Enterprises were already rethinking workforce strategies before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital transformation had ushered in a slew of developments ranging from job automation to new technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and the ability to embed analytics in processes. Massive as it was, the move to remote work was the continuation of a technology-driven trend that has changed, and will continue to change, the nature of work.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) projects that 85 million jobs may be lost to machines by 2025. However, it also estimates that 97 million new roles may arise that are more suited to a new division of labor between humans and machines and algorithms. This scenario makes training employees on new technology imperative. In fact, according to the WEF’s research, companies feel roughly 40% of their workers will need reskilling that will require up to six months to complete. Further, 94% of business leaders expect employees to gain new skills on the job.

Add the challenges introduced by remote work, and it’s clear that training professionals have their work cut out for them in 2021.

Part of the Job

A tech-savvy workforce can not only respond more quickly and effectively to business changes and customer needs, but it can also provide a company with a competitive upper hand. Employees must, therefore, enhance their digital skills so they can interact with all stakeholders through various channels. To put them in the position to do so, companies need to create a work culture that nurtures continuous learning.

As a result, training should become part of employees’ job descriptions. In fact, the pandemic has prompted many enterprises to speed their digital transformation and draw upon advanced technology to overcome hurdles from physical distancing to supply chain disruptions — which can widen skill gaps. What’s more, technology in the workplace will grow a great deal in 2021 because remote work is here to stay. A survey by Gartner found nearly half of organizations now have 81% or more of their employees working remotely, and 41% of workers will likely continue to work remotely at least part time after the pandemic.

Finally, to save money during the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, many companies are replacing full-time employees with contractors. This shift will increase turnover in the year ahead as employees look for jobs offering more security and benefits. As a result, more frequent training will be necessary, especially during this time of transition, when putting out fires in 2020 turns into more long-term planning for 2021 and beyond.

Scale or Fail

Developing digital skills across departments and the globe requires advanced learning methodologies. In the past, instructor-led, classroom-based, face-to-face training was the preference. However, this approach can’t deliver skills training at scale cost-effectively, particularly with so many employees dispersed and working from home.

And if you can’t scale, your training will fail.

The pandemic has moved more companies into virtual instructor-led training (VILT) and self-paced learning over the last year. The latter is a particularly flexible option for delivering large-scale training, because it offers control over when and how employees engage with programs. It also enables them to progress at the right pace and customize their learning experience, rather than being deterred by a rigid program and inconvenient schedule.

Still, simply moving content to an online platform without good tools to manage activities will hamper effectiveness. As a result, self-paced learning environments are also leveraging new features, such as real-time support and feedback for trainees and engagement tracking and analytics that help training professionals tweak programs greater effectiveness.

Virtually There

Cloud-based virtual training has seen a tremendous uptick since last March. Because the approach can accommodate anyone, anywhere, it will hold an important place in the future of training, even after the pandemic. Unlike face-to-face training, modern learning platforms offer a path to digital reskilling and upskilling at scale, enabling employees to prepare for the new demands of a global workforce without downtime or delay.

Cloud-based platforms are proving especially effective for complex areas like software training. They give employees hands-on experiences with the actual tools they’ll use in real-world scenarios, enhancing knowledge transfer. Behind the scenes, organizations can gain insight and analytics for purposes ranging from tracking return on investment (ROI) at a granular level to improving program effectiveness and class performance.

It’s clear that the workforce requires technology-driven learning environments from remote locations, not only for upskilling at scale but to accommodate an expanding range of future-focused activities. A cloud-based business acceleration solution, especially for sophisticated functions like software training, checks all the boxes while increasing speed for a major competitive advantage.

When it comes to the future of training and the tools needed to succeed, we are already virtually there.