Reimagining enterprise upskilling in the post-COVID world

Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India & APAC, Coursera, highlights new developments that will shape learning in the post-COVID era.
By: | July 14, 2021

The pandemic has forced companies to rethink their upskilling strategy. To keep pace with the new norm of remote work, navigate business model disruption and accelerate their digital transformation journey, there has been a renewed focus on talent development.

At a time when the skills landscape is changing rapidly, and uncertainty is looming large across every industry and job role, online learning holds the promise to drive business growth and resilience. Its flexibility and scalability assists companies in swiftly addressing their employees’ immediate and future skill needs.

WEF’s Future of Skills Report highlighted that all employers surveyed in Singapore are looking to increase digitalisation of work processes, but only 77% of the active population is armed with the digital skills. Building on the need to “close the skills gap”, this year’s budget also emphasised the government’s plans to develop the “skills, creativity and talents” of the workforce.

To realise the country’s vision, employers will have to continue with the current trend of digital learning. In Singapore, we saw 222k new learners join the Coursera platform in 2020. As businesses look to settle in the ‘new normal’ and brace themselves for the long recovery ahead, I see three existing trends that have accelerated in the pandemic year, and anticipate new developments that will shape learning in the post-COVID era.

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“To keep pace with the new norm of remote work, navigate business model disruption and accelerate their digital transformation journey, there has been a renewed focus on talent development.” – Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India & APAC, Coursera



Trends that accelerated during the pandemic

Digital transformation: The pace of digital transformation continued unabated in 2020, in part fueled by the pandemic. WEF calls out Singapore as a digitally advanced nation, with a robust digital legal framework and strong information and communications technology adoption. As companies rapidly digitise processes, including accelerating digitisation of employee upskilling and reskilling (59%), we see them redrawing their skills development goals, taking into account increasing needs in areas like machine learning, digital marketing, and data structures.

Skills-based credentials: While degrees continue to be the most transformative credential, the high-pressure and time-crunched window last year encouraged employers to seek more direct skill signals for job roles. On Coursera, Professional Certificates like Google IT Support, designed to equip employees with the latest industry-relevant skills, saw an upsurge in enrollments by 400% in 2020 compared to 2019.

A seat for L&D at the business table: Companies we partner with on our enterprise platform, all have the same overarching goal – they want to equip their employees at scale, with the future skills they need to succeed. The learnings from the pandemic made it abundantly clear that an agile workforce is the most potent hedge against unforeseen disruption. Learning leaders shepherded the CEO to prepare the workforce for a new normal, validating their role as strategic business transformation partners and finding their sweet spot in the boardroom.

Critical shifts that will inform the new normal

Role-based skills development: Tech integration has shortened the skill shelf life, underscoring the need to learn quickly and frequently. There is greater value for organisations to map the core skill sets for every role and guide learning programmes for the ideal outcomes. We have seen that when learning content is curated for job-roles and with clear skill proficiency goals, the completion rates are a lot higher. Results of an IDC study of the Coursera for Business platform validated this — companies can see a 746% ROI over three years when they make learning an integral part of role development.

Hands-on applied learning: Industry and domain-specific tools increasingly power businesses. Whether it’s using a business intelligence tool, conducting data analysis using python, or building websites using WordPress, companies rely on ready-to-use tools to accelerate deployment and experimentation. Usually not a part of the university curriculum, Guided Projects on Coursera can directly address this skill need among employers. Employees can gain job-relevant skills in less than two hours with step-by-step guidance from an instructor. Because they require a smaller time commitment and provide practice using tools in real-world scenarios, employees can build targeted skills right when they need them.

A balance of soft skills and tech skills: As businesses juggle between crisis response and growth-oriented strategies, and reflect back on the learnings of the pandemic, the importance of balancing both soft and technical skills is becoming increasingly evident. Coursera’s Global Skills Report 2021 corroborates this, highlighting that the most transferable skills across all future jobs are in human skills like problem solving and communication, computer literacy, and career management.

With the enterprise learning agenda transforming to match the velocity of change in the shifting economy, we expect that the rapid transition to online will have a lasting effect on how people learn. Looking ahead, we anticipate that online learning may serve a larger purpose — to build an agile workforce of lifelong learners who are armed with skills required to drive innovation, successfully navigate volatility and steer their organization through future disruptions.

By Raghav Gupta, Managing Director, India & APAC, Coursera