The impact of the pandemic has been palpable for businesses around the world and has likely spurred changes in your organization’s operations, disrupted your supply chain, or affected demand for your products and services. Your workforce, which was trained to operate in a pre-COVID world, needs reskilling to develop the new capabilities that will enable your organization to thrive in this new environment.

Defining Skill Development

The term “reskilling” means learning new skills for a different job function, while “upskilling” refers to learning new skills for the same job function. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, reskilling was most commonly found in response to advancements in automation — for example, when a worker needed to learn new skills after technology rendered his or her job obsolete.

However, since the onset of the pandemic, reskilling and upskilling have become more prevalent, and in a remote workplace, the distinction between reskilling and upskilling has blurred. When the fundamental tools and tactics of your role change, is your job function really the same?

According to the Randstad report “Talent Trends, COVID-19 and the Future of Work: How Human Capital Leaders Are Leading Corporate Response,” virtualizing the workforce does change workers’ job function, as they must learn new digital programs and virtual management processes. Though employees retain the same titles, the drastic changes in the nature of their work could qualify as reskilling.

Training the Workforce for the New Business Climate

The pandemic has expedited digital transformation across enterprises, and a major focus for many companies is widespread online training for employees. But digital transformation isn’t just about leveraging digital technology; as the name implies, there’s also a need for transformation. Companies must retrain employees not only in technical skills but also in how to behave, interpret information and approach decision-making in a digital environment. The pandemic has necessitated cognitive and behavioral shifts, and this kind of cultural evolution is only possible with a defined strategic plan.

Developing a Strategic Approach

With relative ease, you could employ simple eLearning approaches like a one-hour webinar to teach your workforce the basics of your organization’s online chat platform, for example. However, training your employees to collaborate or adapt their thinking demands a more sophisticated strategy.

As you train employees on new technology and new mindsets, it’s critical to be conscious of your learners’ needs as well as the cultural context: How does your culture need to change to align with your new learning initiatives? For example, you could start by asking the following questions:

    • Considering all the changes we’ve experienced as a result of the pandemic, what’s the organization’s vision for the future?
    • What changes does the organization’s culture need, both in our current circumstances and beyond?
    • Going forward, what experiences does the company seek to provide for our customers?

You can also check in with your learners’ needs by asking the following questions:

    • What skills do learners need in order to achieve our new vision of the future?
    • How can learners internalize and apply our revised cultural values?
    • What capabilities do learners need to deliver our desired customer experience?

The answers to these questions naturally depend on your organization. Nonetheless, developing the capabilities necessary to transform a culture requires deep, impactful learning experiences. Learners need social interaction and opportunities to apply behavioral and mindset changes in context; are those opportunities feasible in our current environment? How can we execute such retraining when we can’t meet in person and the prospect of yet another video call makes us cringe?

Collaborative Online Learning

Going beyond videoconferencing or standard eLearning courses, you can design online learning experiences that are asynchronous and self-paced to preserve flexibility while maintaining social learning and peer collaboration. Research shows that collaborative learning experiences:

    • Support deeper learning.
    • Help employees develop complex problem-solving, leadership, communication and self-management skills.
    • Enable the sharing of diverse perspectives.
    • Prepare learners for real-world work situations.

Collaborative learning experiences not only cultivate essential skills to address business challenges but also reinvigorate your company’s sense of community. Learning together in a psychologically safe, supportive online community helps learners connect, collaborate and support the business-wide capabilities critical for your organization’s future.

Download NovoEd’s e-book “Guide to Design for Learning” for more information about creating collaborative learning experiences that support deep learning and deliver business impact.