A new era of learning in the new world of work

Workforces need to focus on upskilling business skills such as communication and leadership, says Skillsoft.
By: | November 11, 2020

The world of work has changed forever by the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses and the workforce around the world have experienced a seismic shift that has never been seen before. Remote working has become a new normal and digital transformation that organisations had planned over the coming years has been accelerated in a matter of months.

The workforce suddenly finds themselves needing to upskill and adapt to new roles that might not even exist a year ago. And employers are scrambling to train their employees to meet the fast-changing business demands. In fact, reskilling and upskilling is no longer a nice-to-do, but a must-do for the workforce to avoid being made redundant in this increasingly digital world.

According to research by Aberdeen, 76% of the best-in-class companies surveyed identified “learning and development” as a key factor leading to their most significant and lasting performance improvements, second only to “performance management”—and one of the top reasons employees decide to join and stay with a company.

And there is an urgent need for employees to upskill and reskill too, with one in six roles at risk of being replaced by automation and technology, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). However, the good news is that about a third of them could be translated by upskilling and reskilling as the existing competencies can be brought with them to new roles.

Benny Ramos, Solutions Principal, Skillsoft, echoed WEF’s findings but added that the workforce should not only focus on upskilling their digital skills, but also business skills such as communication and leadership.

“If you look at these transferable skills, a lot of these future skills in the workforce are not necessarily just around things like coding and technology. We want to have communication skills, leadership skills and the ability to be an agile in managing projects to improve collaboration” he said.

While there is an urgency in addressing today’s skills needs, Ramos believes this presents HR an opportunity to rethink and improve employee experience through technology.

“We have had three to five years of transition happening in three to five months where there is an emphasis on remote work using technology to make jobs much safer and to substitute some of the more manual work. It is an opportunity for HR to look at the culture in using technology to change the employee experience internally,” he added.

However, with an increasingly digital and remote workforce, employers face the challenge of making formal learning engaging amidst a plethora of distractions at home as well as from consumer platforms.

“We need to acknowledge our employees’ consumer-based tendencies. They know what channels are like because they are watching Netflix. So these are the things that your learning programs are competing with. Learners today are even more distracted as they are working from home. In fact less than 1% of employees’ time per week can be allocated to discretionary training. So you are looking around 21 to 24 minutes each week,” Ramos continued.

And studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) technologies found that the way to engage employees is through learning content that has relevance and meaning for them, and if they experience an emotional response during the learning process.

Here are some of the best practices to better engage employees through online learning based on the studies:

  • Microlearning

Learning in shorter bursts is far more effective than “binge learning.” The hippocampus—a structure in the brain thought to be associated with emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system—retains just 20 minutes’ worth of information before that information must be pushed into short-term memory.

  • Storytelling

Hearing stories helps learners to digest complex information quickly and easily as well as organise the information effectively in their brain. Well-constructed narratives have even been shown to change learners’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Finally, stories stimulate people’s brains to use what they’re learning to predict what’s likely to happen next.

  • Characters

Characters’ body language, facial expressions, and gestures make a story more compelling. And with the right voice tone, inflection, and volume, characters come across as authentic—building trust among learners. Modulation of voice tone also helps to establish a mood for the story, and can enhance interest as well as foster enthusiasm and involvement from learners.

  • Scenarios

A scenario-based storytelling approach stimulates recall and helps to ground learning in people’s working memory. Use of scenarios also triggers emotional responses in learners essential for catalysing engagement in the learning experience—particularly curiosity, surprise and excitement. When scenarios end on a positive note, learners feel more optimism about their own ability to make positive changes and conquer their toughest obstacles. It is more effective to show learners what good looks like, not just tell.

  • Reinforcement

After 30 days following a learning experience, people retain only 21% of what they’ve learned. Early and ongoing reinforcement during the first month following a learning experience is vital for improving those retention rates. Ongoing reinforcement can take the form of quizzes and prompts for learners to explain to colleagues, in their own words, what they have learned.

With learning becoming more complex than ever before, employers are seeing an increasing need to leverage on learning platforms such as Skillsoft Percipio to make learning easier, more accessible, and more effective.

Sign up for 14 days free access to Skillsoft Percipio to find out how it can help your organisation deliver highly engaging learning experiences.