.

For instance, on-demand, tech skill development platforms can aid in the management of learning and development strategies by tracking learner progress, showing competitive benchmarking, creating skill criteria for individual roles, and offering expert advice. Subsequently, these platforms are well-suited to the lockdown environment with easy access online any time, anywhere, and on any device.

Courses are taught by world-renowned subject matter experts and can be taken in bite-sized chunks or in one go - adaptable to each learner’s individual needs. Moreover, learning pathways are completely customizable to reflect that development is not one-size-fits-all, but a very bespoke experience.

They also allow organisations to be creative and flexible in how they keep workers engaged. Fujitsu UK, for instance, has found it helpful to have a learning advocate in place who motivates teams to keep learning and bettering themselves. This in itself, gamifies tech skill development and encourages healthy competition among employees to get to proficiency milestones first. This level of employee engagement means that teams are able to foster a community, embrace collaboration, and build a culture of learning that is easily continued once back in the office.

Return on investment

Given employee appetite for learning and development, and the positive impact it can have on business performance, businesses must recognize the need for a steady approach to remote skill development. 

Employees are happier, more productive and engaged when given opportunities to better themselves and while away from the office environment, technology can act as a crucial gateway to this experience. By laying the foundations for a sustained learning program through tech skill platforms, businesses will be able to power their performance now and in the future. 

As businesses slowly begin to return their operations to normal, this is what will set them apart from their competition and provide substantial return on investment. Pushing the online learning agenda now will cement some certainty, amidst the trials ahead.

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