July 12 2021

How upskilling can save money and increase employee satisfaction

COVID-19 has led to the largest increase in online learning we’ve ever seen.

Upskilling helps companies save money and increase employee satisfaction.

Online learning is more effective than traditional learning in a number of ways.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, brick-and-mortar schools around the globe were forced to act quickly to move their courses online.

The result wasn’t just an overnight transformation for traditional institutions – it was the single largest increase in online learning participation that we’ve ever seen.

There has been a significant surge in virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, and online learning in general since the effects of COVID-19 began to be felt around the world 2020.

At WorldQuant University, a not-for-profit that provides learners with online courses in data sciences, MSc applications nearly doubled from April to May of 2020, as lockdowns began. Applications also doubled in May to June.

Employers should note that nearly 100% of candidates applying for jobs after graduation from an undergraduate course this year will have completed their degree at least partially online.

A 2018 Northeastern University survey found that 61% of HR leaders firmly believe that online learning is of equal or greater quality to more traditional learning methods.

Upskilling in a digital world

The good news is that online learning can align more effectively with the new work-life normal. Hybrid and remote work arrangements have been increasing for years and look to be here to stay partly due to COVID-19. This has to be seen as a benefit for workers everywhere as less commuting can only be good for workers themselves and ultimately the environment. Who doesn’t want an extra 8 to 10 hours per week (saved commuting time) to dedicate to other things?

The skills needed to succeed in the job market are changing rapidly as technology continues to disrupt the working world. The events of the past year have finally revealed some perceptions of online learning to be outdated and unsustainable. Workers are investing in lifelong learning and upskilling because their careers very clearly depend on it.

What exactly do we mean by upskilling? Basically, it comes down to two words: continuous learning. Technology advances rapidly and it makes sense that companies and employees must rapidly and consistently improve their technical knowledge and skill sets in order to keep up with it. As job requirements shift and possession of new technological knowledge and abilities becomes more necessary, companies must either hire new employees who possess the skills they need (which requires a lot of time and money) or figure out sustainable ways to incorporate continuous learning practices into their current workforce.  

COVID-19 has quickly shifted and put what employees actually value from their employers into perspective. Providing upskill training opportunities is an extraordinarily efficient and effective way for employers to demonstrate to employees that they care about their well-being and professional development, as well as their future at the company. Now that more and more companies are realising the value and importance of upskilling, the practice is becoming less of a perk and more of an expectation.

Companies should create comprehensive upskilling programs designed to enhance the training and development for the specific needs of their organisation. They need to examine themselves closely and ask some important questions: Volume training vs. one-on-one training? What form should learning take—should it be in-person or virtual? How do companies ensure that no employee is left behind or prevented from meeting their goals or enhancing their own skill sets? These are some of the questions that we here at CWL ask when helping our clients implement successful online training programmes. These courses that ultimately benefit both the employee and the company. We should bear in mind that training should be designed with each individual employee’s role, current skill set, and potential in mind.

True upskilling means teaching people how to manage their ability to successfully interact with and adapt to a rapidly changing technological environment in a way that’s sustainable over time—in other words, employees need to learn how to be constantly learning. We’ve discussed Learning Better and the Future of Jobs before. Again it comes back to those two words: continuous learning.

But wait, is learning online actually effective?

There is evidence that learning online can be more effective in a number of ways. Research has shown that on average, learners retain 25-60% more material when learning online compared to only 8-10% in classroom based environments. This is mostly due to learners being able to learn faster online; a study from the Brandon Hall Group has shown that digital learning requires 40-60% less time to learn than in a traditional classroom setting because learners can learn at their own pace, going back and re-reading, skipping, or accelerating through concepts as they choose.

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